Bay Area arborist creates coveted furniture from trees toppled by CA winter storms

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) — The Bay Area storm that toppled 900 trees and branches in just one day in late March is just a memory, but it is still keeping Michael Veneziano very busy.

“A bunch of trees fell from this slope onto the roadway,” said Veneziano as he used a hydraulic lift to retrieve three large trunks from Shepherd Canyon Road in the Oakland Hills and load them onto his flatbed truck.

He will take them to his sawmill in West Oakland, which already has so many tree trunks he has salvaged that he is now stacking the trunks on the street.

Veneziano, owner of Ponderosa Millworks, will cut slabs from the tree trunks and sell them to hobbyist or carpenters. He may also turn the slabs into furniture.

One of the slabs he recently cut came from a tree that crushed a home and car in Berkeley.

VIDEO: Stuck with a fallen tree? This Bay Area company wants to turn it into furniture

Have a fallen tree? This company can to turn it into furniture

The property owners reached out to him to salvage some of the tree. They want to make a table out of one of the slabs.

“It’s always hard when a tree falls that you love. It’s part of the family, so being able to make something special out of it gives new life to the tree,” explained Veneziano.

With so many trees toppled by the winter storms, Veneziano has his pick of wood.

He has milled Monterey pines, cedar, maples, redwoods, walnuts and eucalyptus trees which he said is a particularly strong wood.

In his shop, he is making a lawn chair out of blue gum eucalyptus.

Veneziano makes slabs that can cost up to $1,500.

MORE: These are the warning signs your tree may fall during next storm

If the wood is valuable enough, he will retrieve it for free, mill it and give the owner a slab as compensation and sell the rest.

“Urban trees by their very nature are a little twisty, a little curvy, a little naughty. It’s very exciting cutting open the log and then opening the slabs and seeing the grain,” said Veneziano, who is something of a tree whisperer.

He started climbing trees 40 years ago and never stopped. He worked as an arborist for many years before opening his sawmill.

“I can actually look at tree from the outside and I can tell if there’s really interesting grain just by some of the characteristics of the bark,” he said.

The fierce winds from the March storm came from an unexpected location and that toppled many of the trees, but Veneziano said many trees also fell because they are old and weak from years of drought.

“The urban forest is aging. Trees are getting 80, 90, 100 years old and some of these trees are reaching their life span.”

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