Blue Pine is Green for Furniture and Flooring
By Jo-Ann Kaiser | Posted: 06/03/2013 1:30PM
click image to zoomFamily Name:
Pinus contorta of the Family Pinaceae
Lodgepole pine, contorta pine, knotty pine, black pine, spruce pine. Also blue and Denim pine
The common height for lodgepole pine is 70 feet with diameters of 24 to 30 inches, but trees can grow to 120 feet or more. Weight is 29 pounds per cubic foot. It has a Janka hardness of 402.
• Lodgepole pine works well with both hand and machine tools.
• The wood glues and finishes well and is straight-grained with medium texture. The wood also is moderately soft and light.
• Lodgepole pine has knots, typically small in size, and a distinctive resinous odor. The beetle killed blue pine can vary in color from blue, to blue-gray to gray. The devastation caused by the Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB) has hit the U.S. and Canada hard, leaving a landscape of dead trees in formerly robust forests. Lodgepole pines have been among the hardest hit species but the growing market for beetle kill pine products has given cause for hope among many along with a new green wood with a slightly blue tinge.
Corbin Clay didn’t know a lot about the dead trees issue when he relocated to Colorado in 2008. But the more he knew, the more he became intrigued with the idea of using the wood from the beetle killed trees. “There is nothing wrong with the beetle kill or blue pine wood. It can be a little trickier to dry, especially material that’s been standing dead for five to seven years. I treat it like a tropical hardwood,” said Clay.With an extensive background in woodworking, Clay had been working for others but decided to open his own furniture shop, The Azure Furniture Co., and use locally sourced beetle killed pines in his designs, which include desks, tables, media storage, dining furniture and more.
Locally sourced beetle killed pines are used in Azure Furniture’s products, including desks, tables, media storage, and dining furniture. Clay liked the distinctive look of the material, which is often used in rustic pieces. He wanted to take the material in a new direction. “There are limits to what you can do with a wood like blue pine. It wouldn’t work in a Chippendale style table, for example. But I design pieces with a very simple look. I believe you gain elegance through simplicity. My pieces don’t have raised panels. I use a slab door instead. They have a Scandinavian design feel in that the wood is featured and the design is quiet. Beetle kill pine is ‘noisy’ enough,” said Clay.
Clay recently gained nationwide attention for his unique designs after winning the Ketel One Gentleman’s Call competition in January, 2013. He beat out 30,000 others and will use the $100,000 prize money to invest in new machinery and hire additional people. “It will help us expand our business and give us the ability to take on more ambitious projects.” Clay sources some lumbmer at Hester’s Log and Lumber Company, which specializes in processing beetle-kill lumber, providing wood from Aspen, Lodgepole Pine, Engleman Spruce and Douglas Fir trees.
John Misak, owner of Southern Rustic Furnishings based in Longmont, CO, uses lodgepole as well as ponderosa pine in his furniture designs, which include tables, benches, cabinetry, and furniture. His Adirondack chairs seem to be a perfect fit for the blue pine wood. “I always say the 'blue' in blue pine should be in quotes because it can be blue but more often it’s a gray or blue-gray. Ponderosa pine, another hard hit species, will give a totally different color,” said Misak.
Beetle kill Ponderosa pine is used in this table by Southern Rustic Furnishings. Misak sources the wood locally. “I use local mills. Some of the material is from people’s property. The ideal material has a consistent color.” Misak said despite the climate conditions there is a wealth of good wood out there. “The blue pine story is that this wood has another chapter, another life and it’s my experience that a lot of people are happy to see it being put to good use.”
Clay, Misak and others have found that blue pine, beetle kill wood or Denim pine as it’s trademarked in British Columbia, is “in”. Blue pine yields an interesting look, mercurial color and a killer backstory. Blue pine’s uses include flooring, cabinetry, furniture, paneling, framing, siding and more.
Editor's note: an abbreviated version of the article appears in the print publication of Wood Products. Click here to view.
About the Author
Jo-Ann KaiserJo-Ann Kaiser has been covering the woodworking industry for 31+ years. She is a contributing editor for the Woodworking Network and has been writing the Wood of the Month column since its inception in 1986.