green wood moisture content

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Forum topic by ChrisCarr posted 03-23-2011 04:35 AM 6233 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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196 posts in 2924 days

03-23-2011 04:35 AM

Last summer I cut down a red cedar tree (i didn’t know much about trees and thought it was pine so i threw it in the dump). But I got lazy since I have no chainsaw and was taking it down by hand and left a 3 foot tall stump!!!!
Two weeks ago i took the rest down, split it , and planed it into 2 boards to set to air dry.

Today I bought a cheap moisture meter from harborfreight. I tested the red cedar board. It said their moisture content was 16%!!!!! They have only been sitting cut for 2 weeks outside. I thought the content would be 30% or more.

Is it possible for the boards to dry that quick?

if so, is it because the tree was half down cut last summer?
Or does Red cedar dry quick?

Any input would be appreciated.

- Chris

10 replies so far

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196 posts in 2924 days

#1 posted 03-25-2011 05:10 AM


View ChrisCarr's profile


196 posts in 2924 days

#2 posted 03-26-2011 02:02 AM

I thought the outside being dryer is called “Case hardening” and is a bad thing?

View Scsmith42's profile


125 posts in 2703 days

#3 posted 03-26-2011 05:36 AM

Chris, I am a miller and kiln operator. Cedar dries extremely quickly (and easily). The experience that you have is not uncommon.

Other species, such as oak, take a long time to dry. Green oak has a moisture content between 50% – 60%, however it is difficult to accurately measure the MC% of any board above it’s fiber saturation point (around 32%).

Case hardening is indeed a bad thing, but I have never seen it occur in cedar. It typically occurs when a kiln operator runs too aggressive a kiln schedule, and the outside of the board dries too quickly, causing it to shrink over the core (as well as preventing the moisture from properly wicking through the cell walls from the center of the board). It does not occur very frequently in air dried lumber.

-- Scott, North Carolina,

View larryw's profile


335 posts in 2688 days

#4 posted 03-27-2011 03:59 PM

I agree with Scsmith42, cedar dries very quickly. I don’t know if you’re talking about western or eastern red cedar, or all the other species of trees with the word “cedar” in their description. My experiance is mainly with the eastern red cedar which is actually from the juniper family, anyway, it seems to me that most “cedars” have a lower moisture saturation in the wood fiber ,than say red oak even when first cut.

-- "everything is beautiful, but not everyone sees it" ~confucius-551-449 b.c.~

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196 posts in 2924 days

#5 posted 03-27-2011 06:02 PM

I am from delaware, so is it for sure eastern red cedar or does western grow in the east too?

View larryw's profile


335 posts in 2688 days

#6 posted 03-28-2011 12:28 AM

Chris, as far as I know, western red cedar does not grow in the eastern part of the U.S. , there may be a specimen growing in a botainical garden or something, but it does not occur naturally in the east. You’ll know if it’s eastern red cedar by the intense aromatic odor when cut., It also has a distinct red to purple red heart and white sap wood.

-- "everything is beautiful, but not everyone sees it" ~confucius-551-449 b.c.~

View GMman's profile


3902 posts in 3723 days

#7 posted 03-28-2011 12:39 AM

The stump without branches was drying so your 16% is as far as I know normal and wait for a few weeks and it will go down more, the reading 16% is way too high to use.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18290 posts in 3702 days

#8 posted 03-28-2011 01:39 AM

I just read that construction lumber is as high as 16%. You might find this interesting

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

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196 posts in 2924 days

#9 posted 03-28-2011 04:20 AM

I just cut down white oak 1 week ago and i am planning to dry that and the red cedar inside until it gets hotter then back outside then again inside in the next winter until it gets to kiln like moisture content inside.

View TheWoodsman's profile


65 posts in 2922 days

#10 posted 03-29-2011 12:44 AM

Eastern (aromatic) red cedar doesn’t start with nearly as much moisture as other hardwoods do. I sawed a thousand or so feet last September and it was down around 12% within a few weeks. Last summer/fall was very dry and a little wind with dry air makes air-drying go pretty fast.

-- I'm the Woodsman . . . the four-wheelin', tree-farmin', custom-furniture-makin' descendant of Olaf "The Woodcutter" Ingjaldsson.

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