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Author Topic: Contract timber cutting - what to charge?  (Read 1714 times)

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Offline Oddman

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Contract timber cutting - what to charge?
« on: January 07, 2018, 10:43:33 PM »
Hello folks,
 I've got an opportunity to cut some walnut for a guy. I'm located in the Missouri Ozarks so that's not exactly anything special. I used to cut timber for a living but have been out of the game for quite a while. Anyways my conundrum is what to charge? If this job goes well it could easily turn into a bit of a side job for me. This guy is Amish so of course he wants it done cheap as possible but if I'm reasonable on what I charge and I do a good job then word travels through the Amish pretty quick. I'm thinking something like $30-$40 an hour with a $100 minimum? Jobs like this could be 3 trees or 100 trees so I need a minimum for sure. This particular job is 14 trees and according to the Amish man several of the trees are real Whoppers. It is tempting to charge more for cuttin walnut just because of their worth but I don't really feel like that's a good route to take if I want more jobs like this that could easily just be regular log trees. I will be using my own equipment of course and it will just be falling and topping. An hourly or by-the-tree rate seems most attractive to me.
If you guys could give me your opinions I would surely appreciate it especially if your anywhere near southern Missouri. Thanks!!

Offline 280 rem

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Re: Contract timber cutting - what to charge?
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2018, 12:02:00 AM »
A per bdft rate would be fairest for you and him both. Depending on your experience level I guess, but I would charge 12-15 cents per foot myself and by no means should it be less than 10 cents. Also I would like to buy these logs, but he may already have a home for them unfortunately.
We saw walnut lumber for the same reason Willie Sutton said he robbed banks, "because that's where the money is"

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Offline Southside logger

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Re: Contract timber cutting - what to charge?
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2018, 12:18:37 AM »
Few things to consider.  Are you simply laying them down, or bucking, limbing, etc?  Are these out in a  pasture or somewhere close to a building, utility line, road, etc?  Right now they are seeing money in those trees, so if it were me I would not do it too cheap, I hear what you are saying about more work, but who pays for your chain when you strike fence wire in the tree?  What happens if she swings wrong and rips the crown out of another tree? 

Under the right circumstances this could be a decent gig, or you could be working as the cheapest tree service in the country. 
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Offline BaldBob

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Re: Contract timber cutting - what to charge?
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2018, 12:29:32 AM »
If you are only felling the trees or if you have to buck according to the client's wishes rather than bucking for scale, the fairest method is to charge by the stump inch rather than by the board foot. This also eliminates the need to scale the logs for payment and avoids disagreement on scale volumes. This method also assures that both parties know ahead of time what the cost is for each tree.  Set your minimum pay per job and then figure out how much money you desire per day for longer jobs and how many stump inches you can cut in a day.  The rate/ stump inch = daily desired pay divided by ( #of trees/day times  ave stump dia. ). The rate per stump inch could vary by the difficulty of the particular job ( how many inches you could cut per day on that particular job).
I also agree with Southside logger's concerns which brings up the need to factor in the cost of good liability insurance in calculating your rate.

Offline Oddman

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Re: Contract timber cutting - what to charge?
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2018, 12:37:45 AM »
Both you guys have got some good points. If I charge by the bdft then I'm guessing i would have to wait for the buyer to scale them and charge off that? Do buyers usually leave some kind of receipt that states footage?
And ya, that's the thing, I don't want to become some sort of cheap tree service...As far as me damaging his property - if I don't like the looks of something I'm gonna leave it, I've got no insurance so can't afford something big to go wrong. As far as damage to other trees, I have no idea but I will discuss it with him. The job is for droppin them and limbing them, possibly bucking as well but that will be another day because the buyer will mark where they want the logs bucked and being Amish the owner has no chainsaw of course.
I do like the bdft idea though...He's talking like he expects something like $2-bdft so $.12 sounds cheap to me from his end of the deal and would be good pay for me, just kinda unclear on how the total bdftage will be arrived at, it would need to be from the buyer and be on paper.
I sure appreciate yalls responses

Offline Oddman

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Re: Contract timber cutting - what to charge?
« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2018, 12:42:28 AM »
Baldbob - Now that's an idea I had not thought of and I like it. It gets me paid same day and keeps a 3rd party out of the equation. And I certainly prefer piece-work over hourly on this type of work. Insurance will have to wait but I do realize it will become a necessity if this develops into much of a side gig. I will be doing my very best to keep risk low for both me and the owner.
Thanks

Offline BaldBob

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Re: Contract timber cutting - what to charge?
« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2018, 12:58:09 AM »
The thought occurs to me that you may want a different rate for Walnut, which because of its high value requires extra care to avoid sliver pull and breakage, than for less valuable species.

