Timber’s Term of the Week: Biltmore Stick

Biltmore Stick


  1. A ruler that is held at prescribed distances from the body. The stick’s four faces are scribed with lines and numbers. These lines and numbers are used to estimate tree diameter and tree height, and ultimately tree volume.

Synonyms: none known to the author.

Using a Biltmore stick to measure a tree's diameter

Biltmore Sticks date back to the mid-18th century and use geometric principles to estimate a tree’s height and diameter. The face used to measure tree height has two scales: one for estimating height from one chain’s distance (66 feet) and the other (for taller trees) requiring a distance from the tree of one-and-a-half chains (about 100 feet).

Using a Biltmore stick to measure a tree's height

Steve Nix at Forestry.About.com has a good explanation of how a Biltmore Stick works at About.com.

You can make your own tree measuring device. Here’s a Perdue University PDF on making one.

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