The Forestry Forum

General Forestry => Sawmills and Milling => Topic started by: summerjob on September 21, 2005, 10:24:44 AM

Title: How to Measure
Post by: summerjob on September 21, 2005, 10:24:44 AM
When custom cutting or selling lumber, how do you calculate board footage.  I have been milling for five years now and I get a lot of repeat business, but I want to make sure I am being fair to everyone.  When I custom saw, I wait until the end of the day and measure all of the piles as a total volume (width x height of stack x lenght in feet and divide by 12).  I then charge by the board feet.  However when I have a single board left and it is 4/4 should I say it is 1 1/8 thick or should I just call it a 1 in thick.  I know some people charge by the hour and I am aware of the pros and cons.  I just feel it is more fair for my manual mill to charge by the board foot.  And if I choose to stop for some reason I don't have to feel the customer is paying for it.  I encounter the same dilema when I sell 4/4 lumber.
Thanks in advance for your responses.
Title: Re: How to Measure
Post by: Dan_Shade on September 21, 2005, 10:51:06 AM
a board foot is 12" wide by 12" long by 1" thick

to calculate: thickness of board (in) x width of board(in inches) x length(in feet) / 12

ex: a 1"x6"x8' is 4 board feet

for thickness, the way I understand it is anything less than 5/4 is considered 4/4, the 5/4 starting point would be 1.25"
Title: Re: How to Measure
Post by: DonE911 on September 21, 2005, 11:28:44 AM
well, I was cutting with a manual chainsaw mill.  When I sold lumber out of my stock this is what I did.

I got out my trusty little calculator from home depot ( little yellow one for $12) and put in the size board was.. lets say its a 1x6x8 ( actually cut 5/4 but figured as 4/4 ) and let the machine tell me how many board feet that was.... multiply by "x" ( charge per board foot ) to get a price per board and rounded it to an easy number to add for the customers....  in other words "that stack" are $1.25 each and "that stack" are $1.50 each and so on.  If you do it this way its handi to know home depot's current price for the same board... ( all we have is a home depot locally and its easy for customers to relate to that ) because they will ask.  Have to remind them that home depot stuff is pre planed and stuff though.

The funny thing... I never had anyone dig thru my stack to find one or two boards.... I think everyone digs thru the entire pile at the box stores looking for a good board.

I kept a small pile that was dry, planed, sanded and a clear finish....  gave a 3 or 4 footer away to anyone that had come out for the first time.  Kind of a big business card.  Reminds me I need to make up some more of those soon....

When I custom cut I find out what they want as far as lumber 1x6's or what ever and did the same thing.... much easier for us to figure together how much they owe per board foot....  then they pay either my setup and hourly fee or the by the board foot.  you'll need to decide how many board feet you will cut before you start charging that way... otherwise the hourly rate my be more fair for you.

I have'nt been at this very long and read alot of post here to come up with this method...  the only original idea ( that I didn't read here ) was the free finished board.
Title: Re: How to Measure
Post by: metalspinner on September 21, 2005, 12:06:54 PM
The problem with measuring the stack as a total volume is that each board or layer is not really one inch.  If each board is 1 1/8", then you are adding  an 1/8" of material for each layer in the stack.  That extra 1/8" times the number of layer's in the stack is an overcharge to the custumer.  If you measure each layer of the stack then multiply that by the number of layer's of that thickness, you will get a true measurement of your pile of lumber ;)
Title: Re: How to Measure
Post by: Gilman on September 21, 2005, 12:34:04 PM
I let the customers know on the phone that the price is $/bf if:
1) Good straight logs
2) Logs are decked, or there is equipment on site to feed logs to the mill
3) Adequate off bearers
4) Stickers are cut at an hourly rate but I'll try to get them some free ones as we edge trim.

I also warn them that if they want to sticker while they off load they'll need three people to keep up.

For dimension lumber I charge what is printed on the back of a Stanley tape measure I carry in my truck.  Stanley figures dimension lumber at the full dimension.   NOTE: I haven't charged this rate yet, but changed what I'm willing to charge after some of the terrible customers I've had in the past.

I then let the good customers know that I usually charge by the above method, but since they were setup so well and did a great job I'll charge the actual size cut.

I think you have to go through some bad and good customers to establish how you want to charge.  The most important is informing and making sure the customer knows how they are being charged.