Offline Oddman

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Re: Contract timber cutting - what to charge?
« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2018, 01:02:18 AM »
Your right Bob, walnut is kind of it's own animal, you gotta baby it and just let it fall where it wants to for the most part. Least that's how I was trained to cut walnut.

Offline 280 rem

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Re: Contract timber cutting - what to charge?
« Reply #8 on: January 08, 2018, 01:48:53 AM »
Yes it would be off the scale of footage sold. You state Missouri, Iíve been in the timber industry in Missouri for 28 years, all mills and buyers put a total footage somewhere on paper in this region that Iím aware of. You state contract cutting, to me that would mean you are paid a per foot price or at very least a per tree price. Any other form of paying would be creative forms of paying an employee. Iíve cut many jobs for many different people/companies over the years in the state of Missouri. Standard that Iím aware of is a per foot. That rate will vary depending on species, equipment you provide, and difficulty of the harvest location or hazards. Iíve worked as a cutter supplying my chainsaw and gas and oil to a full contractor suppling all the way to skidder and log truck. Everything by the foot increasing by the more equipment supplied. I personally would ONLY cut on a per foot basis and have found that people trying to figure a more creative pay scheme were ultimately looking to get people to work cheaper. By the foot you get paid for what you do and they only pay for what you do......fair. More difficult harvest or small pain in the rear stuff... increase the rate. I got 10 cents to just cut and top and buck walnut with my saws, 20 years ago. So maybe 15 cents in todayís world Is more in line, but only for an experienced cutter who is gonna not damage the merchandise. Iíd sure rather pay 20 cents for a great job than 10 cents for a crappy job, myself
We saw walnut lumber for the same reason Willie Sutton said he robbed banks, "because that's where the money is"

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Online coxy

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Re: Contract timber cutting - what to charge?
« Reply #9 on: January 08, 2018, 05:16:23 AM »
Hello folks,
  I'm thinking something like $30-$40 an hour with a $100 minimum?
something to think about  30-40 an hour with your saw/saws working in the woods doing hard work   now people are getting 15 an hour with no experience or equipment  for flipping burgers  you think your only worth 15 an hour more than them  ???

Offline PA_Walnut

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Re: Contract timber cutting - what to charge?
« Reply #10 on: January 08, 2018, 06:21:16 AM »
Yes. Charge what you are worth!! I had a tree dude come in and drop one of my own walnuts that was in the way. (I know HOW to do it, but not a ton of experience with making sure they don't go sideways when falling).

He was the tree dude of ALL tree dudes...or, so he said. I repeatedly asked/warned him about taking his time and make sure it's done right. Yep, barber-chaired my 36" walnut butt log which by my accounts was veneer quality. It went about 1/3 the way though up 16'+.

I was so disgusted just walked away. What a joker.  :-[ electricuted-smiley
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Offline Skeans1

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Re: Contract timber cutting - what to charge?
« Reply #11 on: January 08, 2018, 07:29:49 AM »
This is a different area but here the rates are almost 80 to 90 for a contractor cutter then 150 to 175 an hour for a buncher that's you paying everything. The guys I know that fall on crews with insurance and all that jazz are taking home in the mid to upper 30's for a good cutter most of this wood is turn and burn stuff anymore.

Offline thecfarm

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Re: Contract timber cutting - what to charge?
« Reply #12 on: January 08, 2018, 07:46:55 AM »
I'm sure no expert.but I would not want to do it for no $30-40 an hour. Start doing that steady,and you would head for the poor house before you was done.
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Offline mike_belben

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Re: Contract timber cutting - what to charge?
« Reply #13 on: January 08, 2018, 09:11:14 AM »
You guys are in a different world.  My wife is a certified phlebotomist working in our biggest hospital at $11/hr with no benefits. 40/hr here is huge money.  Most folks work all day for $100 or less. If he asks NY or OR rates theyll just find someone else. 

Im a bit east of him, butim guessing the ozarks and appalachians are more similar than they are different.

 for reference, one of the oldest mills next county over has a 4000 acre hardwood lot near me.  Theyll let just about anyone cut and haul their logs off their mountain and down to their mill.  It pays 20cents a board foot no matter what species or grade or how you get it done. 

So 12cents just for cutting.. Not too bad. The expense is in loading and hauling, hand felling is peanuts.

I do kinda like the stump inch plan.  First thing, you arent wasting unpaid hours scaling logs every day.  Secondly, if you scale a log at 100 board feet and then the buyer says nah, i dont like that ring shake and pulls it back to 80foot you dont have a landowner saying you ripped him off.  Third, theres no risk that the amish landowner doesnt sell the stuff to his amish cousins sawmill who doesnt put all the logs on a slip or otherwise cook the books.

If you give the guy an hourly rate with a number that high hes either gonna shrivel up and find a cheaper guy, or want you running through the woods.  'Hey whats takin so long with that saw chain' is not what i want to deal with all day.


