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Author Topic: Log Buying 101  (Read 2706 times)

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Offline macurtis

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Log Buying 101
« on: April 05, 2002, 04:58:04 PM »
I have been reading some information on log buying.
Would someone please help us new hands out
and give us some log buying instructions? Please take it
from logs arriving , unloading etc.  What do you look for
and how much do you deduct for defects.
Good logs==Good lumber


Offline Bibbyman

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Re: Log Buying 101
« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2002, 05:34:02 PM »
macuris,  Log buying is part science,  part art and part plan-O dickering.   There are some documentation on how to grade logs out there.  Mary also took a course put on by the Hardwood Lumber Association and that was a good start.  Then you have to follow the market trends, local conditions,  wind directions, weather forecast,  over inventory,  under-inventory, what lumber is going to bring next month, next six months, next year and so on.  (Stop me when you’ve had enough.)

But the biggest problems for the small sawmill operation are getting the right logs at the right time, or just getting the bigger logging guys to even think about bringing you logs.  A number of times we’ve called every logger on our list wanting logs to fill an order.  Six months later, they all show up with trucks full of logs.  “Well, you said you wanted them.”  “YEA!!!! Six months ago!”

Lets see:

Log arriving.  Sometimes we won’t get logs for weeks at a time. Then we’ve had 5 tandem axle truckloads in our drive at one time wanting to unload.  The guys in our area have went to fixed bunks on their trucks so you have to be able to lift a log about 10’ feet at least to clear the bunks.  The small fry guys bring logs on those goud-awful car hauler trailers – the ones where the deck is below the tire height and have sides on them.  You have to drag the logs off the back.  They all want paid before they leave.

What to look for:  Well,  sawing a couple of years will give you an idea of looking on the outside to see what’s hidden on the inside.  That’s what training is good for.  Too many things to look for to list here.  Some of the not so obvious ones: are the logs cut to the right lengths + trim,  are they trimmed well,  are they clean or caked with mud and rocks,  were they cracked when fell, have they been cut for 5 years, etc.?  
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Offline Frank_Pender

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Re: Log Buying 101
« Reply #2 on: April 05, 2002, 06:14:25 PM »
You have just about covered it all, Bibbyman.  ihave been getting loggers trying to sell me the over size logs (36" +) lately.  The market here is lousy for #3 saw logs, at about $325m.  :-[ I sure wish I had a big timber market right now.  Like the bridge job I just finished.  :'(   The timber market is a comodities market for sure.  You are always dealing with the "futures" issues, like the 9-11-01 day.  Who could have fortold that hour to this.  I find that I am always looking for those little nitches the grab hold of while in the mainstream flow of the over all river of economics.  I still have about 3,000m log scale feet of 5' Cottonwood logs resting in my log yard. :'(   What should I cut it into; 1", 2" x ?  About the time I have it sawed into 2" someone will want a m ft of 1". :-[
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Offline Tillaway

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Re: Log Buying 101
« Reply #3 on: April 05, 2002, 09:36:57 PM »

I guess you would have to use what ever your local custom is but here are a few hints that I can think of.

The buyer and seller have to come to a mutually agreed upon way of scaling the logs.  You can use the grades from a local scaling and grading burea or you as the buyer can make up your own sorts and grades.  If you buy allot of logs you can use a third party to determine the scale and you split the cost of this service with the seller.  If not, you and the seller have to aggree to both the scale and grade. Check for publications from a local log scaling and grading burea for help in your area.

Normally the log loads have a load ticket attached to one of the logs on the load.  The log seller, logger, buyer and trucker all get a copy.  It has the your name, sellers name, loggers name and side number, a unique number, log brand (may not be custom in your area) and a piece count ( I may be leaving something out). The reason for load tickets is that it can help protect you from theft.  You could be unknowningly buying stolen logs or having logs stolen from you.  It is not uncommon to have a logger load the good logs on top of a load bound for a mill that bought all the stumpage on a property and the mill wind up not getting those good logs.  It is real easy for the trucker to pull into another mill and pocket the cash for a few high quality logs off the top of the load.

You should pay promptly, most mills out here pay twice a month for logs.  You should develope a standard practice regarding the sorts, lengths, grades and payments.  You should give a purchase order to the log seller.  This has the volume you will accept (min and max).  The prices you will pay for what sorts grades and lengths.  It should also have the minimum log size accepted and any unacceptable length and / or grades.

This might help get you started and I am sure Jeff or Ron could add much more to this.
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Offline Jeff

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Re: Log Buying 101
« Reply #4 on: April 06, 2002, 03:56:19 AM »
Buying logs is a negotiation on a price for a product. I am to far down the food chain at our mill to negotiate prices with a logger, but at one time I did all the scaling, and deducting for defects, because as the sawyer, I have the best insight to what truly may lay under the bark.

