École Argyle Secondary graduates Oscar and Theo Derban sit at the coffee table Oscar crafted from a fallen 280-year-old fir tree. They hope the table will spark discussions about British Columbia’s old-growth forests for years to come in the school's library. | École Argyle Secondary
By Elisia Seeber, North Shore News.
When École Argyle Secondary students return to class after the summer break, they’ll notice a new addition of furniture in the North Vancouver school’s library.
But it’s not just any piece of furniture – it’s a coffee table crafted from an old-growth tree estimated to be 280 years old.
What also makes the table special is that it was crafted by a former student who decided to donate it to the school, with the hope it will spark interest and discussions about British Columbia’s old-growth forests as students sit around it.
Argyle graduate Oscar Derban was inspired to create the table from an old Douglas fir tree that fell on his family's property near Anderson Lake, about 40 kilometres north of Pemberton, during a wildfire back in 2018.
“We were so surprised how big it was because most of the trees around there are much smaller,” the 17-year-old said.
Oscar and his older brother Theo, an Argyle alumnus, decided to take a cut from the fallen tree, managing to do it with the help of three fellow Grade 12 students.
“We went up there with a chainsaw and old two-handed saw and cut a slice off it,” Oscar said.
“It took four hours to get the tree round out of the woods.”
He said the idea for the coffee table project just “came together,” and having studied woodwork in high school for two years, he knew just what to do with the wood round.
First, Oscar said he had to router the wood, spending a good five hours shaving off layers and smoothing it out before filling in cracks with epoxy glue. He then sanded the wood down and put on a couple of layers of varnish. He sanded it again and varnished another layer before sanding it once more and adding a final layer of varnish.
Oscar then welded the table’s metal stand at the metal fabrication shop he’s been working at over the summer.
He said it was probably 10 hours in total to craft the table.
Once complete, he thought the coffee table would be a great way to start more conversations about old-growth forests among students.
“I’m really, really passionate about old-growth forests and the preservation of them,” Oscar said.
“So, I thought it would be cool to have a piece of old-growth that was saved in the school and people could count the years [annual rings] and see how old it is as a cool little project.”
When he thought about where in the school to put it, he remembered the library had two rounded sofas.
“I figured it would fit perfectly there,” Oscar said. “So that was another inspiration to donate it.”
Derban is currently working as a metal fabricator before heading to Emily Carr art and design school in the fall.
Katie Black, teacher-librarian at Argyle, said she was “overjoyed with the table.”
“It is the centrepiece of the library and is something that will be enjoyed by students and staff for years and years to come,” she said.
“I taught Oscar in Grade 9 English, and it is lovely he has left this legacy gift for the library.”
The school's principal, Kim Jonat, added, “It's a beauty!"