Unlike the Kardashians, California’s pines suffered greatly during the state’s 2015 drought, with water shortages making them vulnerable to a massive beetle infestation that’s now killed more than 100 million trees. The task force charged with removing the trees (which pose a dangerous fire risk) has been shipping them to China or using them as biofuel. But two students at U.C. Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy had another idea: Turn them into furniture.
Sandra Lupien and Sam Schabacker noticed how the damage from beetle larvae created unique streaks of color in the pine wood—oranges, greens, grays, and blues. While most furniture makers would toss these pieces, Lupien and Schabacker liked the look and founded SapphirePine to transform beetle-kill wood into elegant furniture. As it turns out, beetle-kill pine is durable and structurally sound, despite the apparent colorations.
To create the furniture, SapphirePine teams up with private landowners to harvest their dead trees and then uses a standardized kiln-drying process to set the colors and kill off any remaining fungus and beetles. They then incorporate hand-fabricated steel legs and bases and eco-friendly finishes.
Since launching earlier this year, SapphirePine has already made about a dozen custom pieces. Now, they’re launching a Kickstarter campaign to raise $19,500 toward acquiring a van to transport pine back to the shop, more tools, and additional beetle-kill wood. There are a variety of rewards with different pledges, including a set of four SapphirePine coasters for a $50 pledge, a breadboard for $100, and a side table for $650.