I haven't had nearly the problems since I started communicating what is needed better.
Title: Re: How to Measure
Post by: ohsoloco on September 21, 2005, 12:39:21 PM
I put my lumber in 4'wide layers off of the mill, then multiply the number of layers by the # of board feet per layer.  6' lumber is 24 bd.ft. per layer, 8' is 32, 12' is 48, etc.  Then if there's a few extra I just tally them up by the board  :)
Title: Re: How to Measure
Post by: Jeff on September 21, 2005, 02:31:28 PM
Link to the origins of the Forestry Forum standard of Measurement. (

It doesnt matter how you measure it. There will always be folks that have a different idea. The only absolute truth is, that you know what you are selling and your customer knows what they are buying. If its by the actual board foot, nominal board foot, lineal foot, cubic foot or by the troy ounce, it don't matter. Long as the seller and customer are on the same page.  If it were me, I would sell it by the Whack.

Title: Re: How to Measure
Post by: Dan_Shade on September 21, 2005, 02:42:21 PM
what are the odd's of getting another run of Whackulator Calculator's printed up, Jeff?  that woudl be handy in the glove box :)
Title: Re: How to Measure
Post by: Ron Wenrich on September 21, 2005, 05:37:17 PM
In hardwoods, the standard piece of 4/4 is 1 1/8" thick.  It is sold as a 1" piece.  Now, if you were sawing dimension stock where they stated 1 1/8" material, than you could charge for that. 

Charging by the board foot is OK.  But, do you make any difference in cutting 1" or 2" stock?  Afterall, you'll make half as many cuts cutting the 2", which makes it twice as expensive for the customer.
Title: Re: How to Measure
Post by: sigidi on September 22, 2005, 07:09:55 AM
Here in Aus the norm seems to be to charge by the volume of the log before cutting it.

Sometimes this has been a downfall, as some people think you are ripping them off, but when you explain that you had no control over the log while it grew, or when the termites moved in, or for that matter how wide mother nature made it, most folkes seem to understand. The simple fact is once the log is loaded, I have to do a certain amount of cutting to break it down, I cannot guarantee, how many boards will come out of the log or what quality they will be (except that the boards will be regular, square, the specified dimensions and bow or spring will be minimal) anything else, ie FAS or worse, that's out of my control.

You folkes over there charging by the board foot - potentially you could mill for most the day and come away with very little? or have I got it wrong? Over here we have Eucs which rot from the inside out, this leaves a 'pipe' inside, more often than not this pipe holds no conformity at all and goes off-centre, tapers gets bigger, gets smaller - a real pain in the butt as you can understand. So if I where being paid by the board foot for what I produced from the log, I could cut a log of say about 424bft and end up with less than 120bft of boards at the end. A lot of work for not a lot of pay???

Fill me in on how it works if I'm off track
Title: Re: How to Measure
Post by: twoodward15 on September 22, 2005, 07:17:49 AM
Over here ya just don't mill them logs!!! 
Title: Re: How to Measure
Post by: Gilman on September 22, 2005, 11:03:05 AM
If a douglas fir had a rotten pipe in it, it would be sawn into 16" lengths, split and burnt in a fireplace.  :D

I've sawn rotten logs, but only for myself where I was looking for some nice spalted lumber.
Title: Re: How to Measure
Post by: summerjob on September 22, 2005, 12:36:02 PM
I think Jeff made a very good point....... I do not charge less for 2 x stock nor do I charge more for 1 x 3, 1 x 4, etc.  As I said I know the pros and cons of each.  The reason I charge by the BDFT is that I don't have to justify how or why I charged what I did.  The customer is getting charged when the saw is in the wood.  Do you guys charging by the hour stop the clock when you change blades, take a drink, or stop and talk to a passer buy that wants to give you future business.

A couple of weeks ago a had to pay a truss crane by the hour to set 48' trusses.  It took my workers and I 1 1/2 hours to set trusses ( we were ready when the trusses got there).  However he charged me for 2 1/2 hours.  I paid for him setting up, unloading someone elses trusses, B.S ing, loading other trusses back up, and strapping them on and packing up. 

Is anyone else charging or measuring as I do. 
Title: Re: How to Measure
Post by: sparks on September 22, 2005, 03:07:37 PM
Here's some good websites that will show you how to do boards or stacks and even standing trees plus weights.  Thanks
Title: Re: How to Measure
Post by: pigman on September 22, 2005, 10:41:42 PM
. Do you guys charging by the hour stop the clock when you change blades, take a drink, or stop and talk to a passer buy that wants to give you future business.
Is anyone else charging or measuring as I do.
When I do charge by the hour on special jobs, I use the hour meter on the mill to keep the time. When I change blades, take a brake, or do other things not related to sawing, I shut the motor off and the clock stops. If I hit metal and have to change the blade I leave the switch in the accessory position to keep the clock running. ;) :D If I am waiting on the customer to bring me a log I keep the motor running. One of the down sides of charging by the hour is it makes the customer work too hard trying to get his money worth. ::)