drying out wood

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Blog entry by Lou posted 04-05-2007 04:32 PM 10463 reads 0 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch

yesterday i was pruning a tree and had to cut off a branch, when i did, i realized that i could use the wood for a table for my sisters dolls that she has been wanting me to make. the branch is about a 3 inch diameter. i cut them in about 16 inches. so i started wondering about how i can dry it out without a kiln? can i dry out the branch just over some of the summer? but then i was thinking about cracking that would happen if i did that… so is there any way to do this? any comments or suggestions would be greatly appriciated!

-- "What one can make with good tools is limited only by one's talent" (

13 comments so far

View BassBully's profile


261 posts in 4092 days

#1 posted 04-05-2007 04:46 PM


Good question. One thing you could search for on the internet is soaking green wood in soapy water. Many wood turners will turn green wood into bowls and then soak them in soapy water for a week or two. This prevents cracking as the wood dries. Although you’re not turning these branches, the purpose would still apply.

The reason why the soap works is because it allows the water to escape at an even rate, where otherwise, it normally escapes at the end grain very quickly and then encourages cracking (checking) at the ends.

-- There are three types of people in the world, those who can count and those who can't!

View Chip's profile


1904 posts in 4087 days

#2 posted 04-05-2007 04:51 PM

Louis, there have been a lot of comments about useing branches for lumber on a recently posted project here called “Sara’s Chest”. Check that out for many comments from LJs on the pros and cons.

-- Better to say nothing and be thought the fool... then to speak and erase all doubt!

View Thomas Porter's profile

Thomas Porter

127 posts in 4126 days

#3 posted 04-05-2007 05:09 PM

I just read an article in an old Fine Woodworking magazine that talks about chair construction and how chairs used to be built with the legs green and the rungs dried, because the mortise/tenon joint would get tighter when the green wood dried out, making an ultra tight joint that stood the test of time. I would imagine this would be fun to try. What kind of tree did you cut down?

Side note: If you do the soapy water thing, I recommend you don’t just use any dish soap (my opinion). I tried dish soap and a product from Rockler called “Woodworking Glycerine”. You can also buy just “glycerine” from some drug stores much cheaper. The glycerine alone works better and doesn’t leave a film. I think the film is just the additives for perfume, etc. that they put in those dish soaps. I haven’t tried staining the stuff I soaked in the soapy water, but there is an obvious film on the wood that the glycerine one doesn’t have.

-- Thomas Porter, Phoenix, AZ,

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4094 days

#4 posted 04-05-2007 05:11 PM


I have made my own wood and veneer a few times. I have mostly done veneer because I get more coverage and less loss.

I have used a product called Anchor Seal on the ends of logs, latex paint, and even a couple coats of lacquer. The Anchore Seal and lacquer seemed to work the best. The goal is to slow down the moisture loss from the ends which is why it checks or cracks as Bass Bully pointed out.

When you cut it into pieces always account for loss in thickness and length. The general rule of thumb is 1 year for each 1” of thickness to be dried. Shorter and thinner pieces reduce the needed time. I dry 1/8 to 1/4” thick resawn material for 3 or 4 months here in MT at 20% to 25% ambient humidity level.

Stack the pieces with stickers 1/2 or 3/4” thick between each layer, put an extra board on top separated by stickers too and throw on some weight. Don’t store it in an attic where you get temperature extremes. Stable temperature is more key and free air flow.

These are the basics and I think you should give it a try. Doing and observing on something like this is going to be great for you.

I have used branch wood too, but only as a veneer. It has too much tension in it and thin sliced veneers can be stabilized with a core material. I think maybe on something small like that you might be able to achieve success. Anyway, doing it will give you valuable experience.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View Drew1House's profile


425 posts in 4082 days

#5 posted 04-05-2007 06:02 PM

As a table for a doll you may be OK with you drying if you wait just a couple of months if you cut the wood into like 1×1 pieces to begin with… the pieces you will work with later will have to be cut out of the 1×1 pieces but for a doll table your top could be made out of .75 inch pieces of wood glued and the glue may be enough to hold the wood straight if you quarter saw the branch and reverse the grains. Another thing some here may be able to tell you more about (considering is is for doll furniture) is how to use a sizing solution to re-swell checked branches and hold them. Woodturners (of which I am not one yet) use it fairly regularly… Nice to see a kid your age thinking about wood that way. My friend who owns timberline went down to St. George last year and went to a wedding up at the temple… the thing is he saw this old walnut tree stump and asked the groundskeeper what happened to the tree. He said it died so they cut it up for firewood. St. George is so hot the trees don’t grow well. The rings are very tight and the wood is straight burl. The groundskeeper would not believe him when he told him that he cut up a tree worth $80,000 for firewood but he did…


