drying with silica gel

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Forum topic by davyj posted 04-30-2016 02:01 PM 2964 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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38 posts in 2992 days

04-30-2016 02:01 PM

I am experimenting with drying green/wet wood, (small pieces), for turning. have saved a good many packs of silica gel from stuff shipped in to the factory to see if it would be a means to gradually take out moisture in wood. SO has any one else had this idea and having + results? It and Deccasent can be dryed over and over.
Any body? whatcha think?

-- retired GM/Delphi , Retired USN/USAFR

18 replies so far

View Wildwood's profile


2422 posts in 2276 days

#1 posted 04-30-2016 04:08 PM

Drying wood simply a water removal process until wood reaches EMC with surrounding area. Wood looses MC faster from ends than thru sides, so that’s why end seal. End sealers slow down drying process preventing end checking or splitting to some degree mold growth. End sealing with paraffin wax, commercial wax emulsions, oil or water based finishes or paint have been used for year. So has wrapping wood in newspaper, storing wood in paper/plastic bags.

Other part of drying process include proper storage out of the weather and air circulation which allows for evaporation!

I am sure both silica gel & descant will absorb moisture in a package. Just not sure how silica gel or descant would slow down or control drying process at all. Changing silica gel or descant necessary to prevent mold growth.

Wish you lots of luck!

-- Bill

View bbc557ci's profile


595 posts in 2216 days

#2 posted 04-30-2016 04:47 PM

Don’t know how large or small the pieces are you wanna dry, but you could sticker them and just put them in a confined area/space with a dehumidifier. I’m a believer in KISS LOL

-- Bill, central where near the "big apple"

View moke's profile


1239 posts in 2918 days

#3 posted 04-30-2016 05:43 PM

+1 with Wildwood…..the goal of drying is to allow the wood to drying the wood by controlling it somewhat….by putting a desiccant with the wood it takes the moisture from the package or around the wood…it is actual material (wood) you want to dry…sealing the end grain controls the drying, because the end will crack easier then the center. Allowing it to dry from the center out, where the wood is more stable.

I saved old candles and bought some at the dollar store, and I stole an old crock pot from the wife, whom I thought had too many anyway….(never assume that…I should be healed in a year or two) Anyway, I was completely immersing the bowl in the wax not leaving the center open…..all it did was seal the entire thing and did not dry at all…..while this is different to your original question, it illustrates it is a process that must take place. Desiccant is not going to assist in the process at all…good thought though….keep trying new stuff!!!!
Just my .02

-- Mike

View davyj's profile


38 posts in 2992 days

#4 posted 04-30-2016 06:46 PM

well I put 10 little silica gel pacs on a cookie sheet and put in the oven @ 175* for an Hr. I had 2 pieces i have turned (Lilac) measuring 1 1/2 by 4” only minutes before. the stuff was very wet. When I took the silica pacs out, dropped then in. a clean coffee can, put the 2 pieces of Lilac in the Can and put the lid on. I am gonna wait a week then see what my moisture mater says. trouble is I didn’t check the wood first. but one could even see the wetness. those lil packets are put in packages to absorb moisture right?

-- retired GM/Delphi , Retired USN/USAFR

View MrRon's profile


5085 posts in 3385 days

#5 posted 04-30-2016 07:45 PM

I don’t think those little packets of desiccant are adequate to absorb much moisture. They would actually be absorbing moisture from the air around the wood rather than the wood itself. For it to work. the wood would have to first release moisture to the air before the desiccant can do it’s job. I’ve never tried it, so who knows.

View TheDane's profile


5521 posts in 3805 days

#6 posted 04-30-2016 08:33 PM

I know the desiccant packs work to keep tools from rusting, but drying wood is (IMHO) an entirely different situation. Keep us posted on your progress!

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View splatman's profile


586 posts in 1541 days

#7 posted 04-30-2016 09:10 PM

Wrap the wood with plastic sheeting with the desiccant packs in between the wood and the plastic. That way, there’s little air for the desiccant packs to desiccate. The desiccated air then dries the wood, which then is dried by the desiccant packs. And the cycle repeats until the desiccant packs are saturated. Dry the desiccant packs and repeat till the wood is dry.

View a1Jim's profile


117232 posts in 3719 days

#8 posted 04-30-2016 09:18 PM

Even if it works to dry the wood you have in the can ,what kind of projects are you going to build from wood that will fit in a coffee can? I really don’t understand how you think drying the wood will dye it? If you put wood in an oven it’s the same as a small kiln,you don’t need the silica to dry it under those circumstances. Most wood will either lighten or darken when exposed to sunlight for a time, is this the kind of “dying” you’re trying to accomplish?

