In pole classification competitors use diameter tapes, logger tapes, clinometers, and other standard forestry measurement equipment to estimate the grade, length, and value of pine trees that have the potential to be harvested for use as utility poles. Tables providing detailed information on grade characteristics, size dimensions, and dollar values are provided to the competitors in advance and may be used during the competition. Scoring is based on how closely the competitors classify 10 poles compared to a professional or the judges' representative, with the highest score winning. Pole classification has been a Conclave event every year since at least 1960, with the exception of 2014 because there were no pine pole stands near the Conclave venue at Claytor Lake State Park, Virginia.
Pole Classification Example Photos
Photo Credit: Students gathering data on diameter and height of a potential pole tree during the pole classification event at the 58th Southern Forestry Conclave hosted by Mississippi State University. Thanks to the Mississippi State University Forestry Club for providing the photo.
Photo Credit: Student gathering data on the height of limiting knots and ramicorns (excessively large and steep branches) for a potential pole tree during the pole classification event at the 58th Southern Forestry Conclave hosted by Mississippi State University. Thanks to the Mississippi State University Forestry Club for providing the photo.
Utility poles are a high-value forest product, typically earning a landowner a higher stumpage price than sawtimber. The larger and better quality the pole, the greater the value. For a tree to even be capable of making a utility pole, it must be straight, have minimal taper, and be relatively clear of knots or branches. Knots, particularly large knots, are defects that create a weak point in the pole where it is most likely to break during strong winds or ice-loading. Much more detailed information on growing, grading, and processing pines into utility poles is available on the North American Wood Pole Council's website.
Grading Utility Poles in Standing Southern Pines
This video was filmed during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic for the SFA Field Silviculture Course. This is the same methodology used throughout the South, with slight variations due to preferences of the forester doing the classification, and depending on the mill specs. Click HERE to view the video on YouTube.
How It's Made - Wood Utility Poles
Click HERE to view the video on YouTube.
Past Pole Classification Tables
|54||2011||University of Georgia|
|55||2012||North Carolina State University|
|57||2014||Virginia Tech||Not Run|
|58||2015||Mississippi State University|
|60||2017||Stephen F. Austin State University|
|61||2018||Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College|
|62||2019||Louisiana State University|
|63||2022||University of Tennessee|