How to Dry Green Turning

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Forum topic by Chris posted 01-04-2010 11:17 PM 13147 views 4 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1879 posts in 3986 days

01-04-2010 11:17 PM

Topic tags/keywords: turning drying green wood

I have been performing a little research the last couple of days. It seems that there are several methods commonly used to dry rough green wood turnings:

1. Rough the piece and store it in a paper bag for several months (only one I have ever tried)

2. Boiling (in Water)

3. Alcohol Soaking

4. Soap Soaking

5. Microwave (constrained by size)

What I would like to know is if any of you fellow LJ’s out there have tried 2 – 5 or any combination with any success?

I have found threads on the issue on Sawmillcreek, Woodcentral, David Marks as well a a few others. I would be very interested to hear what your experiences have been.

-- "Everything that is great and inspiring is created by the individual who labors in freedom" -- Albert Einstein

15 replies so far

View Padre's profile


930 posts in 3484 days

#1 posted 01-05-2010 12:48 AM

Yes Chris, I have tired 3, 4 and 5.

My favorite and the one that works the best, for me, is the alcohol soaking. I use pure denatured alcohol, no additives. I soaked an average bowl overnight, about 8 hours. I use a 5 gallon plastic bucket, fill it with about 3.5 gallons of denatured alcohol and put up to 3 bowls in at a time. Totally submerged it. The alcohol displaces the water in the wood. After soaking, let the wood drip dry for a little while, then put it in the paper bag. It will be ready in about 2-3 weeks, instead of 4-6 months. The alcohol will wear out. It will discolor and smell after a while too. That’s when you should change it, because that means that it is more water now than alcohol. What is really neat, is when you have a fresh batch of alcohol and you put a bowl in, you can actually SEE the transference of water/alcohol in the bucket. It’s kinda’ cool. Well, at least is is to me. :)

I have also used the dish detergent soaking method, and the results are the same as with the alcohol, but the bowls come out feeling rather slippery/slimy. The surfactants in the detergent supposedly displace the natural water in the green wood.

The other way to dry green turned wood is to use Anchorseal or another wax based product. Turn the wood, put a light coat of anchorseal on it and put it in a rubbermaid tote. This will take a lot longer than any of the choices you have mentioned, but it is much safer as far as checking/cracking goes.

Whichever way you go, know that you cannot eliminate the natural shaping of the wood. It will still oval, elongate, etc., no matter which way you go. That is, as long as you are using green wood! :)

The microwave is the fastest by far, but also the smelliest and most dangerous. You should get a used microwave off of Craigslist or something and use it in your shop, and it should be well ventilated. But beware: if there is any residual metal in the wood, it will burn. If you don’t keep an eye on it, it will burn. Even if you keep an eye on it, SOMETIMES it will burn. And it stinks. Some folks keep a cup of water in the microwave with the wood to kind of even things out, but I’ve not tried that trick. I also found there is a lot more checking/cracking with the microwave method. Plus, to do BIG pieces, you will need a massive microwave! :)

-- Chip ----------- 6:8

View Padre's profile


930 posts in 3484 days

#2 posted 01-05-2010 03:30 AM

Also, check this site out. And the AAW has some good info too.

-- Chip ----------- 6:8

View LesB's profile


1723 posts in 3438 days

#3 posted 01-05-2010 09:23 AM

Iuse #1 and #3.
Microwaving works well on pieces that fit in the oven. Done carefully it is similar to a steam kiln which cooks the moisture from the inside out reducing the stress the wood goes through in air drying. The wood is put in a brown paper bag between heating cycles to hold in some of the water vapor and help the moisture in the wood equalize. Don’t get the wood to hot. I usually heat it until I can just barely hold it in my hands (hot potato). Take it out of the microwave and put it in the closed paper bag while it cools. Repeat the heating and cooling process until you are satisfied with the dryness. The thicker the wood the more times you need to re-heat it so I usually rough out the piece first to reduce the heating process. If you don’t rough it out first you might go through two or three heating cycles and then leave it in the paper bag overnight. Then repeat the process.
If I notice small cracks starting to form I treat them with CA glue which usually stops them, and continue the drying process.

-- Les B, Oregon

View jeffthewoodwacker's profile


603 posts in 3799 days

#4 posted 01-05-2010 05:04 PM

I have built a wood drying kiln out of an old refrigerator and use it to dry out rough cut blanks and first turned bowls. My favorite green wood turning process is to turn the project start to finish. I use a process of drying with compressed air and spinning on the lathe. If you understand the complexities of how wood shrinks and grain pattern this is a very successful way to turn a green piece. I can shake the birds out of a tree in the morning and have a finished piece in the afternoon. Turning the piece to a uniform thickness is the key to success. If you would like the info on turning a refrigerator into a kiln let me know. There is also some good information on John Jordans web site, about turning green wood.

-- Those that say it can't be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.

