Green Horizons Newsletter - AgEBB

Green Horizons

Volume 14, Number 2
Spring 2010

The Toolbox
Hank Stelzer, MU Forestry Extension

Just like home repairs, certain woodland jobs can be accomplished quickly and efficiently if the right tool is used. In this installment of ‘The Toolbox’ let’s take a look at scale sticks, diameter tapes and increment borers.

Tree and Log Scale Sticks
If you want to determine the volume of timber in a tree or log, this tool is a must-have. It is similar to a wooden yardstick, with various scales marked on it that allow you to measure the diameter and merchantable height in trees and logs, and determine the volume of wood. Tree and log scale sticks can be used to estimate volume using the Doyle Scale or International 1/4 Scale (the most commonly used log rules in Missouri). The sticks are easy to use and come with directions. They are inexpensive (less than $15) and if you live in Missouri they’re free! All you have to do is contact your local MDC Resource Forester ( or private consulting forester ( Note the consulting foresters’ scale stick uses the Doyle Scale while the MDC scale sticks use the International 1/4.

Diameter Tapes
If you want to measure the diameter of a tree more accurately than can be accomplished with a tree and log scale stick, use a diameter tape; more commonly called a D-tape. The tape is wrapped around the tree, and the diameter is read directly from it. D-tapes are used annually when measuring crop trees to determine their growth rate or when measuring a tree’s diameter to very accurately determine timber volume. The latter scenario is especially important when the tree is a veneer-grade black walnut! D-tapes are an indispensable tool for a forester and can be purchased from forestry supply firms for $35-40.

If you are going to manage your woodlands properly, you need to know where the property lines are. Why? If you are going to have a timber sale, the forester has to know where the property line is so no trees are marked and cut on the neighbor’s property. Missouri State Statutes have a triple damage section concerning trespass. Therefore, as a consulting forester, if I mark for sale trees on your neighbor’s land and they are sold, I am liable for triple damages. If a landowner does not know or have marked or fenced his property lines, I stay away 100 or more feet from where he thinks the line is, or I just will not take the risk and turn down the sale job. The same holds true for a Timber Stand Improvement (TSI) crew who will kill undesirable trees and vines to release and let grow the valuable desirable crop trees. If the woodland owner puts in access roads, waterlines, skid trails, log yarding area, for example, he should/must know where the property lines are.

Increment Borers
Borers are definitely a forestry specialty item. They are used to cut and extract a small, round wooden dowel called an increment core from a tree. If you take a core that extends all the way to the center of the tree, you can count the growth rings and determine the tree’s age and its historic growth pattern. A core taken only one to two inches deep can be used to determine the width of the last several growth rings, thus telling you how fast the tree is growing. Tree age and its growth rate are very important pieces of information for the forester. An increment borer consists of an auger bit, a handle, and an extractor tray that slips into the hollow auger bit after you have drilled into the tree. Increment borers come in a variety of sizes and prices range from $175 to more than $300.

In the next issue, we will take a look at hatchets and squirt bottles, chainsaws and herbicides.

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