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Thread: Colorado Beetle Kill Pine - obtaining and working questions

  1. #1
    Join Date
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    Colorado Beetle Kill Pine - obtaining and working questions

    Hello Colorado Woodworkers,

    I've been reading up on the Beetle kill pine situation in our state and wondering how I can help and benefit from the problem of many downed trees. Many online searches about the result in small businesses selling "rustic mountain furniture" or wood flooring. Neither of these really excite me, but it does point to the fact that there must be someone harvesting the trees and milling them into usable wood. I've found a few Craigslist ads for the flooring and potentially for the lumber, but it's limited. I've seen at least one posting here about turning beetle kill pine, but not much more.

    Has anyone looked into what it takes to get some of the downed trees? A coworker said he saw piles of logs in various spots around Dillon reservoir and brought one home. I doubt that's an approved method with the forest service. What does it take (e.g. a permit) for a hobbyist to bring a few logs home and make something (not for sale or for firewood)? Has anyone done this?

    I was thinking it would be nice to get a few logs milled and begin drying for use later in the spring/summer, but don't know where to start.

    For those that have worked with it, what has been your experience with it? It is like other softwoods? How did you obtain it? Did you mill it out of logs vs. purchasing milled lumber? Did you have to dry it a long time? Does it machine well? How much variation in wood quality/color have you seen?

    I have a number of home projects, mostly for kids furniture, that could get started a lot sooner if I had a source for essentially free wood. I don't want it to look like rustic vacation-cabin furniture, but like normal, hand-built furniture with a Colorado twist (primarily in the wood source). I was thinking of getting a handful of logs, having them milled locally (or try my hand at it with my bandsaw) and drying them. If they split like crazy, I could try to salvage enough to make some garage/basement shelves. If they yield a few nice boards, I could build some nicer stuff. Is this wishful thinking or a real possibility?

    Thanks for any insight into this seemly unlimited resource.
    ryan

  2. #2
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    Make certain they will let you use the lumber from downed and infected trees. In Ohio they band utilizing the wood for any production. They turn it into pulp as to ensure the larvae don't hatch and spread.

  3. #3
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    Keep an eye on Craigslist. There's several businesses in the area that advertise beetle killed pine lumber from our local trees.

    As a side note, my next door neighbor heats his home in part with firewood. Summer before last he bought a cord of firewood that turned out to be beetle kill pine. Not a few weeks after, all the pine trees in his back yard started showing the popcorn like blobs of sap all over the trunks, the tell-tale sign of beetle infestation!

  4. #4
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    I'm not a Colorado member, but the Black Hills of South Dakota are in my backyard, and unfortunately the beetles are there too. The "plan" for control of the problem here includes cutting the tree into piles that look like something that ought to be used for lumber but is actually intended to allow the logs to dry and kill the larvae. I seriously doubt it works very well, but at least it is better than leaving the trees stand and start fires. Taking one of those infested logs would probably be against the USDA's rules.

    There are a few mills running the lumber there though, I think it all gets kiln dried. Watch for the blue streaked framing lumber at the local lumber yard. It can look striking, last summer we looked at a nice log house in the area that was built using the blue streaked logs. It was a nice look in that instance.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brett Robson View Post
    Keep an eye on Craigslist. There's several businesses in the area that advertise beetle killed pine lumber from our local trees.

    As a side note, my next door neighbor heats his home in part with firewood. Summer before last he bought a cord of firewood that turned out to be beetle kill pine. Not a few weeks after, all the pine trees in his back yard started showing the popcorn like blobs of sap all over the trunks, the tell-tale sign of beetle infestation!
    That's precisely why they don't allow the logs to be harvested in Ohio and turn trees into pulp. The federal government said there is no good way to kill the larvae. In Ohio it was the Asian Longhorn Beetle killing many hardwood varieties.

  6. #6
    Those beetles were probably in your neighbors trees for some time, maybe years. I've lived in the lodgepole country of eastern Oregon for over 35 years, and watched the beetle infestations. It's a cycle. I cut and burn lodgepole, killed by beetles, and have had no infestation of my timber at home. If you were bringing home fresh cut green timber that was infested, you might have a problem.