-- Drew, Pleasant Grove, Utah

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4120 days

#6 posted 04-05-2007 06:57 PM

We’ve cut some roughly inch cross-sections of madrone and tossed ‘em in the dehydrator at 135F. Madrone is particularly prone to stresses and microfractures, and it’s fascinating to see all the little stress cracks appear as the drying happens. If you don’t have a dehydrator, but have got an oven that goes pretty low, it’d be worth trying the same thing at 165F-180F, just to see.

Really cool texture (we’ve been thinking that some dark colored wood putty worked into those cracks before the face gets sanded and finished would look awesome), but if you’re actually going to use it for a structural purpose I’d recommend giving it a few months of of non-accelerated drying before you try that.

As others have asked, what kind of wood?

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View Ethan Sincox's profile

Ethan Sincox

767 posts in 4168 days

#7 posted 04-05-2007 07:38 PM

No need to rehash everyone else’s comments. But I do have one question – is there any sentimental value to this wood? Or is it just something you were thinking about doing?

Seems to me it would be easier and cheaper to just go buy one board.

-- Ethan,

View Lou's profile


178 posts in 4077 days

#8 posted 04-05-2007 11:19 PM

i cut the wood from a plum tree in our back yard, i dont think it is a common type of wood that people usually would use, could i work something out with this wood?? it has some sentimental value because about 8 years ago, my sister picked this tree out at the store and planted it. so i wanted to use the tree that she picked out, i wanted to make it look kind of like the log beds. so i was planning to slice off the bark and give it that kind of look… ill probably just buy the glycerine that thomas porter suggested and soak the branches in that for a few weeks to avoid checking. would dan lyke’s idea work with the oven? i want to try to avoid cutting the branches thinner in order to dry them. is this going to work, or should i just forget about it?

-- "What one can make with good tools is limited only by one's talent" (

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4309 days

#9 posted 04-05-2007 11:42 PM

Melt wax on the ends and let it sit.

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4094 days

#10 posted 04-06-2007 12:40 AM

I think that if you have 2 or 3 pieces, you should try experimenting a little bit. Use a different method for each. Note the differences in what happens. You have a great opportunity to learn first hand here.

I have not had good luck with branches, that is why I go the veneer route. But that is not to say that one of the other guys has not had good luck or that you would not. Branches are not something that mills will even mess with.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View oscorner's profile


4563 posts in 4305 days

#11 posted 04-06-2007 06:06 AM and Try these sites! John Alexander knows a lot about working with green wood. I read of some people putting wood in their attics to dry them, too. With the soap and water drying, I’ve always soaked for a month or so; then dumped the water/soap out and left the wood in for another couple of weeks to a month in the covered container, which maintains a high moisture content in the container, thus keeping the drying process slow. After that you can let air dry. Most turners, myself included, will turn the legs, candle holders, etc. to within 1/2” of the finished size wanted, soak, dry, then finish the turning. The soaking process will usually discolor the wood somewhat, but the coloration is usually removed with the removal of about 1/8 to 1/4” of wood. Good luck. I hope this will help.

-- Jesus is Lord!

View Lou's profile


178 posts in 4077 days

#12 posted 04-07-2007 05:32 AM

thanks everybody for all your help with this! i think it will work out great!!!

-- "What one can make with good tools is limited only by one's talent" (

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4294 days

#13 posted 04-08-2007 05:14 PM

My method of drying logs.
I brush the ends with carpenters glue for a sealer. It usually takes a couple of coats. Also on short pieces, drill pith out of the log with a large hole, about 3/4”. This speeds up the drying time, plus helps to prevent the cracking by relieving the stress. Set the log aside were there’s no extreme temperature change for about 2 years. For the larger logs I usually rive them into blocks, eliminating the pith of the log, use the glue on the ends. It also depends on your climate on the drying time.
All of this takes a little bit of patience though.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

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