Beauty out of the beetles
summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado
For Bobby Ryan, owner of Frisco-based Bobbycat Landscaping, the idea of adopting a “beetle-kill carpentry” side business was too enticing and logical to pass up.
He certainly had the spare wood.
Originally devoted to basic landscaping in the summer and snow-removal in the winter, Ryan, 29, expanded his business into tree-removal when the pine-beetle infestation moved into the region several years back.
Of late, the pines have been coming down fast.
City ordinances in Frisco, Silverthorne, and Breckenridge mandating infected tree removal have provided for a welcome and unexpected boon for business.
Ryan anticipates things will get even busier once his fledging woodworking business, headed up only two-months ago, gets off its feet.
“We’re growing in more ways than one,” he remarked, referring to the transitioning state of both his business and family of five.
Ryan is your throwback-style, blue-collar type, and he looks it. Wearing Levis and a faded T-shirt, the Colorado native and Summit County resident of more than 20 years explained how his avenue of expansion came to be.
“I’d been kicking around the idea for about two years of stockpiling logs. We finally just pulled the trigger and went for it a few months ago. We do picnic tables, benches, we do chairs. We’re really not limited to anything.”
“Anything” for Ryan has recently consisted of planters, kiddy-sized picnic tables, doorway signs, even handrails.
Ninety-nine percent of everything manufactured, Ryan estimates, is made with beetle-kill wood that would otherwise be chipped and discarded for a fee.
The telltale beetle-kill stain, usually bluish in tone, couples with the beetles’ meandering bore-markings to make for a visually appealing, plain-old different looking wood.
It’s a unique look woodworkers have long taken advantage of -” some Colorado carpenters specializing in “blue-wood” products have been in operation for more than two decades.
“Each piece is completely, completely different,” Ryan explained. “It’s actually caused by a fungus the beetle carries that stains the wood.”
If harvested within five to seven years of death, beetle-kill wood is every bit as structurally sound as wood from healthy trees, Ryan claims.
Ryan describes his products as “aesthetically elegant, yet still rustic.”
They are noticeably heavy duty ” a Bobbycat picnic-table is typically built with halved sections of lodgepole pine, and easily weighs in excess of a hundred pounds. The built-to-last quality explains their $500-$600 price tag.
“You can get picnic tables ” little, cheap flimsy things ” at Home Depot for a $100, but these are going to outlast us, you know?” he said.
To date, Bobbycat picnic tables, benches, chairs and the like have been primarily sold “out of the driveway” to inquisitive neighbors passing by.
His landscaping customer base has also made for a reliable outlet for his product.
Often, he notes, clients are attracted to the nostalgia-aspect ” the idea of retaining something from the mature pines that once studded their property, even if it’s in the form of bench or table.
Ryan’s beetle-kill furniture also is currently being retailed at two Frisco businesses, the Alpine Market and Junktique.
Dianna Ruznikosf, an Alpine Market employee, guesses that the “green,” beetle-kill image is a draw for Ryan’s products, which recently have been popular with customers.
“It’s definitely something for people to talk about,” she says, adding that three of his benches came off the shelf just the other week.
As the plight of the forests has gained publicity, demand for beetle-kill products has been on the rise, Ryan said.
“I’ve had a dozen or so people ask me about shipping ” Kansas, Nebraska, Florida, Illinois,” he said. “I really got to figure that out.”
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