Keeping a tally
Use a log scale and charge the customer based on the scale BF. Measure each log before you start the job.
It is common practice to do what is called an "end tally", which involves measuring the stack of lumber, looking at the ends. If a particular layer in the stack is 48" wide and the lumber is 8' long and 4/4 thick, then this layer has 32 BF. Of course, you might have a few pieces that are only 6' long, so then you would adjust this lumber downward (estimation). If half the pieces in the layer were 6', then the layer would be only 28 BF (estimation). It helps if the lumber is sorted by length. The width of each layer is measured, and then summed. Some people will measure the width of each piece individually in the layer, measuring the width at the ends. If the lumber is fairly uniform in length within the stack, this works well.
In fact, there are electronic devices that can be used to end tally. To remember which pieces have already been end tallied in a stack, usually the reader will use a large marker pen to put a spot or dot on each piece after measuring. I'll bet a lot of you have seen lumber with a dot on the end grain and wondered what this was. Now you know!
Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor
When custom sawing, I usually keep a tally sheet on the mill. The page is arranged like a large tic tac toe board. I label the widths across the top of the page, and the lengths down the side. I usually fold the sheet in half (top to bottom) so I can put two tallies--separate the 4 and 8 quarter.
This system works very well when sawing framing stock, but it is a little harder for random widths. It's not as time-consuming as you may think (at least not with a band mill). I just keep a pen nearby and make my mark as the saw head is traveling down the log and when it is time to edge stack them in a separate pile to be tallied by hand. I generally find it simpler and more accurate to do it this way, and discovered that I was probably undercharging before.
I brief the customer on stacking lumber. Stack all like sizes together. Then the tally at the end of the day is actually quite easy. All of a given size is in one or more stacks. Then all I need to do is look at the stack and tally the number of boards. There may be several stacks of like sizes as we progress through a job but even with several stacks in different locations it isn't hard. I have a tally sheet I have made and use. I list the number of boards in the appropriate column and then the next stack and so on.
I charge an hourly rate for custom sawing. Living in NJ, I found that most residential trees at some point had steel in them. I found myself with a lot of down time fixing the blade. I also found that those 30" diameter logs took a lot longer to saw then a 16-18" diameter log. So to compensate for this lost time, I charge by the hour.
I use a clip with a magnetic backing to hold my paperwork as I mill. I also have a string tied to my pen or pencil. I lose too many in the sawdust or forget where I put them. For tallying, organization while sawing is the key. I use a sharpie to write the length of any odd length board on the end while the saw goes through the log.
I too tally by using a log scale. I am able to keep a running tally as I saw, so I may keep the customer advised. This also lets me know how many board feet I have on my blade.
Remember when using a log scale that a number of these scales are set up for buying logs. Smaller logs yield much more than they scale. This is good for log buyers, as it costs more time to handle the small logs, but it is not how you want to sell your service.
When using a log scale to estimate lumber, consider a 10" diameter log that is 10' long. The Scribner scale estimates 30 BF, the Doyle scale 23 BF, the Int 1/4" scale 35 BF, and the actual yield with a thin band is closer to 39 or 40 BF.
If you saw thicker than 4/4, the recovery is even more, yet your sawing effort is probably less. That is, with 8/4, you have about 60% of the sawing time to produce the same BF as when sawing 4/4. It is even shorter time when sawing large cants. So, if you charge by the BF produced, you will make out better when sawing thicker lumber. You will also make out better if you do not saw full thickness--1-1/16" thick rather than 1-1/8" for hardwoods--if you charge by the BF produced.
So, the idea of charging by time is a realistic approach. Everyone gets a fair deal. If you charge by the footage, saw thick lumber (4/4 = 1/3/16" and big cants (6x6)! (Just kidding.) Using log footage will shortchange the sawyer in most cases.
Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor
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