Press Releases

Sierra fir logs sent to South Africa to be recycled into California furniture

The Associated Press
Saturday March 30, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO — Douglas fir logs cut from the Sierra Nevada in the 1800s are about to complete a round trip that has taken more than a century. 

The logs served as ballast for ships that carried gold, coal and iron ores from California refineries back to South Africa, where they had been mined. They had been shipped to California between 1865 and 1890 because South Africa did not have the facilities to refine them. 

The logs that piled up from the ships were used in South Africa for construction, mainly as support for warehouse roofs in Durban. But those warehouses are coming down, and the wood is being exported for use in furniture. 

Douglas fir once was considered throwaway wood in South Africa, but has since become highly prized. 

The Wooden Duck, a Berkeley furniture manufacturer specializing in using recycled wood, is expecting a shipment in May. 

“We know immediately when we look at the grain that’s Douglas fir from California,” said Eric Gellerman of The Wooden Duck. “That age period doesn’t exist in South Africa.”