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Blog entry by WoodGoddess posted 11-02-2012 07:20 PM 1151 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

For woodworkers, craftspeople and furniture makers, using programmable moisture meters are the most reliable means of determining the moisture content (MC) of any wood stock before beginning a project. Nothing is worse than spending hours and money on high quality wood just to have it warp or twist because the wood’s MC is too high. Many woodcrafters are turning to air-drying their own stock, and in doing so, are saving at least 50% over kiln-dried wood or lumber. Like any DIY expert, you should have an idea of how much effort, time, knowledge and room for stacking and storing it should take.

At Anderson-Tully Co. in Vicksburg, Mississippi, their hardwood-processing facility air dries and then kiln dries approximately 70 million board feet of hardwood, which includes about 65 species, each year. At the Vicksburg facility, they air dry the boards to a 25% MC, and then kiln dry the boards for a further reduction of 8%. When air drying boards, there are a number of considerations including the type of species you select. Some species of wood have more or less MC than other species; however, without a kiln you should try to achieve 15-20% MC in sunny and temperate conditions.

Once the wood or boards are brought inside, they’ll reach the appropriate equilibrium moisture content (EMC) as the wood will continually lose or gain moisture until the amount it contains is in balance with the relative humidity (RH) and temperature of the surrounding environment. The amount of moisture at this point of balance is the EMC of the wood.

According to the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Products Laboratory, it takes 1” thick green boards 45-60 days to air dry to reach the recommended 15-20% MC. If you live in colder and damper climes, you can expect the air drying time to increase. Once the boards have been brought inside, expect further reductions of the EMC to continue for another three to four months. However, it’s worth it if you can start any project with a good stack that’s ready to be worked.

Interested in building your own seasoned stock? Here is a list of tips that can assist with your efforts:

- When storing boards, pick a spot that is open but avoid damp, low, boggy areas or placing the boards under trees so that twigs and leaves won’t litter your stock.
- Paint the ends of the boards with latex paint; Wood Magazine suggests a commercial sealant such as Sealtite 60 or Mobilicer-M, or place double side-by-side stickers under them. Use soft wood or low-grade lumber for the stickers, and be sure to cut them all to the same exact size or you’ll have warped boards.
- Level the stack’s foundation, and provide a slope for drainage.
- Select defect-free, straight-grained boards no thicker than 2” and less than 12” wide.
- Continually inspect the stack for stains or mildew, which indicates that it may be drying too slowly.
- Invest in a moisture-measuring meter for accuracy, and check it every two weeks while the boards sit outdoors and after moving them inside.

Happy Drying! There are tons of experts here…so ask around! ;-)



8 comments so far

View lightweightladylefty's profile

lightweightladylefty

2657 posts in 2378 days


#1 posted 11-03-2012 02:11 AM

Thanks for the info. You make numerous helpful points. One statement that I don’t understand is ”place double side-by-side stickers under them.” Are you suggesting that approach instead of painting the ends? Does it eliminate the ends splitting from drying out too fast? I realize that air does not get to the area where the sticker sets but I thought the splitting had to do with the exposure of the end grain. Can you clarify this?

We just sawed another 1500 board feet of red oak yesterday and spent the day today stacking it. We’ve still got about 1/3 of it to stack tomorrow. Tomorrow we’ll get the step ladders out to make it easier to stack the remaining boards.

Regarding ”Select defect-free, straight-grained boards no thicker than 2” and less than 12” wide.” We wish all our boards were defect-free but that’s not reality here. Most logs we saw are dead trees caused by oak wilt. We don’t waste anything; less-than-perfect still has a use. Also, we rarely cut anything over 8” wide, but had such good success with the last 14” boards that we cut about a dozen at 14” and about 40 at 12” wide.

Because we’re in a cold climate, we have had good success with drying red oak outdoors for 9 to 12 months before moving it indoors. We have occasionally had mildew, but most of our stains come from mice which are pretty difficult to alleviate when we live in the woods!

When we began sawing lumber many years ago, we were told to space the boards across each row. We no longer stack that way. We have had better success without the extra spacing and it is the only way we have found to cut down on mouse stains. Otherwise the urine stain runs down multiple layers.

We generally paint the ends of the logs before they’re sawn (each a different color) so if they get out of sequence, we can pick boards from the same tree for a project. This time it didn’t get done so we’ll paint the ends tomorrow.

Thanks for your input.

L/W

-- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View grfrazee's profile

grfrazee

334 posts in 805 days


#2 posted 11-03-2012 02:57 AM

Painting the board ends from the same tree the same color is a brilliant idea. I’ll have to keep that in mind when I finally get around to milling my own trees.

