Supplies for Tree-Ring Research
One of the most commonly asked questions posed to tree-ring scientists concerns the supplies we use to (1) obtain cores and cross sections, (2) prepare the surface of our wood, and (3) date the tree rings. Finding the proper supplies is not an easy task. You'll need the right tools to do the job right the first time - remember, you often don't get a second chance when doing tree-ring research. Some of the supplies I list below are optional - you don't have to have them all.
This list will also provide hints about what supplies will make the task of tree-ring dating even easier. For example, to clean your increment borer, you can use a 22 rifle gun cleaning kit. If you have any questions about supplies used in tree-ring research, contact me, and I'll see if I can help. If you know of a particular supply I don't have listed that would benefit others, let me know.
Lastly, if you would like to help me maintain and keep these web pages updated, please consider buying some select supplies from my Tree-Ring Supplies store with Amazon.com. I receive a small (4%) royalty for any item purchased when accessed through the links on this page!
Chain Saw Supplies
Many of these supplies can
be purchased from the better arborist and forestry supply companies.
My favorites among these are:
200 Seneca Road
Greensboro, North Carolina 27406
The Ben Meadows Co.
Atlanta, Georgia 30366 USA
Forestry Suppliers, Inc.
205 West Rankin Street
P.O. Box 8397
Jackson, Mississippi 39284-8397 USA
Belt sanders are the standard for providing both rough (coarse) and fine surfaces to increment cores extracted from a tree as well as for full or partial cross sections. The fine art of sanding wood is discussed in a vast amount of trade journals. Even your local wood shop can tell you how best to sand your specimens, but keep in mind that surface is everything to a dendrochronologist! An improperly surfaced specimen will be useless for dendrochronology! Take the time to learn and do it right the first time - you may not get a second chance.
You can buy belt sanders from a local store like Sears and True Value Hardware. Here in the United States, they come in three sizes: 3" X 21", 3" X 24", and 4" X 24", with the latter being widest and covering more area of wood. I've found the 3" X 21" sander, with optional legs to hold the sander upside-down, is best for sanding cores, while the larger 4" X 24" is best for sanding cross sections. Prices are about US$150 for a good Bosch 3" X 21" belt sander, while a Makita (highly recommended) 4" X 24" goes for about US$ 250. Be sure to check out (and hopefully buy) the belt sanders I've selected on my Tree-Ring Supplies store page.
Hand planers are considered the best means for initial preparation of the surface on cross sections because they remove the cuts left by chain saws very rapidly. I was amazed at their ease of use (but they are dangerous) and the quality of the surface left after planing. In general, these can be purchased at all hardware stores, such as True Value, Ace, and Sears. A good Bosch or Makita 3" planer is about $US 150.
This plastic wrap is the kind you see wrapped around large palettes to tightly hold boxes in place (it's usually light yellow, but opaque). We've found this type of wrap to be ideal for wrapping cross sections collected in the field to hold them together. I highly recommend using the plastic wrap in the 5" size. These can now be found for very reasonable prices at many office supply stores, such as Office Depot! Look in the aisle with large mailing envelopes, boxes, and shipping supplies, on the bottom shelf! However, you can also order these from Amazon.com through my Tree-Ring Supplies store.
Why on earth would you want to buy one of these? Because they are the absolute best way to keep your increment borer clean! An extendable rod with a small bit of linen inserted through a slot in the tip is used to clean out the debris from inside your expensive increment borer. They're cheap, and well worth the investment. They can be bought at any large variety store, such as K-Mart and Wal-Mart, and can also be found at any gun shop. Be sure to purchase a cleaning kit for a 22 caliber rifle.
Another heavy-duty item for the well-stocked dendro-laboratory! All tree-ring laboratories either have one of these band saws, or they have access to one in a nearby carpentry shop. These saws are an absolute must for "downsizing" the cross sections you collect in the field, and are also used to cut up the sticks used to mount increment cores. These are expensive, and deserve a lot of safety training. The best models have a "throat" (the width of a section that can be cut) of about 12", available on 20" band saw models (the 20" refers to the width of the wheel that turns the band saw, not the cutting height).
