Estimating the Volume of a Standing Tree Using a Scale (Biltmore) Stick

The volume of wood in a tree and the type of product made from the wood are based primarily on the tree’s height and diameter. One of the basic tools for estimating the height and diameter of standing trees is a calibrated 25-inch scale stick, often referred to as a Biltmore stick or a cruiser’s stick. With practice, this instrument can be used to provide a reliable estimate of tree height and diameter, which then can be used to determine tree volume. This publication is for those interested in learning how to estimate tree volume and the type of product the tree may provide.

Forest Products: Measurements and Values

Success in buying and selling forest products depends on one’s knowledge of product measurement and ability to predict the current market value. When trees are harvested, they can be sold as whole trees, factory class sawlogs, construction class sawlogs, veneer logs, pulpwood and/or chipwood. Lumber is sold by its grade, which is determined by the size and location of defects. Each product from the forest has a particular method by which it is measured and its market value estimated. This publication explains common forest products measures used in Tennessee and how to estimate the current market value.

Forest Soils and Site Index

Soil quality is the most important factor in forest management decisions. Soils will determine which tree species yield the greatest timber volume, the time to harvest, and ultimately, the investment a landowner must make to yield an acceptable economic return from forest management.

Measuring Site Index

Site index (SI) is a measurement commonly used by foresters to describe the productivity of a site. Typically this measurement is used to describe sites growing well-stocked even-aged forests.

Measuring Standing Trees and Logs

Timber may be sold as stumpage (trees before they are cut) or as harvested products (sawlogs, veneer logs, or pulpwood). If trees are sold as harvested products, the sale is customarily based upon measured volume. Trees marketed as stumpage may be sold by boundary, a measured estimate of stand volume, or individual tree measurements. Regardless of the price offered, a purchaser always estimates timber volume in a stand before buying it. In contrast, the seller too often has no idea what volume of timber is being sold. This publication explains how you can make your own tree or log volume measurements.

Measuring Survival and Planting Quality in New Pine Plantations

Thousands of acres of new pine plantations are established across the southern United States each year. Unfortunately, some of these plantations are considered failures for timber production once survival drops below 300 trees per acre. A question often asked is, “How do I determine the number of good seedlings per acre?” The goal of this publication is to provide landowners with an easy-to-use sampling technique to evaluate a new pine plantation.

Understanding Log Scales and Log Rules

A necessary step in determining the value of timber at the mill is establishing the estimated volume by standard scaling practices. Examples of scaling practices include measuring the weight of pulpwood to estimate the volume and measuring the dimensions of hardwood sawlogs, along with applying a log rule to determine how much lumber can be sawn from the log. This publication describes common methods of log scaling and log rules used in Tennessee.

Using a Compass and Pacing

A compass and pacing can be useful in many different woodlot activities. A compass can indicate the direction you are headed relative to magnetic north, and pacing is a simple means of measuring linear distance by walking. Combining the use of a compass with pacing will help you as you travel across country or traversing property boundaries.

What is Basal Area?

A tree's basal area is the cross-sectional area of the stem at 4½ feet above ground — breast height. Foresters report basal area as either square feet per tree or square feet per acre.

What is a Board Foot?

A board foot is a piece of wood that is 12 in. wide, 12 in. long, and 1 in. thick (144 cubic inches). The board foot is commonly used by foresters, landowners, timber buyers, lumbermen, etc., to measure the lumber in a board, stack, truckload, etc., or to estimate the amount of lumber that can be sawn from a log or tree.

What is a Chain?

A chain is a unit of measure commonly used by foresters to determine horizontal distances. However, the chain is seldom used by others, being replaced by feet and other units. This is unfortunate because the chain, for many purposes, is a more convenient unit.

What is a Cord?

A cord is a unit of measure applied to stacked roundwood, usually pulpwood or firewood.