Air Dried Walnut for Furniture/ Workbench Question

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Forum topic by Dan3 posted 01-21-2013 11:05 AM 2061 views 0 times favorited 19 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Dan3's profile


3 posts in 1948 days

01-21-2013 11:05 AM

Hi All,

I’m new to woodworking so bare with me.

I bought some rough air dried walnut which was stored outside for well over a year. The 2 boards are 13 feet in length, 9 inches wide and 2.75 inches thick. I bought them for making a work bench top. I wanted a lighter color wood but this was the only dried thick lumber he had and the price was right. My question is since this wood was stored outside do I need to dry it inside before I use it for my bench? It looks like nice wood and I will have a lot of extra when I’m done so would I be able to also use this for furniture even though it was dried in this manor? The wood seems to be very striahgt, but it’s just a little damp.Any thoughts?


19 replies so far

View Melanie's profile


13 posts in 1950 days

#1 posted 01-21-2013 12:54 PM

Your wood needs to be acclimated to the environment that it will be kept in. Do you have a wood moisture sensor? On the low end they can be purchased for as little as $30. on up to hundreds. The wood might look dry but there is nothing worst that spending time working on a piece that looks beautiful at first until the moisture leaves & along with it makes vacant gaps in the wood.

View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1537 posts in 2470 days

#2 posted 01-21-2013 12:59 PM

Jeeez men, buy some pine to make your bench and save the walnut for something better. Those are some awesome boards, why waste them on something that is going to get nicked, scratched, etc? If you plan to use your bench for wood work, buy some cheap wood, if you plan it to be for show, then go buy some maple as well so it makes contrast with your walnut… ;-)

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

View MedicKen's profile


1615 posts in 3457 days

#3 posted 01-21-2013 01:12 PM

I agree with Melanie, it needs to acclimate. Also be prepared for some movement when milling the lumber. When you first cut it, cut it over size by about 1/2” to allow for movement. There is a good possibility that when milled you will release tension in the lumber and it will warp, twist etc. I would also let the boards sit for a few days after the initial milling to allow for more acclimation.

-- My job is to give my kids things to discuss with their

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 2946 days

#4 posted 01-21-2013 02:07 PM

If it’s only been air drying for a year, it probably isn’t dry enough. As a general rule, you want it to air dry one year for every inch of thickness. Of course, the moister meter will either confirm or deny this.

So if you need a bench now, perhaps Jorge is right. I personally prefer benches made of hardwood over pine, but there are many nice benches made of SYP that function perfectly fine.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View JesseTutt's profile


854 posts in 2105 days

#5 posted 01-21-2013 02:14 PM

The wood is probably not dry enough. If there is a board you could cut about a foot off of and then use a moister meter on the center of the fresh cut that would give you a useful reading. You want 6-8% moister.

I agree with Jorge, save the walnut. Buy some dense heavy pine 2x?? and mill them down and glue them so that the 2” edge is up. This will form a thick workbench top and you have the more valuable walnut for projects.

-- Jesse, Saint Louis, Missouri

View shampeon's profile


1775 posts in 2178 days

#6 posted 01-21-2013 05:49 PM

Just to be clear here, when you bought the wood, was it air-dried, and then you stored it for a year outside? Or did the sawyer say that he had air-dried it for a year when you bought it?

The supposed disadvantage of darker-colored work benches is that you don’t get as much light and contrast on your workpiece.

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

View pintodeluxe's profile


5654 posts in 2808 days

#7 posted 01-21-2013 05:59 PM

Air dried wood is the absolute best kind. Lumber that is properly stacked, covered and stickered outside, will dry slowly down to equilibrium with the climate. In my climate that is about 12-15% moisture content. From there I put them in a home dehumidification kiln, which is nothing more than a space heater, box fans and a home dehumidifier in a confined space. Run that for about two weeks, and you will have nice dry lumber at 6-8% MC.
If your workbench is destined for a a non-heated shop, you can get by with drying to about 10% MC. Bringing the wood into a heated / air conditioned home for a month will accomplish the 10% MC.

Best of luck!

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View MonteCristo's profile


2099 posts in 2183 days

#8 posted 01-21-2013 07:41 PM

I wouldn’t use walnut for a bench (top) for two reasons. One is it isn’t all that hard and the other is its dark color will be a real pain.

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

View Rob Drown's profile

Rob Drown

789 posts in 3828 days

#9 posted 01-21-2013 07:44 PM

Sounds like you got some thick walnut. Awesome. Save it for some furniture. Air dried walnut take on a much more beautiful appearance than kiln dried. Kiln dried walnut just looks muddy. Depending on you part of the country, souther yellow pine or Douglas fir are great materials for benches.

-- The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools. Confucius, 经过艰苦的努力的梦想可以成真

View Don W's profile

Don W

18707 posts in 2562 days

#10 posted 01-21-2013 07:54 PM

I’m in the “don’t use the walnut for a bench” crowd. I also agree a 3” piece is probably not dry.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View John Ormsby's profile

John Ormsby

1285 posts in 3732 days

#11 posted 01-21-2013 08:24 PM

You also want to check it very carefully for any small holes that would be an indication of an infestation of boring beetles. You don’t want them in your house or shop. they love walnut. walnut that is stored outside is especially vulnerable to them.

-- Oldworld, Fair Oaks, Ca

View runswithscissors's profile


2750 posts in 2020 days

#12 posted 01-21-2013 08:38 PM

After reading what you have planned, I had to make an emergency appointment with my therapist. Up here in the Pac. N. W., walnut is rare, exotic, and very espensive.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View newwoodbutcher's profile


740 posts in 2845 days

#13 posted 01-21-2013 08:43 PM

I can’t see where you are located but if you are close to Southern California, I would be happy to trade some hard maple for some of that Walnut

-- Ken

View Dan3's profile


3 posts in 1948 days

#14 posted 01-21-2013 09:09 PM

Thanks everyone for the reposnses. I believe I’m going to use this for my next furniture project instead and contact the mill to see just how long it’s been air drying. The bench is going to have to be made out of pine for now. They have a bunch more of this at the yard so I think I’m going to pick up a few more boards for some future projects. I calculated it out and I got it for a $1.64 a board foot. Maybe I will make the front vise and tail vises in walnut for some contrast.

Pintodeluxe, I’m going to take your suggestion on get it dry once I find out how long over a year it’s been sitting.

For those of you who asked, I’m on Long Island in NY.


View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1537 posts in 2470 days

#15 posted 01-21-2013 09:22 PM

wow, that is a great price… better get as much as you can.

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

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