maple slabs drying

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Forum topic by PatRI posted 08-10-2012 02:46 AM 3959 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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11 posts in 2344 days

08-10-2012 02:46 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question maple

Hello I am new to woodworking and in April my wife and I came back from a trip to find the maple tree in our yard like this! The landlord had called while we where away to let us know that he was having a crew over to do “some work on the trees”. I don’t know why he had them take the tree down. There where a few dead limbs but not the whole tree! And I don’t know why they never finished cutting down the trunk but this is what was in our yard for several weeks.
Anyway I went ahead a contacted a mobile saw mill company and we cut down the trunk and he milled it into 8/4 slabs about 20” by 10’ and several small pieces like to one in the photos.
I want to build a bench utilizing the two pieces in the picture but had a few questions. They have been drying since the beginning of May the one on the left outside and right one in the basement I think that sun exposure is the reason that the coloring is so different but a few passes with the plane show that there is still beautiful wood underneath . How do I know when they are dry enough to work and is there such a thing as too dry? The piece on the left has several splits from the top is there any way at this point to control that or will the entire piece eventually split completely? Also there is a rotten section on the cut side of the piece what should I do about this? I was poking at it with a chisel and cleaned out most of the really soft and loose wood but again I don’t know what I should do to control or fix this so it doesn’t continue the degrade the quality of the wood.

I really appreciate any help that you guys can offer and thank you in advance.

4 replies so far

View HerbC's profile


1790 posts in 3057 days

#1 posted 08-10-2012 03:08 AM

You should not leave the slab exposed to direct sunlight because that will lead to more major defects such as checking and spliting due to unequal and rapid moisture loss.

You need to dry the slabs in and environment where there is good air flow to prevent molds and mildew, yet sheltered from the direct sunlight. If you have several slabs they should be stacked with “stickers” (spacer sticks) between the layers to allow airflow thru the stack. Cover the stack with old metal roofing or plywood to keep out the sun and rain.

Drying thick slabs can take a long time (years, not weeks or months). You might want to get a moisture meter to monitor the progress. You might want to consider building a small solar or dehumidifier kiln to speed up the progress safely.

Good Luck!

Be Careful!


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

View PatRI's profile


11 posts in 2344 days

#2 posted 08-10-2012 03:58 AM

Sorry I wasn’t clear the rest of the wood is stacked with stickers outside with a cover to keep the rain off. I understand that the large slabs will take much longer to dry. My questions are directed at the two small pieces that are pictured and were not stacked with the rest. The one on the left is beginning to split and crack and am hopping to use them for something before the are ruined.

View Doss's profile


779 posts in 2462 days

#3 posted 08-10-2012 06:18 AM

It may just be me not being able to visualize the cut but were those crosscut or semi-crosscut at an angle? I see what appears to be rings but I can’t tell for sure. If so prepare for those things to have a radial crack at some point. I had some dry for a really long time (several months) and one day I checked them and they had a large radial crack in them. It happens on that sort of cut.

How dry is too dry? Probably not going to have to worry about that if you’re just storing them outside. They will never get “that dry.” Maybe in the winter they’ll get somewhat low but not in the summer. You should just take them inside if you’re running your air conditioner. store them out of the way and with space for air to flow around them.

The best way to check for how dry they are? Get a moisture meter. It’ll take less than 5 seconds with one of those. Even a cheap one is pretty decent most of the time.

What to do about the rotten part? You’ve done pretty much what you can which is removing it. You could’ve tried wood hardener but I don’t know if that works for anything other than soft spots in wood. So I’m pretty sure it couldn’t save a rotten section. Just make sure you got all of it out and keep the moisture off the logs and the airflow good.

-- "Well, at least we can still use it as firewood... maybe." - Doss

View WDHLT15's profile


1792 posts in 2674 days

#4 posted 08-10-2012 11:29 AM

The reason that the slab on the left is cracking is because it is drying too fast. The shell dries faster than the core, setting up the stress that causes the cracks. You have to slow the drying down. Stacking them together under cover with stickers, like Herb said, keeps the humidity higher around the wood, slowing the drying. They do better together in a herd in the stack. A single 8/4 slab stood up all by itself to dry will almost always certainly crack and check. Here in Georgia, 8/4 maple will dry in about 1 year. The 1” per year rule of thumb is actually not very accurate. The time to dry is a function of species, temp, humidity, and thickness.

-- Danny Located in Perry, GA. Forester. Wood-Mizer LT40HD35 Sawmill. Nyle L53 Dehumidification Kiln.

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