Glossary Timber Industry

Words and Terms in General Use in the Timber Industry.

BANDSTICKS When a wagon is loaded with timber, chains are passed over the load and secured on both sides. One bandstick is then placed alongside the chain and another stick is used to twist the chain around the first one.

BAR A steel bar manufactured from a piece of railway line of various lengths. It is used between the wagons of a log rake to move the trucks further apart according to the length of the logs to be carried.

BENCHMAN The sawyer in charge of a saw bench.

BOLSTER A baulk of timber twelve inches by eight inches used to take the weight of the timber when it is loaded onto a wagon. On a log wagon there is only one bolster pivoted in the centre of the wagon and carrying one end of the log. On a timber wagon there are two bolsters situated over the wheels, and these are securely fixed to the wagon

BREAKING DOWN SAW OR BENCH Any saw or bench used to cut the round log into flitches.

CHERRY PICKER Any person, usually a young lad, who cleans the logs before they enter the mill and makes sure there are no stones embedded under the bark to damage the saws.

CHOCKS Pieces of wood used to retain the logs in position on a wagon.

CLOSE COUPLED Log wagons coupled buffer to buffer as on a normal train, in contrast to an extended rake in which bars are used to adjust the wagons to the length of the logs.

CUBIC FEET A piece of timber twelve inches by twelve inches by twelve inches. The content of a log was usually expressed in cubic feet

FULL VOLUME Sometimes called “Lane Poole” after the Conservator of forests who devised this method of measuring a log in 1921. See “Hoppus”.

FLITCH Any piece of timber cut from the log and passed onto another bench for finishing.

FACE CUT Any cut used to obtain a square face on a piece of timber. It is not measured cut but is lined up by the benchman by eye only.

FIREWOOD DOCKER A pendulum saw which is driven backwards and forwards by power from the mill and is used to cut waste wood into short lengths for firewood. Operating this is the most menial task in the mill, hence the expression “He wouldn’t even get a job on the firewood docker”, used to describe a no-hoper or useless fellow.

FRICTION A power-driven device used to rotate the rollers on a saw bench thus driving the flitch over the bench and returning it.

GOVVY Any Government Railways rolling stock used to convey timber, as distinct from a “Millar” or company wagon.

GALLOPERS OUT Men employed taking the sawn timber from the mill to the stacking yard.

HAULER A steam-driven engine used in the bush to haul logs from the stump to the landing. They were a Western Australian invention and were used from the early part of the century until the mid 1930’s when they were replace with tractors.

HOPPUS A method of measuring logs in the round. This method was used from the very start of the timber industry. It used what was known as the quarter girth measure. The timberman saw all logs as a square piece of timber. The method of obtaining this square for measuring purposes was the basis of these two systems. In Hoppus measurements the log was trimmed square theoretically as follows:

In full volume measurements there is no timber discarded. Imagine a huge press on all four sides of the log pressing it from a round section into a square piece as follows:


The difference in the resultant volume in these two systems is as much as twenty-five per cent. Even after the advent of the full volume system the milling companies still used the Hoppus measure as they were convinced that the full volume was not a true measure, it being impossible to obtain the resultant square in the mills. However after nearly forty years of differing, the companies finally admitted defeat during the early 1960’s and Hoppus is no longer used.

IN THE ROUND Timber volume expressed in the log i.e. log volume before sawing.

IN THE SQUARE Volume of timber as expressed after it has been sawn.

JARRAH JERKER (Marri Mauler or Karri Killer) slang terms used for any person employed in the timber industry.

JOCKEY A small log which rides in the hollow made by two larger logs which rest on the bolsters of the wagon.

KARRI KILLER (Jarrah Jerker or Marri Mauler) slang terms used for any person employed in the timber industry.

LANDING Any place where logs are loaded from wagons. Logs are secured at right angles to the direction of the log travel and the logs to be loaded roll along the top of these.

LOAD A measurement consisting of fifty cubic feet. Although the terms “super feet” and “cubic feet” are world wide in use, the word “load” in this sense seems to be peculiar to Western Australia.

LEAF A part of the top of a saw bench that is readily removed to enable the saw to be changed.

MARRI MAULER (Jarrah Jerker or Karri Killer) slang terms used for any person employed in the timber industry.

MILLAR A company wagon for conveying sawn timber as distinct from a log wagon or government wagon.

NIB IRON A circular piece of iron attached to the pole of a whim and used to draw it along.

PIN BOARD Usually referred to as the pin. A piece of iron three inches by two inches section and reaching across the full width of the saw bench. It is situated in front of the saw, is graduated with holes to take a pin and is used to give the required size when cutting timber.

PLANK A portion of a flitch that is cut to the width of the finished product but not to thickness.

Slush Lamp

RAKE Has two meanings according to the prefix used.

The rake usually means the train laden with logs arriving from the bush.

A rake is the term given to any number of wagons coupled together to form a train.

SET A set is used to describe two wagons coupled together in such a way as to enable logs to be loaded onto them, one end resting on each wagon.

SNAKE CHARMER A navvy employed to keep the railway lines in repair.

SLUSH LAMP A means of illumination used almost exclusively in the industry from its inception until the early 1950’s when they were dispensed with. They were constructed somewhat similar to the old-fashioned coffee pot with a spout on one side and a handle on the other. A wick was inserted into the spout and the body filled with kerosene. The resulting flame, when lit, would throw a smoky glow for a few feet and enable the operator to see what he was doing.


SPOON A tool used by the swamper in the bush to dig a hole under the log to allow a chain to be passed around the log. It had a small blade on one end to dig with and a hook on the other with which to pull the chain through.

SQUIRT Slang term given to an injector, an apparatus used to force water into the boiler under pressure.

SUPER FEET A super foot is a piece of timber one foot long, one foot wide and one inch thick or its equivalent. Thus three feet of four by one or six feet of two by one would make a super foot.

SWAMPER First used to denote a man who prepared the log for hauling to the landing. Later extended to include any assistant to a man of a higher grade.

TO TAKE THE BACK OFF To remove the sapwood prior to making a measured cut.

TAILER OUT A person employed at the rear of the bench to remove the sawn timber.

TRAVELLER A carriage on which the log is mounted to pass through the breaking down bench.

TWIN SAW Two saws mounted one above the other in such a way that two cuts coincide thus giving greater depth of cut. They are used to cut the round logs.

VERTICAL SAW A large frame saw secured to the top and bottom of a large frame. As the frame moves up and down the log is fed through the centre of the frame and the saw cuts much in the fashion as a hand-saw.

WEDGING UP As the term implies, a name given to the process of driving wedges into the saw cut to prevent the timber from “pinching” on the tail of the saw.

WHIM A carriage for transporting logs from the stump to the bush landing.

WHISTLE BOY A lad whose job it was to pull the signal wire attached to the whistle of a bush hauler. All movements were controlled by these signals.

Reference: Article: Steam in the Forest by Maurice Southcombe