View pete57's profile


134 posts in 3406 days

#5 posted 01-05-2010 09:41 PM

I have taken 16 inch wide used plywood and made a kiln for drying spindles and chair parts. It is 4’ X 2.5’ X 16” D with back and the 2 sides solid and the front is a piece 4’ X 2.5” cut at 6” where the 6” is at the bottom and the hinges are at the top to make a hinged door. I put weather stripping around where the door closes and a cleat in the bottom 6” piece for the door to close against weather stripping. In the top (inside) I put three electrical boxes with one bulb porcilien holders and three lampshades that clamp on the bulbs covered in renolds wrap that are turned on by a switch. The bulbs are 1-100W 2-75W and that keeps it up to between 90 and 120. I have green crest in a form ready to work and install in 4 days. I got the plan from my mentor, but drew langsner has sevral plans in his book” The Chairmaker’s Workshop” which is like mine and plans for a bigger one. Just a thought

-- Humble Wood Servant

View hunter19's profile


17 posts in 3151 days

#6 posted 01-23-2010 04:00 AM

i posted the alcohol procedure a while is the best method i have found and i have tried them all
the only difference of padres method is i wrap the bowl in brown paper & tape the rim up all the way around
with masking tape leaving the inside of bowl open for air and leave it upside down on a rack for 2 weeks if you do have a crack it is usually minor
& can be repaired w/CA glue good luck. if anyone else has a better or faster method i would appreciate a posting

View pkdman's profile


6 posts in 2932 days

#7 posted 05-12-2010 02:59 AM

Hi Chris,
Try just putting your bowl in paper bag, seal up the top, and be patient. Let it take it time to dry, in a shady location, out of the wind. After six months, take it inside your house, put it on a shelf for another six months. You want to get to around a mosture content of 7 or 8, before you touch it agian. Best wishes.

View hunter19's profile


17 posts in 3151 days

#8 posted 05-14-2010 04:05 PM

good thoughts

View quicksilver's profile


195 posts in 2583 days

#9 posted 04-18-2013 06:02 AM

I tried the Ron Kent soap technique about 10 years ago on this chunk of wood someone gave me.
I turned it round intending to make a mallet head. Then left it in Costco eco dish detergent (orange label is what the article said to use) for a period of days.
It dried in a day or two and I lost sight of it. Out of mind sort of.
Went out of round but never cracked.
Should have continued to use the method.
I’ve tried to dry wood with little success over the years.
Not sure what kind of wood, but it is hard like maple.

-- Quicksilver

View Chris 's profile


1879 posts in 3986 days

#10 posted 04-18-2013 08:13 PM

wow… I forgot this thread was out there…. :)

Good information. Thanks!

-- "Everything that is great and inspiring is created by the individual who labors in freedom" -- Albert Einstein

View MonteCristo's profile


2099 posts in 2183 days

#11 posted 04-19-2013 03:07 AM

I suspect that the species of wood is a factor in how it can best be dried. BTW, what does the brown paper bag actually do ? Does it really control the drying or is this an Old Wives Tale ??

-- Dwight - "Free legal advice available - contact Dewey, Cheetam & Howe""

View Tom Coster's profile

Tom Coster

120 posts in 2833 days

#12 posted 06-12-2013 07:42 PM

I vote for alcohol. I wouldn’t be turning if I had to wait a year for the roughed out bowl to dry. I think Dave Smith is the gentleman that came up with the process. The brown paper slows and evens out the drying.

-- Tom, MI, SC

View bold1's profile


293 posts in 1842 days

#13 posted 06-12-2013 09:36 PM

I have heard of this but never talked to anyone that did it. That is boiling a green piece in oil in a double boiler. Water in the bottom, oil and wood in top. As the water in the wood reaches 210 degrees it turns to steam and ruptures the cell walls of the wood, the steam escapes, as you let the heat die, the wood pulls oil back into the fibers. This is supposed to keep the wood from shrinking so that it can be used as soon as it cools down. It also impregnates an oil finish thru out the piece. I was told that some old ladder companies used this method, mainly for the weatherproof finish.

View cdaniels's profile


1320 posts in 1496 days

#14 posted 02-23-2015 04:22 PM

i bought some kiln dried sweetgum blanks and turned a few bowls last week out of them. after I finished them with homemade beeswax and mineral oil finish they still warped like crazy in a couple days. not too sure why this happened as they were already dry.

-- Jesus was a carpenter... I'm just saying

View Wildwood's profile


2305 posts in 2130 days

#15 posted 02-23-2015 09:28 PM

Other than homemade kilns using light bulb(s) and fan for circulation all methods described above just busy work.

I rough turn and set aside to air dry normally. Have used both paper bags, sometimes have added chips if wood really wet. Where I live mold and fungus can grow pretty fast so do not leave roughs in paper bags too long and never leave chips in the bag for more than couple days. Only time use plastic bags are when rough still on the lathe and going to lunch or done turning for the day. People living in arid regions find plastic bag storage a good op but not in my part of the country.

Just because wood has been through kiln cycle does not mean will not gain moisture after coming out of a kiln. Wood gains and loses MC based upon relative humidity in the air. Same can be said for procedures above including my method of air drying!

Big believer in rough turning bowl blanks to uniform thickness and let air dry. How long before it takes those blanks to reach EMC depends upon species, close/open grain, density, and weather. Time it takes varies but could be as little a one to couple to maybe six months. I use lifting & feeling by hand method that comes with experience with dry/wet wood. Mo better to weigh rough blanks and when they stop losing weight for week or two they are ready.

-- Bill

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