Counting board feet while sawing

Sawyers share tips for tallying total board feet while milling. July 18, 2000

What do you portable sawmill sawyers do to keep track of board feet (BF) sawed with a portable sawmill?

I want to be able to count BF while sawing, and not have to do it when done. Any suggestions?

I jot down the size and number of boards after sawing each log, then I tally up the board footage at the end of the day. Just keep a note pad in your pocket and make it a habit.

When I managed a sawmill, we charged by-the-log scale.
Gene Wengert, technical advisor

We've always just put off the tally until we were done with the job or done for the day.

I recommend to the owner that he sort the lumber as it comes off the mill, which makes the day-end tally quite easy. If there's any concern about the amount of board feet to cut we carry a log rule/stick, so I can whiz through and give an estimate before we start.

I use the Scribner decimal C-log scale. This comes real close to actual BF production. I hate counting all the boards at the end of the day.

I also jot down the sizes as I finish each log. It doesn't take long and it is easier than doing it at the end of the day. I almost always beat the log rules, so I would lose out that way.

Also, I know what each board costs (by my BF pricing), so all I have to do is multiply that by the number of each to get the total cost.

I keep a running tally on a pad hanging from the mill. At the end of an order I just do the math.

Charge by the hour, and let the person who wants to know how much wood he has do it.

I use a lumber crayon to mark the short boards or ones that wane-out, then just stack the boards as usual, keeping 2-by-4s together, 2-by-6s, etc. That way it is easy to tally all the full-length boards, and the short ones are marked.

I beat the Scribner log scales by 25 percent or more most every time, and I want to know how much I cut because I charge by BF. I like to monitor my production also.

After many problems making a BF tally, this is how I complete this task:

I first separate the boards by dimension. Then I separate the long and short boards, i.e., 2-by-6s 14 feet and over, then 12 feet and under. The 12 footers are stacked on the outside of the pile to keep the pile straight, and the shorts are stacked on the inside. The length of the shorts is marked on the end of each.

Sometimes we don't buck the board to length, just write the length on the end and give the customer a longer, waned board that we don't charge full price for. This is quicker for us because we don't buck the board, and most customers like this because they can still use it somewhere.