Drying my own lumber

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Forum topic by Cole Tallerman posted 06-04-2012 03:27 PM 1746 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Cole Tallerman

392 posts in 2185 days

06-04-2012 03:27 PM

So recently ive been sawing lots of firewood into lumber on my bandsaw, and only afterward did I realize how long it takes for lumber to dry. How long does it take for a 6×6 or 8×8 of cherry to dry inside? Should I build a little kiln? How long would it take to dry in a kiln? In doing some research, it looks as if it may have been a waste of time trying to cut my own lumber. Also should I cut it into smaller pieces and then let it dry? I am new to this so any input helps :)

Thanks in advance – Cole

7 replies so far

View PurpLev's profile


8535 posts in 3648 days

#1 posted 06-04-2012 03:39 PM

the general rule of thumb for drying is 1 year + 1 year per inch of thickness, so a 6×6 (thickness) would take 7 years to dry, 8×8 would take 9 years.

unless you meant you cut it into 9”x9” by 1” thick… in which case it should be usable in 2 years.

you should cut it as thick as you might want to use it – if this is for turning bowls, you’d want it as thick as possible, if this is for small boxes – slicing it to 5/4, or 4/4 would be more than enough and will dry faster.

Is it a waste of time? I don’t think so – as long as you plan it out and keep at it, don’t expect to have it tomorrow, but if you do a cycle of resawing, and drying, after the initial 2 years (with air drying) you’ll start having available lumber on a regular basis – is that not worth it?

a kiln will speed things up, and will dry 1” thick material in just a few months.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View AlbertaJim's profile


47 posts in 2429 days

#2 posted 06-04-2012 03:40 PM

I am by no means an expert on sawing your own wood and letting it dry. In my reading the quoted times are 1” per year depending on how humid your area is. Your wood would also have to be stickered and protected from the rain that will fall. That would approximately mean that your 8×8 would take 8 years. I recently read a thread where some areas (drier ones) could take 3-4 months for 4/4.
If you check the web you will find various configurations for dryers/kilns. This would shorten the time. I think most people would probably say that you should cut up the wood to match what you will eventually work. If you normally use 4/4 then cut it in that thickness. It would then be able to be used in one year or less.

-- My Boss was a carpenter

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2971 days

#3 posted 06-04-2012 04:18 PM

Turning, if that’s your goal, can be done with wet wood.
But, it will distort and warp and split if you don’t bag it after turning to control how fast it dries.
You will also only be able to rough it out while wet, then after carefully drying you finish it.

If you are talking about other types of work, lumber for flat work, you have to seal the ends before drying or they will “check” (split) because the moisture comes out of the ends first and the moisture inside causes great difference in pressure.

There are some plans out there for kilns that operate using a room dehumidifier and a light bulb that can dry lumber in a few months instead of years.

I’m currently drying 500 BF of cherry. I’m just air drying for now, with a fan to maintain good circulation, but I will be building a DH kiln as soon as possible.

Don’t forget to seal the ends. My wood sat at the mill for a couple weeks before i was able to pick it up and I will loose about 6 inches off both ends of most boards because it was not sealed till after I got it.
Here is a link to the plans for the kiln I plan to build.

View HalDougherty's profile


1820 posts in 3237 days

#4 posted 06-04-2012 04:39 PM

I have a sawmill and process a lot of lumber for my own use. I saw 1” (4/4) boards because I can dry them and season them quickly. Just because you get wood dry, doesn’t mean it’s seasoned so it doesn’t have artificial stress that will cause trouble later. You can also dry it to fast and caseharden or honeycomb it as well. This time of year, I air dry my lumber for about 30 days, then move it to my attic for another 30 days. Each time I cut a long board in the middle and take a 6” section. Weigh it and dry it in an oven till it’s bone dry and I can calculate the moisture content. Under perfect conditions I can air dry to 20% moisture content in 30 days and then dry to between 6 & 12% in the attic in another 30 days. The sun heats the upstairs of my old 2 story farmhouse like a solar kiln. The moisture is released in the hot daytime, then condenses on the wood after it cools in the evening. That seasons the wood so it won’t warp later. The heat pump also helps pull the moisture out of the air. Just be sure to cover the lumber so the Sun doesn’t hit the wood. It will dry too fast and the top layer will warp like crazy.

-- Hal, Tennessee

View MonteCristo's profile


2099 posts in 2188 days

#5 posted 06-04-2012 05:03 PM

As others are saying, air drying is a slow process, especially in a cool, humid climate. I suspect the 1” per year rule is only a rough guide, especially on thicker pieces.

On small to medium sized pieces, weighing them is an option. As the piece dries it will lose weight. When it stops losing weight and has a steady weight, it is as dry as the local environment will allow. The weight drop will be rapid at first and get slower and slower as it approaches equilibrium.

Keep in mind too that different woods dry differently. I have heard that cherry, while very stable once dry, needs to be dried with care.

Kilns are faster but it is good to remember that good wood can be trashed if the kiln drying is not done properly, with things like casehardening and internal stresses being the result.

There are some good books/articles out there on drying wood. A book on wood that includes issues to do with drying and which many consider a woodworker’s bible on the nature and characteristics of wood is “Understanding Wood” by R Bruce Hoadley. Highly recommended.

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

View WasabiJoe's profile


6 posts in 3092 days

#6 posted 06-07-2012 12:59 AM

Thanks. This is the type of info I come here for.

View pmayer's profile


1028 posts in 3065 days

#7 posted 06-07-2012 01:33 AM

My approach and my timeline is pretty typical to Hal’s. I store vertically until the boards are down to about 20% which minimizes sticker staining, then I move it up to the attic. In the summer 4/4 boards are ready within 2 months are so. If I put it up there in September then it takes much longer as I am in MN and all drying comes to a grinding halt during the winter months.

You might find some helpful ideas on air drying here:

I’ve never dried anything as thick as 8” but I would think a few years would do it if you get it into a warm, dry place like an attic after you get it down to 20% or so.

-- PaulMayer,

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