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Is there any other commodity sold with a unit of measure with this much variability?

, Co-founder and CEO of Timbeter.

For the second year in a row, Timbeter was asked to participate at the Timber Measurement Society meeting to learn and discuss the latest trends in timber measurement.

The Timber Measurement Society consists of timber measurement professionals and those with an interest in timber measurement from across the world. One of the controversial questions addressed at the event was:  

“Is there any other commodity sold with a unit of measure with this much variability?” 

Within the Timbeter blog we’ve discussed and interviewed professionals about the various ways, methods and problems regarding timber measurement. The Timber Measurement event discussed and broke down the topic in more details. For me the key points raised were the following:                        

1.     Formulae - There are several formulae utilized in the world. It is typical practice to create additional volume by changing the formula during international trade. Thus it becomes quite common to have several % differences in volume, even between neighboring countries.  

Formulas (Scribner and International ¼”) that are based on lumber recovery and not mathematical volume are very sensitive to the log’s measuring length.

For example: Take a 40’ log that has volume of 24.5 CF. By bucking the log into different lengths it is possible to recover 90-130BF of material. To make the matter even more confusing the Scribner dates back to 1842. Recovery of 90-130 BF is based on the technology what was available in the middle of the 19th century! (The Scribner formula dates back to 1842). Meaning that the modern sawmill can recover even more than 130 BF from a 40’ log. To be more precise, up to 2.5 times more! 


2.     Log weight -  Weight is significantly impacted by several variables, in particular time. Weight of timber can be very variable depending of the season. Plus, time impacts weight because if the logs are stored for several months (as they typically are) in the forest before transportation to the buyer. The seller will most probably lose tons and receive less money. 

3.     Under bark or over bark - Most of the formulae calculate the volume under the bark. There are very few countries that calculate logs over bark (Finland is one such example).  

Today bark is a commodity, because it can be used as fuel (energy) wood. After all it burns the same way as the rest for the log. Forest owners feel that they should be paid for this. That’s why there are countries that measure fuel (energy) wood over bark. This double standard creates confusion. For example if logs were sold and bought as saw logs but because of the discoloration, they are used instead for heating by being chipped into wood chips.      

4.     Pile density ratio - The volume of a log pile is calculated by its dimensions (Height, Weight, Length) and multiplied by the pile density ratio that is subjectively estimated and applied to every pile by the manual timber measurement.

This subjective estimate is impossible to determine or and audit and therefore causes huge disparities between buying and selling parties, and leads to heated disagreements between all concerned. For the sake of continued cooperation (and business) the smaller company must accept the terms dictated by the larger corporation. Failing to do so without documented evidence is business suicide.

It was obvious to all then, that log scaling needs to be simplified, unified and harmonized. Unless the industry changes then it will never become more transparent and effective for increasing profit.

At Timbeter we strive every day to make timber measurement more transparent and efficient. I was glad to present Timbeter’s new functionality for pulp-and fuelwood pile density coefficient measurement that helps to eliminate several of the problems described above.


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