Thursday, November 10, 2016

Measuring And Marking Logs And Firewood (w/pic)

Click image to enlarge.

For nearly 70 years, my granddad, dad and/or I sold firewood, logs, and/or lumber. My granddad passed in 1963, my dad in 1984. I stopped sawmilling in1995 and selling logs and firewood in 2005.

Logs and lumber generally need to be certain lengths, so as to not lose money from cutting at non-standard lengths. For most markets, that means even lengths, like 8, 10, 12, 14 and 16’. A few places buy as short as 6’ and/or odd lengths like 7 or 9’ and so on.

The earliest measuring device that I remember Dad using was a 12’ pole. It was only about an inch wide and ¾ or 7/8” thick. It was either hexagonal or octagonal in shape, with all sides planed or sanded in some way, with the corners VERY slightly relieved. On the widest two sides, a shallow groove ran from end to end. It seemed to be made of a light-colored, hard, close-grained wood, but I don’t know what it may have been. I do know that he’d gotten them from my maternal grandfather, but I have NO idea what they may have originally been made for. Dad had made tiny grooves around the pole every 2’, plus one at 11’. That allowed him to use it either for measuring logs or 2’ firewood, which was the most common length back then. All logs were cut 3 or 4” longer than the base length, to allow for end trimming. Cross-tie logs were required to be 6” longer than base length, as were the ties themselves.

Eventually, both of our poles got busted up and Dad used a ½ x 2” lath, 10’ 2” long, for the same purpose. When we began selling Christmas trees, we used the same pole to measure them. After Dad passed away, I used it to measure trees, but I just used the 3’ handle of my double-bitted axe to measure logs. That usually required either estimating the trim length by eye, if adding, or by using a hand span, if subtracting. Eventually, a guy who hunted the farm gave me a little camper’s tool kit that included a small single-bitted axe with a stamped and riveted head and a 27” handle. I used a pen-knife to score the handle slightly at 20 and 24,” since by that time, I cut more 20” wood, but I could still use the axe to mark logs and trim SMALL limbs.

Before too long, I got a logger’s tape and often didn’t mark my logs at all, but simply walked along one side of the trunk and cut the logs where the tape showed that I should. Of course, you have to add the log lengths and the trim length in your head, so you won’t end up with the wrong length logs, but that’s no problem.

I no longer deliver firewood, but I DO occasionally sell a load here at the house, when I trim a little around the edge of the lawn, or a tree dies or blows over nearby. I use my little marking axe for measuring and marking the firewood still. It’s about 20 years old now, but age doesn’t hurt its marking ability. To use it, I just make the top of the pole even with the butt end of the log, look to see where the 20” mark is, make a mark there, and then put the top of the pole on that mark and repeat the process to the end of what I want to use for wood. The photo of my marking axe shows the two marks at 20 and 24”, but you may have to look close to see them. © 2016


Sunnybrook Farm said...

I try to cut somewhere near the length of the 18 inch chain saw bar. I haven't actually measured it as I don't sell wood an don't care just so it fits in the stoves. I have one very long stove that will take any of my mistakes so far. One stove is small and the small end cuts go in it. It all works out and all burns.
I had to get a new saw as the engine in the old one just let go, just wore it out I guess.

Gorges Smythe said...

Back when we burned wood, we never measured ours either, but a neat stack sells better. When we delivered, we always made the FRONT of the stack even, and folks bragged on how great the wood was, even when it wasn't! - lol