Do you suggest putting a top over the wood stack? Something like corrugated steel roofing I think.

-- -=Pride is not a sin=-

View lightweightladylefty's profile

lightweightladylefty

2657 posts in 2378 days


#3 posted 11-03-2012 03:34 AM

grfrazee, I don’t know what the pros suggest, but we always top our stack with corrugated metal roofing. We let it extend over the edges a little and about a foot or more over the ends to try to minimize weathering. There should be enough room under it for air circulation as the metal does tend to rust where it contacts the wood. We first used tar paper which worked fairly well, but it has more tendency to leak moisture through the seams if you don’t get it on just right.

Another important point is to weight down the boards substantially. In the past we’ve used those 80# sand bags but the bags tend to break down in the weather. Now we stack solid concrete patio blocks on it. We usually put a layer of the worst boards on the top (with stickers between) to protect the better ones from any damage from the “roof” conglomeration.

We try to be meticulous about the placement of the stickers to avoid warping as much as possible. We place them about 18 inches apart and make sure they align perfectly from layer to layer. If they’re too far apart, it can sag and twist in between.

I’m certain WoodGoddess can probably give you more accurate information, but this is what works for us. Hope you’ll be able to mill some wood soon. It’s a good feeling to be able to make things from your own wood!

L/W

-- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View pintodeluxe's profile

pintodeluxe

3387 posts in 1479 days


#4 posted 11-03-2012 03:42 AM

Air drying is a start. Letting lumber, particularly oak, dry slowly helps to avoid cracks and splits once it goes in the kiln. One year per inch of thickness is a safe bet.
However, if the lumber is to be used for furniture inside a air conditioned house it should be air dried, then kiln dried to 6-8% m.c.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View WoodGoddess's profile

WoodGoddess

100 posts in 733 days


#5 posted 11-03-2012 06:44 PM

L/W….You are right to be concerned about the placement of stickers. The best way, in my understanding, is to use the stickers more for ensuring complete and even air flow between boards and stacks but painting the edges is always preferred and recommended in my understanding. Lumberjocks did a few informative post on this….

http://lumberjocks.com/topics/16839

http://lumberjocks.com/topics/28196

View lightweightladylefty's profile

lightweightladylefty

2657 posts in 2378 days


#6 posted 11-04-2012 05:58 AM

WoodGoddess,

Thanks for the links. It’s always interesting to read other people’s methods of drying lumber. We’ve had our share of “learning experiences” using methods some suggest. Our worst (which many advocate) was drying inside before allowing them to dry outside for a year or so. The moisture in our heated garage was dripping off the garage door inside (and that was lumber sawed from dead trees). It was terrible. Maybe when people talk about drying their boards inside, they are only talking about a couple of boards and not a thousand board feet! I’ve even read of people placing them in their attic to dry. I just can’t imagine the humidity build up.

We finished our stacking today and weighted the pile. My husband thinks we should have enough lumber to keep me busy until I die! (He bases that on my parents still being alive and active at 95.)

L/W

-- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View WoodGoddess's profile

WoodGoddess

100 posts in 733 days


#7 posted 11-05-2012 12:00 PM

L/W…Nice! Good luck with everything!! What are you planning on doing with the boards?

View lightweightladylefty's profile

lightweightladylefty

2657 posts in 2378 days


#8 posted 11-07-2012 02:49 AM

WoodGoddess,

We are currently remodeling an investment property and have used up a considerable amount of our lumber stash on it (kitchen cabinets, baseboards, bath cabinets, and built-ins). Somehow, as I check items off my “to-do” list, it continues to get longer. And all of our projects seem to require considerable lumber. Here's an example.

Here’s more of the lumber we have used:

.

.
I built the island and the bookcase and did all trim work (lighting, etc.). We had another cabinetmaker complete the bare-bones cabinets (our shop is too small—and I’m too slow—to make all those cabinets in a timely fashion) and I did all the interior configurations so that has used up a fair amount of lumber, too.

My husband’s projects are somewhat smaller, but more detailed. (He’s not the lumber hog that I am!)


.

Major future at-home projects include a built-in entertainment enclosure around the wood furnace chimney, a large music storage cabinet, 2 built-in bathroom storage cabinets, sewing cabinet, bedroom closet doors, ironing board cabinet door, 33-drawer shop cabinet . . . and the list goes on!

I lay in bed at night and dream up more projects. I guess I should be out in the shop finishing the ones on my list! When we think of our lumber stash as “free,” it’s easy to keep adding to the list! If we were paying $2.00+ a board foot for the lumber, I’m certain the list would dwindle.

Thanks for the encouragement!

L/W

-- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

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