Just like home repairs, certain woodland jobs can be accomplished quickly and efficiently if the right tool is used. While every woodland owner does not necessarily need all the tools discussed, many could benefit by adding some of these tools to their toolbox. Knowing something about them will improve communication with foresters and loggers. Ready? Let’s begin.

Professional foresters

Without a doubt, a professional forester is the most valuable “tool” in the box. A professional forester is someone who has a degree from an accredited forestry school and maintains his or her professional credentials through continuing education and experience. Professional foresters include resource foresters with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), foresters with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and private consulting foresters. They often can provide you with options you never considered and help you improve your management, inventory your woodlands, provide maps, recommend forestry practices, provide cost share and technical assistance, and in the case of consulting foresters, help you sell your timber. The primary sources of foresters for Missouri woodland owners are the MDC,; and the Missouri Consulting Foresters Association


While most woodland owners will not get lost on their property, a compass will allow you to determine the aspect of a slope, the bearing or azimuth of a property line, and the direction of a road or trail. This information can be very useful in communicating with those working on your property, including foresters, loggers and contractors. A compass can also be important in an emergency. A cheap compass is often all that is necessary and can be purchased for $15 to $50.


Colored flagging can be used for a large number of forestry-related tasks, including marking crop trees, temporary boundary marking, delineating trails and potential location of activities, and anything else of interest that will need to be located again. Flagging comes in rolls made either of vinyl, which will last a couple of years, or a biodegradable material that lasts about a year. Vinyl flags come on metal wires that can be stuck in the ground. These flags are great for marking small plants of interest in the forest or during tree planting in fields. Both flags and flagging can be written on with a permanent marker, and purchased from local hardware stores and forestry supply companies

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 to $40.

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.

Hatchet and squirt bottle

These tools are used in combination to apply herbicides to unwanted trees and are the cheapest and most locally available tools used in forestry. Killing trees that are interfering with the growth of crop trees (crop tree release), killing invasive trees such as autumn-olive, and deadening poorly formed native trees in timber stand improvement (TSI) operations can be done using the hack-and-squirt method. These practices are commonly prescribed in forest management plans prepared by a professional forester. The hatchet is used to make slits into the wood around the tree, and the squirt bottle is used to apply the herbicide into the slit. Contact a professional forester to help you determine the type of herbicide needed and work with you on your technique.

Chain saws

Chain saws are not only for use in logging or cutting firewood. They also are needed to cut downed trees for removal from wood roads, prune branches from trails and roads, and cut vines and brush where necessary. They also can be used for the application of a herbicide using the cut-stump method or for girdling trees for crop tree release or TSI operation. Use a professional forester to help determine when and how girdling should be used in lieu of or in combination with a herbicide. Typically, saws with 12- to 14-inch bars can be used for girdling and light duty. Saws with 18- to 20-inch bars are large enough for cutting up downed trees, logs and firewood. Always buy an extra chain. If you don't know how to maintain the saw and sharpen the chain, find someone locally who does and use that person. Buy a pair of chain saw-resistant chaps, as well as eye, ear and head protection...and always, always, always use them. A good purchase is a helmet system with ear protectors and face shield. This protective gear is often available locally at chain saw distributors.


Herbicides are commonly used for invasive species control, and effectively and cost efficiently deadening trees in crop tree release and TSI operations. Several of the commonly used herbicides are listed in the adjacent table. Before purchasing and applying these or any herbicide, consult a professional forester.

Common forestry herbicides used in Missouri

Active ingredientBrand namesCommon uses
triclopyrGarlon 3A, Crossbow (with 2,4-D)hack-and-squirt, cut-stump, foliar
Garlon 4basal bark
glyphosateAccord, Rounduphack-and-squirt, cut stump, foliar
picloramTordon RTU, Pathway (both with 2,4-D)hack-and-squirt, cut-stump
imazapyrArsenal AC, Chopperhack-and-squirt, cut-stump, foliar
hexazinoneVelparcut-stump, soil application

Using the tools

Those are the basic tools that should be in every woodland owner's toolbox. With these tools and assistance from your professional forester, your woodlot can be a healthy and productive part of your local ecosystem. The only thing left to do is the actual work. In a future series, we will describe some of the basic operations to put these tools to use.

Forestry Suppliers (800-647-5368) sells all of the tools mentioned in this article.

The mention of this supplier does not imply endorsement of their products or company.