There are three chopping and three sawing disciplines in the STIHL® TIMBERSPORTS® Series. The prize? The chance to take home a brand new Ram truck and the title of greatest lumberjack athlete in the country. It takes long hours of preparation and guts to compete in the Series. For all the hours spent preparing as a competitor, similar long hours are put into securing quality wood for the contest. If a lumberjack is going to cut through 19” of wood in 12 seconds, these can’t be your average logs. Months before the U.S. Championships are held, a team of Granite State Lumberjacks and a logger from Virginia come together. They work in the woods to get the best logs ready, but what ready looks like takes three different forms.
The chopping disciplines use a field of matched white pine logs, all cut from the same tree in the same pine plantation. Pine is chosen because of the predictability of the knot whorls, usually 18-24” between them. This gives competitors enough clean, choppable wood to cut scarves. White pine is also soft and fairly fast growing so the axes can penetrate and make large chips. After selecting the tree and cutting it into block lengths, the bark is removed and size adjusted on a large log lathe. Each discipline has a set size, so each competitor has exactly the same amount of wood to cut. Competitors are then randomly assigned blocks before the contest to keep things fair.
In the sawing disciplines, white pine is also the species of choice for the same reasons. Plantation-grown white pine has predictable knot spacing and fairly wide swaths of clean wood for racing. Knots will chip axes or rip off saw teeth in the single buck so fresh wood is vital. A tree is chosen, cut down and bucked to length. Typically, it’s cut at least six feet off the stump where knots may be hidden or the stem may have other inclusions. The same log lathe that spun the chopping blocks down to a set diameter removes the bark and extra wood turning the blocks to 19” for the single buck and hotsaw, 16” for the stock saw. A four to six-foot long section is split into two shorter pieces and then hung on the two sawing stands. That way, each competitor in the field is cutting wood from the same tree and only inches apart. Stands are assigned randomly so the competitors are getting a fair chance to cut in even wood.
The final wood species used on the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Series is the one that looks most like a real tree during the contest. In the springboard chop, a nine-foot pole is secured to the deck before an 11” block is fastened to the top of the pole. These poles are tulip poplar and harvested with the same care as the chopping wood, they just don’t face the log lathe. Instead, they are harvested to be similar in diameter, and as round and straight as possible. The bark is left intact to preserve moisture and act as a wrapper to keep the pole together when competitors pound springboard holes into them. This species is chosen to be firmer than the white pine to hold up the springboards and keep them knot-free, but still soft enough to cut board holes with an axe.
Ultimately, it takes many hours to get the competitors and the wood race ready for the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Series. All the logs are produced to be as evenly matched and close to identical as possible. Competitors end up cutting logs that came from the same tree. They are harvested as part of a sustainable forestry management plan and processed into the pulp stream. For more information on how the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS Series sources wood for competition, please click here.