To keep the landowner from getting fussy about the size of the butt flare you might wanna measure at DBH or maybe 12" above grade.  Something that works for each of you. 

I read a lot of commentary here and anywhere else that business is talked about that say basically the customer must pay pay pay for every loose hair the contractor encounters.  I dunno man.  You cant win em all.  Especially not always at someone elses expense.  When i go work for someone, if theyre considerate of my needs, i dont mind doing a little extra or taking a little less to be considerate of theirs.  The customer is not my adversary, often they end up as my friends.  Being flexible now often pays its dividend later.

Offline Southside logger

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Re: Contract timber cutting - what to charge?
« Reply #14 on: January 08, 2018, 09:38:10 AM »
Very good points there Mike. But I suspect the customer in this case is getting $2 / board foot for the log, at least twice that if it hits a saw. So the man who makes it possible for him works for 2.5 to 5%? That doesn't seem like a fair deal either.
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Offline Oddman

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Re: Contract timber cutting - what to charge?
« Reply #15 on: January 08, 2018, 10:01:50 AM »
Mike is right about the similarities in Ozarks and the Appalachian area - people just don't have the money to pay what would be poverty level on the west or east coast. But our living expenses here are quite low in comparison so it evens out. Nobody round here will get 15 an hour without skills or serious hard work.
And something I forgot to mention earlier is that he has another cutter that has been supposed to cut these trees but just hasn't showed up in weeks for some reason. I don't think I can go in trying to get all I can and expect to get into this business. But I want what's fair, what will cover my risk somewhat and what will allow me to maintain and upgrade my saws as needed.
Thanks alot guys for the replies. First thing I'm going to do when I talk to the man about it is ask what he was expecting to pay the other cutter. I've known the man long enough that I think he will talk straight with me.

Offline mike_belben

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Re: Contract timber cutting - what to charge?
« Reply #16 on: January 08, 2018, 10:50:00 AM »
Very good points there Mike. But I suspect the customer in this case is getting $2 / board foot for the log, at least twice that if it hits a saw. So the man who makes it possible for him works for 2.5 to 5%? That doesn't seem like a fair deal either.

I dont mean for this to sound ciritical, but it doesnt matter what the owner is getting.  Ive not ever seen a logger job posting with pay based on species.  My wife doesnt get paid different based on the patients income.  A burger costs the same to a rich man or a poor one.  Good for the landowner if hes got walnut instead of pine.  Thats none of the loggers business.  The logger has to decide what his expenses are and what other opportunities are competing for his time and at what pay rate.  If the landowner is happy to pay what the logger is happy to accept then theyll both win.  Thats the goal i think.

I do believe just levelling with the guy is a great idea.  Ive done this a bunch and its a great way to probe if the guy is a jerk or not.  Dont work for jerks, they sue alot and are never happy. 

"Hey bill, we need to figure out a pay structure that were both pleased with.   What did you have in mind?"

Consider the win and lose for each party on each structure and work something out.  Beware that if you are working for board feet, it will really hurt your hourly rate in small wood. Maybe have graduated rate.  Charge more per BF or stump inch in small stuff.

Offline mike_belben

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Re: Contract timber cutting - what to charge?
« Reply #17 on: January 08, 2018, 11:05:01 AM »
P.S.

Its always good to talk with the neighbors and research boundary lines before you cut.  You could be held liable if he marks his neighbors trees.  See if missouri has a GIS parcel viewer to help figure out where his boundaries are.  Hunting apps have pretty good mapping tools.  Google, bing and a gis viewer will give you 3 different views of the same place to feel pretty confident in boundary but beware they can be off 20 feet or so.  Careful near edges if you can find a property pin or fence etc.

Offline Oddman

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Re: Contract timber cutting - what to charge?
« Reply #18 on: January 08, 2018, 11:17:48 AM »
Thanks again Mike for all the advice. Never have cut a job on my own, used to be on a 3 man logging crew, I was the cutter but the boss did all the "butt covering" and customer relations stuff. I really would like this to turn into a side gig though so I need to get as much info as I can so it's fair for all involved.

Offline Southside logger

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Re: Contract timber cutting - what to charge?
« Reply #19 on: January 08, 2018, 12:39:16 PM »
Hi Mike,
Did not take that critically at all, I think we are saying some of the same thing but I didn't say it as well. Your point about smaller stuff rate kind of alluded to what I was trying to get at. I guess what I am saying is that one needs to not fear telling another what their labor is worth.  There is skill in laying down veneer walnut that is not needed in slashing cedar to burn and if the owner is getting a premium for his product, and expects a premium job, then he should not expect to pay lackey wages. I am sure the guy who sweeps the hospital parking lot could get blood out of a patient, it may be from their nose, but it's still blood, it's your wife's training that gives her a premium skill and hopefully she is treated accordingly.
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