Doyle Log Scale: How To Determine Board Feet In A Log


(Click this image for a larger view. Click the pdf link below for a printable Doyle log scale or Doyle log rule.)

Doyle Log Scale WunderWoods pdf

Many times customers will call to discuss having a log milled and how much it will cost. The answer is often based on how many board feet (12″ x 12″ x1″) will be produced. So, the first thing I ask is, “How big is the log?” Usually the answer is, “Well, I can’t get my arms around it.” And, while this may be helpful, there is a more accurate way to determine the size of a log and how many board feet will be produced.

There are three common scales or rules used in the industry (Doyle, Scribner, and International), but the Doyle scale is the most commonly used around the St. Louis area. All three of the scales estimate logs closely in the medium to larger size range, but the Doyle underestimates footage on the smaller logs. Because of this, it is advantageous for buyers of logs to use the Doyle scale to make up for extra log handling on small logs. Since the buyers like this scale, it is what they use and therefore, what the sellers use.

Doyle folding log rule used by most log buyers in Midwest

All buyers have a Doyle scale on them at all times, usually in the form of a folding rule with the footage marked at each inch. The printable version above has more increments on it, but it is basically the same and is used in conjunction with a tape measure. I always have a tape measure on me, so I usually use the printed version (they are also cheaper).

The formula for the scale is based on a tapered cylinder, milled with a 1/4″ kerf. Straight logs, with little taper and cut on a thin-kerf bandsaw will yield more lumber than the scale predicts. It usually averages out, because logs are usually not so perfect, and often have boards that are below-grade and end up in the firewood pile.

To use the scale, first measure the average diameter of the small end of the log inside the bark (in inches). Locate that row on the scale. Next, measure the length of the log (in feet). Move over on the scale to that length column. Where those two measurements intersect, you will find the board footage for that log. The process must be repeated for each log. Deductions are made for defects, like rot and curved logs.

Since sawmills usually charge by the board foot, this scale will help you determine the amount of lumber you will have and what you can expect your bill to be. Make sure to accurately measure your log and not just guess the diameter. The logs seem bigger than the actual measurement. My customers are usually off by about a foot in diameter on good-sized logs when they guess.

A little perspective on log sizes:
• A respectable diameter on a hardwood tree is 20″.
• A large diameter on a hardwood tree  is 30+”.
• The smallest diameter most hardwood mills buy is 13″.
• The largest logs I get on a once-a-year basis is about 45″ diameter (8′-10′ from the ground).
• The largest hardwood I have ever milled is a 54″ diameter (20′ from the ground) Burr Oak.

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About wunderwoods

Hi! My name is Scott Wunder and I am the owner of WunderWoods Custom Woodworking. We build wine cellars, built-ins and furniture from local woods, here in St. Louis, MO. Recently, I finished a three-year term as the President of the St. Louis Woodworkers Guild, which had me writing a monthly article for our newsletter. I love to write, especially about wood, and found that I still had more to say. Every day I run into something wood related that I realize some of my customers don't know and this seems like a great forum for sharing what I have learned (instead of telling the same story to each person). The main thing to remember is that I try to keep it light and as my wife always reminds people that have just met me, "He is joking."

28 responses to “Doyle Log Scale: How To Determine Board Feet In A Log”

  1. Martin says :

    Why was I not notified of the said 54″ Burr Oak!!!!

  2. Roger Kennedy says :

    using Doyle scale how many board feet does a 59″ dia 8′ log have?

    • wunderwoods says :

      Wow! A lot. I will have to do some math and get back to you. In the meantime, let’s see some pictures and what is it?

    • wunderwoods says :

      That log has about 920 bd. ft. in it.

      • Vincent says :

        hello im looking for a tape measure scaling stick. I’ve seen one at work but no one can find them any more. Its a regular tape measure on one side and a scaling stick on other side. Do you know who makes or where i can find such an item..

      • wunderwoods says :

        I normally order from Bailey’s online. I checked there and they don’t have anything like it. I have never seen a tape measure for scaling logs myself. The closest is the folding log rule, but it is not a tape. Let us know if you find one. Hopefully, someone else will know and reply.

      • Vincent says :

        thanks anyway i work with the guy that has one ill post back with the manufacturer if theres ones on the rule all i know is that it is yellow with a tree on it?

    • Bobby says :

      Im just learning to use a scale, so I may be wrong. My sacle only goes to 47 inches. The best I can figure is a little more than 676 board feet.

