Lesson Materials: Timber Cruiser

Lumberjack Math Introduction

Essential Questions

  1. How do you calculate board feet in a tree?
  2. Which plot of land has the most valuable logging rights and should be recommended for purchase?


A classroom set of worksheets, including:

Helping the Timber Cruiser (optional lesson extension activities)


A timber cruiser was employed to survey the land available to log and estimate the amount of desirable timber available for the lumber company. Once the land had been cruised, lumber companies made bids to purchase either the land or the rights to cut the timber from it. A timber cruiser could have been self-employed, an employee of a single lumber company, or employed by multiple companies. Cruisers worked year-round, often embarking alone on extended cruising trips that spanned weeks or even months. In doing so, they fulfilled a crucial role in the lumber industry, and left a legacy of unique characters and stories.


Acre: A measure of land area, used in the U.S., that equals 4,840 square yards

Board Foot (BF): A volume measurement of lumber. One board foot (1 BF) of wood measures 1 foot long by 1 foot wide by 1 inch thick.

To cruise: To estimate the amount of timber that could be cut from a plot of land, and the ease with which it could be transported to the river or rail spur that will transport the timber to a sawmill

Cruising stick: Tool used by the timber cruiser to measure the diameter of a tree, and the number of 16-foot logs in that tree

Dbh: The abbreviation that stands for “diameter at breast height.” Students will see this abbreviation in the table on the first worksheet that helps them calculate board feet.

Diameter: A straight line that passes through the center of a circle and divides it in half

Lumber baron: A man with great wealth, power, and influence who owned the lumber, the camps, the sawmills, and the land or logging rights to the land

Logging rights: The right to log a plot of land

Red pine: Type of coniferous tree logged in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Red pine trees were not as desirable as the white pine trees.

Survey: In the context of the lumber industry, a survey is an estimate of the characteristics and value of the timber stand on a particular plot of land.

Timber stand: In the logging industry, it refers to an area of standing trees to be used for timber

White pine: Type of coniferous tree desired by the logging industry in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century

Timber Cruiser videos

Calculating Board Feet

Transcript | Watch video Calculating Board Feet on YouTube

Surveying Board Feet

Transcript | Watch video Surveying Board Feet on YouTube

Buying Timber Rights

Transcript | Watch video Buying Timber Rights on YouTube