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View davyj's profile


38 posts in 2992 days

#9 posted 05-01-2016 12:40 AM

Jim note I posted in wood turning forum. what projects could come from pieces that fit in a coffee can? OH say Pen blanks, letter opener handles other small handles. yes little stuff to be turned. mainly I just want to dry stuff from the yard/property. AMD to have minimum stress cracks.

-- retired GM/Delphi , Retired USN/USAFR

View a1Jim's profile


117232 posts in 3719 days

#10 posted 05-01-2016 03:17 AM

Yes Davy indeed you did post in the turning forum (didn’t notice) not much of a turner myself. If all you want is to dry wood your oven trick should get the job done.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View davyj's profile


38 posts in 2992 days

#11 posted 05-01-2016 01:26 PM

yea but wifey is picky about the oven and Micro wave. I have done some microwaving wood also but its pretty easy to burn the wood. I got told about doing it in hers so I am gonna get one for my shop I read an artical by a pro turner saying that best he can tell the average house hold microwave can penetrate wood as much as an inch

-- retired GM/Delphi , Retired USN/USAFR

View orangecrush's profile


2 posts in 1074 days

#12 posted 11-09-2016 06:49 PM

I carved some bowls from ‘green’ walnut and bought (2) 5 lb. bags of silica gel beads at Michael’s craft store for $15 each….cheaper than Lee Valley. I then sealed the bowls in a plastic bag with the silica to sit for 5 days. It will be interesting to see if it works.

-- Steve A.

View FarmerintheWoods's profile


36 posts in 591 days

#13 posted 03-09-2017 05:12 PM

I’ve tried microwaving, immersing in alcohol, immersing in brake fluid (glycol ethers!), freezing, and various combinations thereof.

I’m working on a project that begins with wood blanks that are about 1.25” by 2.25” by 5”. I cut them green, and coat the end grain with a very light coat of petroleum jelly. Then I put them in the freezer and freeze them for 24 hours. That in itself drives out a lot of moisture, but it also reduces wood movement later.

Instead of desiccant packs I use bulk silica gel, which is available at craft stores. It comes mixed with indicator beads which are blue when dry, and turn pink when the gel has reached its saturation limit. I’ve found this happens in about four days.

I pour some gel into the bottom of a sealable plastic container, lay in pieces of wood so they don’t touch each other, pour in more to surround and cover the wood, and repeat until the wood is completely surrounded by the gel beads.

The gel can be re-used I don’t know how many times, I haven’t reached its limit yet. Bake it in an electric oven or microwave according to package directions. Once the indicator beads go back to the ‘ready again’ color, you need to move fast—get it into an airtight container ASAP because it sucks ambient humidity at a tremendous rate.

This process reduced checking/cracking failures from about 40 percent to about 2 percent. This is especially important when working with fruitwood—I’m using mulberry and black cherry—but it’s also drastically improved results with black walnut as well.

I’m happy enough with the process that I’m done experimenting.

If I were to experiment some more, I’d do the same process but use calcium chloride sidewalk de-icer instead of silica gel. It’s cheaper than calcium chloride and might give some interesting results.

View xunil76's profile


31 posts in 606 days

#14 posted 03-09-2017 08:51 PM

you can also go to Home Depot and buy a 64oz bucket of DampRid dessicant for about $10. just put the bucket in the bottom of an ice chest and stack your pieces around the bucket, and it should be plenty to dry out whatever pieces will fit in the ice chest. this stuff is meant to dry out boats, closets, basements, RV’s, and crawlspaces, so it should have absolutely no trouble at all drying the air & anything else in an ice chest.

i’ve not yet tried this for drying wood, but it worked very well for drying the carpet in my closet when my water heater sprung a leak, so i think it should work fine. can’t say anything about any checking/cracking in woo, though.

just look up “100391308” for the internet # of this product to see the price in your area

View FarmerintheWoods's profile


36 posts in 591 days

#15 posted 03-09-2017 09:28 PM

During WWII the USA experimented with accelerated drying methods for wood for rifle stocks, and one used packing blanks in salt. It worked very well, except that the ‘salt wood’ (as it later was called) led to rust. The project was abandoned.

But that was sodium chloride (table salt/sea salt). DampRid is calcium chloride mostly,

Calcium chloride has all sorts of different uses and maybe drying small wood pieces could be one.

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