Knowledge Center

How to Measure Trees and Logs

Selling timber without measuring the products is like selling livestock without weighing the animals. Knowing what you have to sell and securing several bids can mean many additional dollars from your timber sales. With the assistance of a professional forester, decide which trees are ready for market, then measure them and mark them with paint spots at breast height and below stump height. If the trees are already cut, scale the logs before they are sent to the mill.

The Missouri Department of Conservation will furnish a cruising stick to any Missouri landowner free of charge. The cruising stick is a Biltmore Stick on one side and a log scaling stick on the other side. You can obtain one from your local Missouri Department of Conservation district forestry office. Your cruising stick, plus the volume tables in this publication, will enable you to compute the volume in either standing trees or logs.

Before logs or trees can be bought or sold, it is necessary to determine their content by some standard. The board foot is the most common standard used for saw logs and lumber. A board foot contains 144 cubic inches of sawed lumber or the equivalent of a board 1 inch thick, 12 inches wide and 1 foot long.

A second unit of measure is the cord. Fuel wood and pulp wood (wood used to make paper) are measured and sold by the cord. The standard cord is a pile of wood 4 feet high, 4 feet wide and 8 feet long. It occupies 128 cubic feet of space, but does not actually contain 128 cubic feet of wood because of the air spaces.

Fuel wood and pulp wood are often cut in various lengths. A pile 5 feet wide, 4 feet high and 8 feet long occupies 160 cubic feet and is called a “long cord.” Similarly, a pile of wood 4 feet high and 8 feet long cut into 1- or 2-foot lengths is a “short cord,” which occupies less than 128 cubic feet.