Pole Classification

Description

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.

Academic Background

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.

Resources

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

Conclave Year Host Class Tables
54 2011 University of Georgia PDF
55 2012 North Carolina State University PDF
56 2013 Auburn University PDF
57 2014 Virginia Tech Not Run
58 2015 Mississippi State University PDF
59 2016 Clemson University PDF
60 2017 Stephen F. Austin State University PDF
61 2018 Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College PDF
62 2019 Louisiana State University PDF
63 2022 University of Tennessee PDF