Log purchasers use many reasons for the differences in log rules. For example, users of the Doyle Rule, which underestimates volume in smaller logs, say that this is the very reason it is a fairer rule in that it costs them more to process smaller logs. This is logical since the logger will have to cut more trees, the sawyer will have to saw more logs, and the yard crew will have to move more logs to the sawyer, to equal the amount of lumber in much larger logs. However, if he cannot efficiently utilize smaller logs, he should base his offer on that, not on a biased estimation of yield. There are other reasons given to justify variance in log rule use, but frankly, none hold much water for me. As we can see, there is the potential for dishonesty when choosing log rules.
From the time the very first Europeans set foot on American soil, we have tried to develop systems to estimate the board feet of finished lumber we can obtain from a green log. It seems straightforward: figure the number of 1-inch thick planks that can be sawn, subtract for the width of the saw blade (kerf) and for waste (trim), and there you would have it, what is known as a “log rule.” However, it is not that simple, because that does not take into consideration the high variability between logs, equipment used to saw those logs, and the operators of that equipment. The Forest Service’s Forest Products Lab in Madison, Wisconsin reports that over 95 log rules with about 185 different names have been developed in our brief history as a nation.
I was perusing my shop’s lumber inventory the other day when I started to recollect how long some of those boards had been collecting dust on the racks. You know what I’m talking about, right? You plow through massive piles of wood at the local lumberyard until you find a board that just shouts, “Hey, it took 200 years for me to develop my gorgeous color and unbelievable figure, so take me home with you!”
So you plunk down some serious cash and take that lignin beauty home, only to slide it into a rack where it must sit patiently, waiting for just the right project to come along. Trouble is, the longer you hang on to those glorious planks, the less likely it is that ANY project will ever be good enough to justify using them!
Readers of last week’s blog were asked to comment and describe what they like about woodworking. Although I can’t enter the contest, I will add my two cents. What I like about woodworking is working with my wood. The wood from the tree I watched grow, the tree I pruned when it was just a pole, or the tree my dad’s cattle would hide under to seek shelter from the hot southern sun.
I have always loved forests and everything in them. I studied them from the time I was old enough to wander through them alone (which, on a small farm in Mississippi in the 1960s, was a very young age). That is what eventually led me into my profession. I am a silviculturist, best described by The Society of American Foresters, as one who practices silvics, which is “the study of the life history and general characteristics of forest trees and stands, with particular reference to environmental factors…” In a nutshell (I know. That’s why I didn’t go into standup comedy), I try to manage forests for the benefit of the trees, wildlife, water and the people that use them. It is an odd profession, because if you think about it, the end result of what we do in a forest today will not be apparent for tens or hundreds of years. So, it is a science of faith.
The best way to kick off your projects on the right foot is to start with stock that’s flat, square and of consistent thickness. That, of course, involves a round of surfacing at the jointer and planer with wood that’s thicker than you need. Our field editor discusses how to buy smart the next time you’re stocking the lumber rack for an upcoming project.
Despite the snowy prospects here in Minnesota, it’s time to think spring. To that end, we’re happy to announce that the April print issue of Woodworker’s Journal is headed to your mailbox and should be arriving shortly. With any luck, it will bring us all warmer weather and longer days! Here’s a quick look at some of the great new content you’ll find inside:
As a card-carrying member of the woodworking fraternity (and sorority … no bias here, sister), I have no problem making this general observation – we are a thrifty bunch. No shame to our tendency to stretch a dollar until it snaps, in fact, our penny-pinching ways are a badge of honor to most of us. Perhaps connected to this money saving mania, but perhaps a separate malady of it own, is the fact that we are opposed – perhaps on cellular level – to throwing scrap wood away. The combination of these two traits can lead to some frighteningly large collections of virtually unusable wood … until now!
It’s pre-dawn on Thanksgiving morning as I write this. The sun is just starting to color the eastern sky, and the house is still quiet. I’ve downed my first cup of coffee, and the cranial hard drive is coming up to speed. All in all, a very good time to reflect on things.
While I’m generally not one to wax poetic, I also don’t spend enough time thinking about the many good fortunes I have and actually verbalizing them. The simplest things are the easiest to overlook, especially in the frenetic pace we tend to live our lives.
So, here goes…a few personal reasons for thanks: