Summit County man turns dead wood into art |

Summit County man turns dead wood into art

Kimberly Nicoletti
Summit County Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

When most people gaze upon Summit County’s forest, they see the red destruction of the pine beetles. But when Tim Sabo looks, he sees art.

Sabo, who earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in 1995 and studied with wood turning masters at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Tennessee, has turned his attention to the art of wood turning. But, he’s not taking the easy way out, which would involve using hard woods. Instead, he’s using what most people consider to be firewood: pine, killed by beetles (though more and more, building professionals, including Sabo, are using pine beetle wood for home flooring, cabinetry and more.

The soft wood tends to crack as it dries out, and it’s difficult to obtain a clean cut, unlike hard woods. As a result, Sabo has learned how to orient the wood so the cracks are more likely to occur in parts of the wood that he’ll cut away. And, he wraps his pieces, such as vases, in a wet towel, to allow them to dry slower.

“The cool thing is that you can just throw it in the fireplace if it doesn’t work,” Sabo said, pointing out that there’s so much pine beetle kill wood around, he’s never had to cut a tree. As he says, “No trees or beetles have been harmed in the process.”

Sabo turned his attention back to wood turning after at least a decade of focusing more on architectural work, such as creating furniture and steel elements for homes, like railings. But, the economic downturn has given him more time to “tinker.” And, he’s having plenty of fun returning to a hobby that has been mostly abandoned; he finds old timers – retirees – who love talking about the traditional craft.

Indeed, the most enjoyable part of creating the art work is, “When I look at a piece of firewood, I see the blue stain, and I really have a hard time throwing it in the fireplace,” he said. “(I appreciate) the beauty that’s hidden in this death that we have here.”

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