In our parts low grade logs are usually bought and sold by the cord. Low-grade meaning solid and sound, but defects such as knots, stain and the like.

Grade logs are bought and sold by the MBF, and at our mill we use the international scale.

Measuring each log gives the opportunity to make your deductions for defects that will result in lost volume, not lower grade. At our mill we have 4 grades when we buy logs. They do not apply to any grading system, but are a 1 to 4 sliding scale to describe level of quality.

Veneer: No known or visible defects and of the species and minimum size to make that grade
Grade 1: very good quality any defects are slight, just not good enough to make veneer.

Grade 2: visible defects, but various grades will still be sawn from "Between the knots"

Grade 3: Blocking material. If we can saw 4by4s or 2 by 4s that are worth more then the grade of lumber the log will produce, it is bought at this grade.

Grades 2 and 3 are where we may make deductions in the scale of the log if we see a defect that results in loss of volume. say a log scales 72 feet, but has a seam running up its full length, we make a snap judgment call and try to predict how much wood we will lose. I might call it 40 rather then 72. if the seam is oozing black liquid and it has rotten knots on the other side opposite the seam, and a hole in the end, it might end up being culled. If it costs more to saw it and dispose of it then what the chips would even be worth it is marked cull on our grade slip. Our deductions are noted also.

When scaling by the cord, once again we may deduct, but that is done from the whole, and is much more subjective. Generally done to get the loggers attention that we do not buy logs that result in loss of volume. (various rot, crook, splits, shatter, things of that nature.) 4 or 5 logs on a load of  say 100 to 200 logs are usually overlooked. Its a visual thing. If a load comes into the yard, and you look at the truck and say that's a nice looking load, you generally make no allowances for the couple 3 that may have a problem. On the other hand, if a load pulls in and you say, look at those rotten ones, because they are so prevalent that they draw attention, its time to make some notes on this scale, determine the approximate % of logs that may be bad, and then come up with a cull. This is always usually less then what we actually will lose, but if the truck scales 20 cord and you deduct 2 and the we are paying 100 a cord. the logger, or log owner takes notice. They usually will make an effort to sort that garbage out, and if they don't, we just turn them around and send them on their way.

We don't want to cull, or deduct. We don't want to buy logs that we have to do this with. The culls and deductions are not only our way of not paying for volume that does not exist, but s a way to keep it from even coming to the mill.

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Offline Ron Wenrich

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Re: Log Buying 101
« Reply #5 on: April 06, 2002, 05:56:51 AM »
Are you looking at hardwoods or softwoods?  The types of defects are different for each.

The other things to consider is your market and the amount of logs you will need.  The inability to buy logs at a good price has put many a mill under.  If you use a small amount of logs, you will have a difficult time buying unless you use small loggers.

If you let loggers bring in logs that are ungraded or unscaled, they will dump junk on you that will be hard to use.  Usually it is logs that they can't get rid of somewhere else.

Know your yield!  Many mills grade, scale and price logs with what the mill down the street is paying.  Gets to be a bidding war.  The price you can pay for any given grade will depend on your yield, market value and your production costs.  If you are sawing logs that you lose money on, you won't be sawing for long.

Log value = lumber value - production costs - profit.  Simple enough formula.  Getting it right so that you have enough supply is the hard part.  

We have a guy that buys short logs, and off species.  We can't saw short logs that well, but he can.  The off species we would just sell for pallet stock.  But, he has a niche market.  Find your niche.  Look for other people's hard to move stock.  It is usually a lot cheaper.

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Offline Ron Scott

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Re: Log Buying 101
« Reply #6 on: April 06, 2002, 08:54:47 AM »
Many good points from the experiecned, expecially from experienced sawyers.

Also get a copy of the USDA-Forest Service Timber Management Field Book #NA-MR-7 if you can from your State Forester or from the:

U.S. Department of Agriculture
Forest Service
Northeastern Area
State and Private Forestry
Radnor, PA 19087-4585

Chapter 2 has most tables etc for log scaling & grading. They also have a Scaling Handbook if you can get your hands on a copy or get a copy the scaling & grading local tables being used in your area from the Extension Service.

It is really best to attend a Log Scaling & Grading Workshop such as those listed in the Forums Education Thread. Check with your Extension Service for when one will be held in your area or let them know the need for one if they haven't had one recently.

After having some basic knowledge from such a Workshop, the sawyer usually becomes the best person to determine log quality and grade as they are the ones seeing them cut out daily (They're the log Surgeons).

Most scalers and even myself as a cruiser of standing timber volumes, to retain our skills, visit the mills from time to time to onserve the various log species and defects being cut out by an exoerienced sawyer.

It's a good exercise to scale 20 plus logs in the mill yard and then see what the experienced sawyer cuts out.  


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