      • wunderwoods says :

        You will need the log length as well as the diameter to figure out the board feet. My scale only goes to 44″ on the skinny end, which is a very big hardwood log. Of course, they do get bigger, but 44″ will cover most of the hardwood logs out there.

  3. Gene Brewster says :

    This may help me some. I have some red cedar logs that I am trying to find out what they are worth. I had no idea how to figure the board feet. Someone said a dollar a board foot would be close. Anny idea ?

    • wunderwoods says :


      I don’t sell cedar logs, so I am not sure of the going price. A dollar per board foot sounds high to me. I would guess more like 40¢ per board foot. I know I wouldn’t pay a lot because they are usually pretty small and a lot of work per board foot to produce the lumber.

      • Gene Brewster says :

        Yes after more research I am thinking $1.00 per board foot sawed and $ 0.35 to $ 0.40 for the log. Thanks for your in put

    • Vern says :

      I’m having logs milled for 25cents a board foot

  4. DONALD DILLMAN says :

    For easy figuring by customers I charge 20 cents per inch of diam, times the length of log in feet.

    • J R Potthast says :

      bft in logs is an exponential equation centered on the diameter of the small end of the log. People in the wood business ought to learn to think algebraically.

      • wunderwoods says :

        Yes, it is based on the volume of a long, slender cone along with real world numbers that can be economically produced from various sized logs. The math is almost thrown out on the small diameter logs because of the low volume of lumber produced.

  5. Ricky kelly says :

    Thanks. Glad I bought a Doyle #524

  6. Rogers Floyd says :

    Does anyone have a normal price rate for various species of trees in West Tennesee? I would like to know what aromatic cedar in the log is priced if i cut it or they cut it and bring to me. I was told about 20 to 30 cents per board foot on the Doyle scale. Does this seem right?

    • wunderwoods says :

      I haven’t heard of any prices paid for cedar logs by the bd. ft., but I assume that it would be in that range. I have heard of paying by the weight or truckload, but I don’t think it added up to much. I don’t know of any operations around St. Louis that pay for cedar logs. Not that it doesn’t happen, just not in my circles. It can’t be too much because the logs tend to be small and the lumber isn’t super valuable. Just not a lot of room in there for a sawmill to make money. I get my logs for free and I still don’t cut much cedar because I can’t take them into much money.

  7. Jeff Colson says :

    I own 340 acres of wetland in north Louisiana and have several Cypresses that are several hundred years old that I’d like to sale to fix up the rest of the property the bases of some of these exceed 8ft and are really tall. Would you know any pricing on cypress per board foot? And since it’s a special wood should I hire a independent appraiser?

    • wunderwoods says :

      I don’t know much about cypress pricing. In Missouri, state foresters are available to help with wood sales. Not sure if it is the case in Louisiana, but that’s where I would start.

  8. Stephen says :

    Hello, is there a scale we can use to give us an idea on can’t size from various diameter of saw logs?

    • wunderwoods says :

      Not that I know of, but it should be pretty easy to figure out since it is just based on the end diameter of the log and not a volume measurement. BF is trickier because it is a volume measurement based on a conical cylinder and requires more math than most of us can do.

  9. Justin says :

    I have 11 butternut and black wallnut logs. All are 4 sides clear and straight. Ranging from 16 to 19 in in diameter ..they are all cut 10ft 6 in .. I’m just wondering if someone knew a round about estimate in value.. even a educated guess would help me based on at least knowing where to at least start when I gather them all … I have a pretty good hill before my woods and yard meet so also trying to figure out if they are worth getting out

    • wunderwoods says :

      That’s a tough one without all of the details. Those aren’t huge diameters, so they won’t be super valuable. My best guesstimate would be $100 each for an average, which is $1 per board foot. It depends a lot on the quality.

  10. David Tynes says :

    What is the best way to tell if there is metal in a log?

    • wunderwoods says :

      This would be a good blog post. I look for stains on the end of the log, bumps under the bark at about 5′ off of the ground and I pay attention to where the log was at, especially if it was close to a fence line. If I am not sure, I just cut it and see what happens. I used to try and cut out the metal, but it just wrecks the logs and I still end up missing some of it. If a log has metal in it, it usually has more than one piece.

  11. Joseph Henry Hagerman says :

    Good article, thanks for sharing.

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