Bored with Board Feet
After a long break from forestry, I’ve been working in a sawmill for the last couple of months. I was talking with a chop saw operator about his productivity and he expressed everything in terms of board feet in a way that seemed to be echoing the boss without thinking about it. The boss talks a lot in terms of board feet because he deals with full truck loads of lumber and it’s the unit in which his payments are calculated; he lives and dies by the board foot. It makes sense when the boss talks in board feet…
For your information:
We re-saw cedar to make clear lumber. The chop saw operator’s job is to take boards that have already been edged and chop them to their final length. He remove defects while minimizing waste; either by chopping them out entirely or, if it’s near the edge of a board, passing it on to a re-rip saw operator who removes the defect by making the board narrower.
A board foot is a board is a unit of volume equal to 144 cubic inches. A board that’s 12 inches wide, one inch thick, and one foot long is one board foot.
…but the sawyer…the reason I wondered his understanding of his productivity is because board feet is a measure of volume. When he assesses a board to be processed he checks the faces and edges for defects. Whether the board is wide or narrow doesn’t matter: He checks the four sides then goes from there. No matter what the volume of the board is, it still has four sides and takes the same amount of time to assess and process it. How many board feet he process in a shift accurately measures how much the boss earns and generally shows how effective he is to but if you really want to get down into how hard he’s actually working then linear feet of lumber provides a more accurate picture.
I suppose measuring his productivity in board feet per shift is accurate enough but it feels seat-of-the-pants to me at times. Since we’re paid per 1000 board feet that’s how everything is represented; for better or worse.