Another strange item - while dendrochronologists are fond of carrying maps into the field, we actually use map tubes for another reason. They make an excellent storage container for all those increment cores we collect and place in straws! They're largely water-proof, they're sturdy, and they're made of light-weight plastic.
You can buy map tubes from any map and flag store as well as your university book store, as these usually have them as well. The map library at your university library will also some but try to avoid the cardboard map tubes, as these will get soggy when wet. These days, you can buy such plastic tubes online at office supply stores
Alternatively, you can easily make such a storage container for your straws using ordinary PVC pipe from your local hardware store! Just buy caps for both ends, cut the 4" pipe to your desired length, then permanently glue one cap on one end. Keep in mind that you may be taking cores up to 18" long if you have a 20" borer, so make your tube of an appropriate length. Use the other cap to close the container. Simple.
OK, so what about all the miscellaneous field supplies used in tree-ring research? You'll need:
a dbh tape (also called "d-tapes" - required) - measures the diameter of the tree at breast height (hence, "dbh").
plastic flagging (usually needed) - to mark your trees, plot boundaries, whatever. Also wrap some of this around the end of the extractor on your increment borer so it won't get lost if you drop it. Try to get biodegradable flagging tape.
a sharpening kit (required) - for your increment borers, a must in the field. Learn how to properly sharpen your increment borer.
an increment borer starter (optional) - a plate that fits between your chest and the borer, holding the borer steady while you get it started in the tree.
2" strapping tape (optional) - ideal for holding together pieces from a cross section of a tree, if you don't have any plastic wrap (see above).
WD-40 or some such lubricant/protectant to keep your increment borer clean and rust-free.
field notebooks to write in, preferably the "Write-in-the-Rain" types.
Sharpies (or some type of black felt-tip marker). Use ultra-fine-tip Sharpies to write on your straws and fine-tip Sharpies to write on your cross-sections.
I would be remiss if I didn't list all the "little" things you will need to ensure a well-stocked dendro laboratory. Things like:
dissecting probes - you know, those sharp long needle-like things you used to dissect "Happy," your high school frog. These probes are used for marking the decadal rings of wood once they've been crossdated: one tiny hole for each decade ring (e.g., 1960, 1970, 1980, etc.), two for each 50th year (e.g., 1850, 1950, etc.), and three for the century years (e.g., 1700, 1800, 1900, etc.).
graph paper - you'll need something to graph the narrow rings when you construct your skeleton plots. The best kind is made by Keuffel & Esser (K&E) and has 25 squares per centimeter (5X5). You can order this from DraftingSteals.com, order number 461610. To create your own graph paper, connect to http://incompetech.com/graphpaper/multiwidth/ and choose the settings I've made in the screenshot that can be found here.
mechanical pencils - the kind of pencils with very thin lead that you can click down. These are ideal for making preliminary markings on your tree rings, because the tip is very narrow.
single-edge ("Treat") or double-edge razor blades - these are used to put a clean, flat surface on a core, but this takes practice. Don't attempt to surface a core with a razor unless you've been trained!
artist's (or "gummy") erasers - place these between your fingers and small strips of your sandpaper when fine-sanding your increment cores. Also good for erasing mistakes on your skeleton plots as they don't chew up the graph paper.
steel wool (fine) - used to remove resin from a very resinous increment core. Burnish the surface lightly, and the rings will appear!
beanbags - tiny little beanbags about 2-3" long, that are best if filled with lead shot. These are used to hold and position your increment cores on the measuring stage. I've only seen home-made ones, but I'm sure you can buy these somewhere.
scissors - to cut your graph paper, Elmer's glue - to glue down your cores on wooden mounts, string or masking tape - to hold the cores tight on the mount as they dry.