Transforming blight into beautiful has become the mission of Corbin Clay and his staff at Azure Furniture.
From the riddled, brown, damaged pine trees of Colorado’s forests, Clay creates stunning wood masterpieces that bring a whole new perspective to recycling. In many way, these creations — from cutting boards to bedroom sets — represent a reincarnation, a testament of the beauty that can be created from an otherwise dire situation. Read on for how the furniture can be a great home improvement tactic.
For years, the mountain pine beetle has been decimating the ponderosa, lodgepole, Scotch and limber pine trees in the state. According to the Colorado State Forest Service, mountain pine beetles have killed trees across 3.4 million acres. It has been a huge factor in the latest statistic that one in every 14 standing trees in Colorado forests are dead.
Normally, these insects are considered Colorado’s most important soldier in establishing a healthy forest. Information from the Colorado State University Extension states that the pine beetle will vigorously attack trees that are suffering from old age, poor growing conditions, drought and root disease. Years of drought in Colorado that began 10 years ago combined with forest growth have stressed the pine tress, and, as a result, accelerated the activity of the pine beetle. Now, instead of lush stands of green pine trees, you’ll now see hundreds of acres of lifeless brown and gray trunks.
A native of Ohio, Clay has been a woodworker for 12 years, serving as an apprentice with a German master craftsman prior to opening Azure Furniture. Clay revels in being able to “create a product that turns an otherwise wasted resource into beautiful furniture.”
Now in its 8th year of operation, Azure Furniture has reclaimed 100,000 feet of dead pine trees from Colorado and fashioned them into elegant, high quality furniture. These pieces feature the remarkable and striking blue-gray color that permeates wood impacted by pine beetles, and are dazzling additions to any home improvement project.
Clay talks more about his company and experiences in working with pine beetle kill wood.
How did you get into using pine beetle kill wood for your creations?
We began using beetle kill pine shortly after learning about it, the fall of 2008. I thought it was ridiculous to cut down live, healthy trees while there are 4 millions acres of dead trees.
What are the advantages/disadvantages of this kind of wood?
The biggest advantage to using this wood is knowing that we are making a difference. We have created a solution to an otherwise wasted resource. The most significant disadvantage would be sourcing: Colorado’s milling industry leaves much to be desired.
The Huron Bed by Azure Furniture
What risks are there (if any) in using pine beetle kill wood? Is it as sturdy and strong as other pine wood?
This was the biggest surprise in learning about beetle kill pine: it is in fact no different than regular lodgepole pine! When I first started researching bkp, and saw such a gap in the market, I thought surely there must be something wrong with it. We worked with the forestry department at Colorado State University to ensure it was structurally stable, rigid enough for building, and harmless with regard to the staining (blue-gray staining occurs from a fungus carried by the pine beetle).
How does pine beetle kill wood compare to other types of pine wood? Are there unique aspects of the beetle kill wood?
The beetle kill pine wood has a very unique coloring. The beetles cause the wood to turn into a beautiful blue-gray, hence the name of our company ‘Azure,’ which is latin for ‘blue.’
What types of pine trees do you normally use for your products?
Primarily lodgepole and ponderosa in the Rocky Mountains.
What are some of the types of furniture/products you’ve made from pine beetle kill wood? Any that are especially good or unique? Please mention the most unusual pieces you created.
We offer a collection of residential standards: beds, dining tables, occasional pieces. The most unique pieces is hard to say, we’ve made so many cool pieces. The outdoor benches at REI’s Denver flagship were fun, we made a 26’ long coffee table for a hotel, and recently delivered 275 pieces of furniture to a new student housing complex at Colorado College.
Which products that you make are especially popular?
Our Shavano Farm Table and Huron Bed.
Are there any special concerns/limitations of crafting products from beetle kill wood?
Very much, yes. The beetle kill pine is a little tricky with regard to the milling process. Like any deadfall wood, the moisture content is inconsistent. This requires us to mill in several stages.
How do you get the wood? Where does it comes from?
We work with local sawmills throughout Colorado, typically sourcing from Summit and Grand counties.
The Belford Coffee Table by Azure Furniture
Why should someone consider pine beetle kill furniture/accessories? What makes it desirable?
Someone should consider buying a beetle kill pine piece of furniture if they want to contribute to a solution. We’ve all seen the trees while hiking or skiing. We all know that feeling of “why can’t something be done?” We, too, asked that question. Now, through our products, our customers can in fact participate in the solution.
What you you like best about this kind of wood?
Knowing that we’re participating in a solution to 4 million acres of dead pine trees.
For more information on Azure Furniture and how they can assist with your home improvement plans, visit their website at https://azurefurniture.com/