Checking Cherry

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Forum topic by EastoftheDitch posted 04-28-2011 05:25 PM 1603 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View EastoftheDitch's profile


14 posts in 2605 days

04-28-2011 05:25 PM

Topic tags/keywords: checking moisture content storing stacking cherry air drying question

I’ve been away a while but since my last post I have built an open shelter in the back yard, using a side board on board privacy fence as the back wall and the front fence as another side. The other two sides are open. It’s 18×6 which should hold more than I can use at least for now. I also picked up 150 bf of 4/4 and 8/4 roughsawn cherry. Now what to do with it.

My plan is to stack it on PT 4×4s 36-42” apart level in both directions. I’ve read somewhere that I should have it at least 12” above the ground for air to get underneath. That could be a hassle, but certainly worth it if it REALLY matters.

I will separate the layers with cypress slats from the old fence. They are ~ 1/2” thick so I thought I better double them up to give enough space between layers – or would 1/2” be enough?

I’‘ve also read that you shouldn’t use pine as slat material as the resins could stain the cherry. This has aged for several years if that is enough, or the other thought was to wrap them in saran wrap to seal them before placing them on the cherry.

The material had been down for a couple of years but was recently sawn into planks. The moisture content measures between 26 and 28. I am in HUMID Jacksonville Beach Florida so I wonder if air drying is even possible. I’m tempted to assist drying with a fan to keep air moving but am also concerned that if it happens it could lead to checking and other problems. It defiantly will not get any direct sun.

Now we get really crazy.

Not knowing any better, and being basically frugal ( a nice word for cheap) I’d like to use as much of the material as possible. I’ve heard of using tinted epoxy or water putty to fill voids and blemishes and then plane it smooth.

Another question is that where the ends are split – could I inject some glue in the crack then clamp it together and use the wood instead of just cutting it off?

I have two projects planned for the wood. Some simple bookshelves for my soon to be wife’s office. Saturday the 30th is our big day. The other is the Fine woodworking New Fangled Workbench. I should have enough but at $.65/bf even I can afford to waste a bit. The plan is to bring the wood inside while we are away on our honeymoon but I also would like to know how low the moisture should be before I begin working with it. As I said it measures 26-28 now.

That’s my brain dump for the day and any advice/ suggestions/ war stories of mistakes you might have made that I could avoid would be most appreciated. I’m past being too proud and don’t have time left to make all the mistakes on my own.

Thanks in Advance


7 replies so far

View HerbC's profile


1754 posts in 2854 days

#1 posted 04-28-2011 06:27 PM


First, Congratulations on your upcoming nupials!

It sounds like you want to get working with this lumber quickly. Unless you plan to get it kiln dried then you need to slow down. It will take about a year for this lumber to air-dry to it’s lowest moisture content point under the conditions you describe. And even that may not be adequate for the uses you intend.

Good Luck!

Be Careful!

-- Herb, Florida - Here's why I close most messages with "Be Careful!"

View EastoftheDitch's profile


14 posts in 2605 days

#2 posted 04-29-2011 04:20 AM

You are very perceptive Herb – I am ready to get going, but not if it’s going to be problems in the long run. I heard it takes about a year for new sawn lumber to dry out but this has been down for a couple of years already. I was hoping it wouldn’t be so long. I see you are in Florida – how dry can you air dry lumber in this humid climet if you have ever tried. For cabinetry I understand 12-14 is a good range but these will be open shelves without fancy dovetail joints and movement other than warping and cupping should not be concern.
Thanks again for your response

View EastoftheDitch's profile


14 posts in 2605 days

#3 posted 05-05-2011 12:18 PM

Is there a down side to rough cutting the stock to the dimensions for the project leaving enough for final planing and finishing? Would warping and cupping be minimized by the larger dimensions or would cutting to rough size speed up the drying. You are right, I am eager to get these projects going. (:-)

View woodtickgreg's profile


212 posts in 3113 days

#4 posted 05-05-2011 07:50 PM

here are some tips that i have used successfully with air drying lumber. I mill my own lumber and air dry exsclusively. i too have found that a log will not dry and should be considered as fresh cut green. the methods you plan to use for stickering are sound and i do not use pine for stickering either. general rule of thumb for dry time is a year per inch of thickness. I live in michigan and and stack wood in a garage to dry and can get the moisture content down to around 6 to 12 depending on the species. cherry is prone to checking, leave the boards whole and cut around the checking after they are dry, if you cut them to size before they are dry you may have significant losses! I know that waiting is hard to do but patience is the key, do’nt try to rush it. I would rather work with air dry lumber over kiln dry anyday, it just seems to be much easier to work with. remember wood is wood and it will move, split and check and do what it wants to, let it and then work around or incorparate the defects. sometiimes it drys perfect sometimes not, but the whole process is very rewarding. another good tip that i have learned the hard way is to move the lumber into your shop and sticker for a few weeks if space permits to let it acclimate, then mill it to rough dimension resticker and let it sit again for a week or so before finall milling. you might be surprised at how much some species of wood will move during this process. with cherry i have found that quarter sawn lumber tends to be more prone to checking than flatsawn, but this could just be me. remeber a 100 years ago there was’nt any kilns and everything was made of wood!

-- wood tick tools for turners by woodtickgreg @

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2772 days

#5 posted 05-05-2011 09:11 PM

Something that I do – most of the wood I get is air dried, down to 12%. When I get it, I sticker it in my shop for about a month (I sticker every 2 feet). I have a de-humidifier running 24-7. When I put the new wood in the space, it is amazing the water I pull out. In that month, the lumber will go from 12% down to 2%. At that point, its ready to go.

The more gentle and slower the drying, the less checking and warping and the more thorough – from what I have been told.

-- David in Damascus, MD

View EastoftheDitch's profile


14 posts in 2605 days

#6 posted 05-05-2011 11:37 PM

Wow – what great responses! You have anticipated questions I didn’t even ask. I was considering the dehumidifier route but it looks like that should be done only after the air drying gets it down to 12 or so. I’m assuming that to begin while wetter, the checking would be greater as it would dry out much faster. The consistent advice of patience will be heeded as I look for some drier lumber for the first projects. I can always build shelving in the shop, a cart for plywood and scraps – I have plenty of 1/8. 1/10 and 1/12 KD pine I can start with. The cherry is inside while we are away on our honeymoon and she loves the smell in the house. Will be away till the 16th and I plan on leaving my cell phone and laptop at home but will check in when we return.
Thanks so much for the input.

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2772 days

#7 posted 05-06-2011 01:18 PM

Make sure you get the service contract – and renew often. The coils really don’t like the sawdust.

Somebody once told me that if you can get the moisture below 7-8%, it starts to change the sugars in the wood enough that it will be much more stable and have less dramatic effects from swelling. I have no proof of this but I have not had any problems of my work splitting or checking that I am aware.

-- David in Damascus, MD

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