Cross-section of pine tree showing blue staining due to Southern Pine Beetle damage

Utilizing Small Timber Volumes
with Portable Sawmills:

Guidelines for Log and Lumber Measurement

Forest insect and disease pests cause an estimated growth loss and mortality in excess of $8 million each year in South Carolina forests. An integrated pest management (IPM) approach on your forest lands could significantly minimize your potential losses. Efficient utilization of damaged or killed timber is an important part of forest IPM.

 ipmlogo

Forestry Leaflet 15
Revised October 1997

 

Portable sawmills can be economically beneficial to private landowners who have small volumes of timber which need to be salvaged or harvested. The end-product from a portable sawmill is quality lumber which can be either sold at a profit or used to meet a landowner’s personal needs. Portable sawmill operators are located throughout the state and most base their fees on the board foot (bf) volume sawn. When working with a portable sawmill operator, landowners are responsible for felling the trees and skidding the logs to a predetermined spot. Landowners must be certain that their total log volume meets the minimum volume requirements of the sawyer. Knowledge of the total log volume also allows a landowner to estimate the fee a sawyer will charge. This guide provides practical information on how to measure the volume of logs and lumber, as well as estimating the approximate cost of having the logs sawn.

How to Measure Log Volume

To estimate the board foot volume of a log, measure the length of the log and the diameter inside the bark at the small end. Use Table 1 to find the board foot volume for the log length and log diameter combination. For example, if the log is 8 feet long, and the diameter is 10 inches Inside the bark at the small end, the volume would be 28 bf. To find the volume of several logs, simply add the individual log volumes together. Three logs with individual volumes of 30, 40, and 50 bf would have a total bf volume of 120. For example:

30 + 40 + 50 = 120 bf.

Table 1. Scribner Log Rule

Diameter
in Inches
Log Length in Feet
6 8 10 12 14 16
Volume in Board Feet
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
5
8
11
16
21
26
32
39
46
54
62
71
81
91
102
113
125
138
151
165
179
194
210
226
243
6
11
15
21
28
35
43
52
62
72
83
95
108
122
136
151
167
184
202
220
239
259
280
301
324
8
13
19
26
34
44
54
65
77
90
104
118
135
152
170
189
209
230
252
275
299
324
349
376
404
9
16
23
32
41
52
64
78
92
108
124
142
162
182
204
226
250
276
302
330
359
388
419
452
485
11
18
26
37
48
61
75
91
108
126
145
165
189
213
238
264
292
322
353
385
418
453
489
527
566
12
21
30
42
55
70
86
104
123
144
166
189
216
243
272
302
334
368
403
440
478
518
559
602
647

How to Measure Lumber Volume

Sawyers base the bulk of their charges on the board foot volume of the lumber sawn. Landowners can determine the volume of a piece of lumber by using Table 2. For example, the volume of a 2 x 4 Inch board, 6 feet long, would be 4 bf. To find the volume of several boards simply add the individual board volumes together.

Table 2. Lumber Scale

Diameter
in Inches
Lumber Length in Feet
6 8 10 12 14 16
Volume in Board Feet
1 x 3
1 x 4
1 x 5
1 x 6
1 x 7
1 x 8
1 x 10
1 x 12
2 x 4
2 x 6
2 x 8
2 x 10
2 x 12
2 x 14
3 x 6
3 x 8
3 x 10
3 x 12
4 x 4
6 x 6
1.5
2.0
2.5
3.0
3.5
4.0
5.0
6.0
4.0
6.0
8.0
10.0
12.0
14.0
9.0
12.0
15.0
18.0
8.0
18.0
2.0
2.6
3.3
4.0
4.6
5.3
6.6
8.0
5.3
8.0
10.6
13.3
16.0
18.6
12.0
16.0
20.0
24.0
10.6
24.0
2.5
3.3
4.0
5.0
6.0
6.6
8.3
10.0
6.6
10.0
13.3
16.6
20.0
23.3
15.0
20.0
25.0
30.0
13.3
30.0
3.0
4.0
5.0
6.0
7.0
8.0
10.0
12.0
8.0
12.0
16.0
20.0
24.0
28.0
18.0
24.0
30.0
36.0
16.0
36.0
3.5
4.6
6.0
7.0
8.0
9.3
11.6
14.0
9.3
14.0
18.6
23.3
28.0
32.6
21.0
28.0
35.0
42.0
18.6
42.0
4.0
5.3
6.6
8.0
9.3
10.6
13.3
16.0
10.6
16.0
21.3
26.6
32.0
37.3
24.0
32.0
40.0
48.0
21.3
48.0

How to Estimate Cost

Figure 1 is used to estimate the sawyer’s charge based on either the total log volume or the total board foot volume. To estimate this cost:

  1. Determine total volume for logs or boards as described In the previous section.
  2. Find this volume amount on the horizontal axis, labeled "Board Foot Volume of Logs."
  3. Move directly upward on the graph until intersecting the appropriate cost line.
  4. Move to the vertical axis to find the approximate cost.

For example, to have a sawyer saw 2000 bf at 10 cents a board foot ($100 a thousand board feet) the charge would be $200. The graph gives an approximate cost. Actual cost may vary depending on the exact fee structure of the sawyer.

Graph illustrating cost per log volume
Figure 1. Sawyer cost per log volume

Who Benefits

A number of problems are encountered by landowners who wish to sell small volumes of timber, whether from healthy, mature trees or from salvaged trees damaged by pests or storms. Often, loggers will not buy small volumes of timber because the high costs involved in moving equipment and personnel make this practice uneconomical. When a logger is willing to cut small volumes of salvageable sawtimber, landowners will normally have to accept a substantial reduction In price to compensate the logger for these additional costs. As illustrated in Figure 2, the price range paid for salvaged trees is consistently lower than their potential value. Landowners can benefit from the services of a portable sawmill operator by making use of sawtimber-sized trees that would otherwise go to waste or be under-utilized. Therefore, portable sawmills can provide landowners with a readily available supply of lumber that may be worth two to three times the cost of sawing.

Graph illustrating salvage tree value

(Trees 10" DBH with 2.5 logs)
A. Price range of green sawtimber
B. Pulpwood price range; commonly
paid for salvaged timber

Figure 2. Value per timber volume


C. Karpinski, Former Forester I
S. W Fraedrich, Former Forester I

Department of Forest Resources