    And good luck getting small quantities of anything but firewood from the US Forest Service. I used to be able to buy salvage timber in small quantities, typically something blown down across or near a road. Now everything sold needs an environmental and cultural assessment, which costs money and time. So the stuff rots. And the standing dead burns.

    Lousy management of our natural resources.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by ryan carlino View Post
    .....I don't want it to look like rustic vacation-cabin furniture, but like normal, hand-built furniture with a Colorado twist (primarily in the wood source).....
    Before you take this dream much further, you need to see some beetle-kill pine boards. I think you may find the beetles have certainly given the wood a rustic look. You're probably looking at filling MANY holes and burrow tracks with epoxy or similar method. And there's no avoiding an end result that has a rustic utilitarian look.If I were you I'd contact one the the Craigslist sellers and give them a visit. Ask them for a scrap or two that you can take home and try some finishes on. Might cost a 6-pack, but I'd guess free. But I'd put some finished wood under your eyes before you go much farther.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by fred klotz View Post

    Lousy management of our natural resources.
    That's putting it mildly, IMHO.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by fred klotz View Post
    If you were bringing home fresh cut green timber that was infested, you might have a problem.
    That's exactly what he did.

  10. #10
    I don't know of places that you can get free beetle kill, but i do know of some local dealers that sell it.. I live halfway between the Springs and Denver , and have a lumber milling place about 5 miles from here that specializes in beetle kill pine. It is halfway between Elizabeth and Kiowa on highway 86. Austin hardwoods in Denver is also carrying it.

    Our woodworking guild had a speaker last year that has started using it in higher end type furniture. Corbin Clay is his name and he brought in some nice pieces. Check out some of his work at corbinwoodworking.com.

    It works like you would expect from pine, just has some beautiful color variations. In my experience the beetle tunnels are just under the bark and it is possible to get clear boards.

    Richard

    P.s. the next Colorado Woodworkers Guild meeting is next Tuesday - PM me if you would like to meet some friendly woodworkers.
    Member, Colorado Woodworkers Guild
    www.coloradowoodworkersguild.org

  11. #11
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    Thanks for the thoughts everyone. Of course now I think our whole neighborhood will be infected if I bring home a piece of wood. I have a call into the forest service, but they haven't returned it yet.

    Richard - Corbin's cabinets are similar in style to what I had in mind. It doesn't look too rustic, but has some cool grain. Too bad I have plans for Tuesday evening. Thanks for the offer.
    ryan

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by ryan carlino View Post
    Thanks for the thoughts everyone. Of course now I think our whole neighborhood will be infected if I bring home a piece of wood.
    If the lumber is de-barked and has been dried, I doubt you have anything to worry about. The mountain pine beetle lives just under the bark, not deep in the wood itself such as powder post beetles do.

  13. #13
    I am from Nebraska, and run on to a small sawmill south of Kremling which sells the
    milled wood fairly cheap. I bought some of the edge pieces (bark on one side) which
    make great rustic picture frames. The wood works just like any other pine or fir.

  14. #14
    Here, most of the beetle kill is in Lodgepole Pine, which doesn't make very good lumber, barely adequate for framing, as it twists and checks badly. I've milled much of it for rough framing. The same beetle also infects Ponderosa Pine, but to a much lesser degree, probably due to the thicker bark and more prolific sap production.

    When the beetle infests the tree, it carries a fungus, which stains the wood. The grey stain (which is mostly what you will see in lodgepole) is the same fungus that will eventually stain any wood that is wet. Whatever fungus that stains the Ponderosa is different, as the colors develop in the tree over a long period, and include red, pink, purple, blue. In this area, it is referred to as 'Blue Pine'. It is actually very attractive, in a rustic sense. And Ponderosa (also called Yellow Pine) is a high quality pine.

    I wouldn't expend too much time working with Lodgepole on a furniture product.

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