A Day In The Life of a Log Scaler

(a photographic journal)

I am a Master Log Scaler with the Northern California Log Scaling and Grading Bureau. To find out what a "Log Scaler" actually is you could visit HERE. I've worked in this capacity since 1973. I work in a slowly dying profession and have seen quite a few changes in the timber industry and the way we do business though the course of my career. I suspect I'll see many more.

Doing online searches for "log scalers" doesn't seem to get you anything other than a few advertisements for log scaling organizations selling their services and products. I thought it might be fun then to try to demonstate though photographs of what it's like to actually spend a day as a log scaler. So I packed up my trusty digital camera and headed off to work to shoot a few pictures of the log yard, the heavy equipment and my fellow workers.

Please excuse the quality of my pictures (I was trying to get some actual work done as I did this). The more urban of you or persons who work in office settings may also find yourself struck by the seemingly "ordinariness" (if that's a word) of the people populating these photos. The people in these pictures are not models and amazingly use very little makeup (perhaps a little sun screen...it was a sunny day in the mid 90's). These are the real deal. Actual real-live working people trying to do a tough, sometimes dangerous job and I'm afraid no one gives much thought to their appearance. In the log yard it's all about functionality and safety. Which is the kind of the long way around for to make some sort of excuse appearing like this (actually I'm WAY better looking in real life).

Clicking on the pictures will give you an enlarged version with more detail. The place: Simpson's Korbel operation. The time: early November, 2004

The "upper" log deck and scaling area complete with LeTourneau log unloading machines (these are amazingly huge and intimidating pieces of equipment with a large, loud diesel engine that drives a generator which powers the electric motors that make everything work) and a John Deere log decking shovel.

Bobby and George getting the log lengths on a mixed load of Grand Fir and Douglas Fir.

The view from the upper yard towards the south. Log decks, the Korbel sawmill and the surrounding mountains in the early morning light.

It's now about 9:30 and we have one of the LeTourneau's doing its thing. As we move into mid-morning both the temperature and the pace of incoming logs increases.

Bobby and I getting lengths on a fresh load of Douglas Fir in the main yard.

Bureau check scaler Charlie Townsend (our immediate Bureau supervisor) shows up to do a check of our scale on a few loads. We are checkscaled at least once a month for accuracy on both our gross and net scales against the check scaler's scale. These checks help to maintain a consistency throughout the Bureau. (the big "O" on the one log in the background indicates an "oversized" log for the mill and will be shipped out to a large log mill for cutting)

A 15" second growth redwood with quite a lot of deductible rot.

The shovel and a LeTourneau work together to tear down one of the high decks before taking the logs to the sawmill. The decks are upwards to 40' high and if allowed to come down on their own the breakage can be quite costly...so they are "gently" helped down.

Water truck driver, crane operator, dump truck driver, chain saw operator, logger, poet, comic...Mike Pinard!

It's now late morning, getting hot and the upper yard is getting VERY busy. Loaders, logs, crummy's (a term for vehicles used to haul logging crews around...in our instance an extended cab, 4-door, 1 ton pickup) and scalers all forced to work in an uncomfortably close area.

11:30 or so. It's hot, we've been busy. The 15th of the month is the last day of the pay period for the loggers, land owners and truck drivers (who are all paid by our scale) are anxious to get their logs into the sawmill for payment. This along with the distinct feeling lately that Fall is in the air (and the work stopping rain that comes with it) has everyone in top gear. But for us right now it's time for lunch and to print out hard copies of the mornings work for Simpson and to transmit the digital data to the Scaling Bureau's main frame.

The scale shack's kitchen. It is complete with the holy trinity of lunch preparation appliances... coffee pot, refrigerator and a microwave.

...after the printing, transmitting, stapling, sorting, filing, George finally finds a few moments so scarf down some lunch...fuel for the machines!

The "Castle." Our Scaling Office (traditionally referred to as "the scale shack" in log yards) is located on the ground floor. Upstairs are log yard offices and the weighmaster (the scales are to the right of the building). All trucks are weighed at Korbel with the exception of the Green Diamond Resource Company's loads, which is Simpson's major log supplier. GDRC loads are on what is referred to as a "sample scale." Only 1 randomly selected load in 10 is actually scaled. That weight to board foot ratio is applied to the other 9 unscaled loads.

To continue on and see what the afternoon brought please click HERE

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