Salvaging good lumber from air dried red oak

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Forum topic by MaroonGoon posted 07-09-2013 05:33 PM 1279 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View MaroonGoon's profile


281 posts in 2199 days

07-09-2013 05:33 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question oak milling

Hey guys,
Awhile ago I posted about obtaining around 90 bf of red oak and I have been air drying it in my non-air conditioned warehouse with a rotary fan blowing on it. I picked up a moisture meter from Lowes (not the best, but I figured it would be good enough) and tested the wood at several different spots on the face of a board. The meter read from 7-8% in every instance so I assumed the wood was ready. So last night I went out to my shop and began salvaging the good lumber out of my stack (some boards had a good amount of checking and warpage since all of the boards were plain sawn from the original tree). After a bit, I decided to test the moisture level from the end grain from the center of one of my boards and the meter was reading at least 10% or higher. This was not what I wanted to see since I thought all of the boards were at 7-8%. Since I am paranoid about everything, I figured this might cause the boards that I have salvaged to warp even more since it still has some drying to do before it is workable. I just stopped cutting up boards and I decided to coat the ends of all of my new boards with latex paint to try to slow the drying process.

So my main question is, do you guys think I made a mistake and do you think this will actually make the boards warp more than they would have if the boards were left intact and dried a bit longer? I’ll post pictures later of some of the boards that I salvaged.

I just wanted some advice and insight from some of you seasoned woodworkers to help either reassure me or help me with my issue. If this isn’t a problem then I will go ahead and cut up the rest of my wood, but I definitely don’t want to if ya’ll recommend me not to.


-- "Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone." -- Pablo Picasso

8 replies so far

View Randy_ATX's profile


881 posts in 2683 days

#1 posted 07-09-2013 05:40 PM

Just my opinion, I think 10% is perfectly acceptable. If the lumber is still in rough-sawn state, there will be natural waste in getting them cleaned up. You will just need to make shorter boards out of the twisted and crooked material. Also, after you cut/plane/joint I would let it re-acclimate for a few days to a week before taking down to final dimensions. Only start cleaning up what you need, not the entire pile. Good luck.

-- Randy -- Austin, TX by way of Northwest (Woodville), OH

View treaterryan's profile


109 posts in 2528 days

#2 posted 07-09-2013 05:54 PM

From 10% to 7% is such a small, small amount, I wouldn’t even worry about it, I don’t think you will see any noticeable changes in the lumber. Your boards may have even picked up some moisture from your shop. You know how everyone says wood moves? Well moisture is the culprit, wood is always gaining and losing moisture depending on the conditions it is exposed to. Always. Forever. Obviously, if you make furniture and keep it in your house, it will only be a small amount of change in moisture content, and thus a small amount of movement. I agree with Randy’s comments on working it and letting it sit there for a day or more, to equalize out. 10% is perfectly acceptable moisture content for working with, as well.

EDIT: I just ran the numbers, if you put these pieces of wood outside right now, under cover, in Nacogdoches, TX, where the average humidity this time of year is around 70% and the average temperature is 82F (these numbers pulled from averages for July), your equilibrium moisture content would be about 12.8%, so keeping them in your shop is keeping them slightly lower due to the air conditioning. Plus, I’m sure that moisture meter is accurate to, oh, about +/- 10%. These things are not known for their accuracy.

-- Ryan - Bethel Park, PA

View firefighterontheside's profile


19631 posts in 2097 days

#3 posted 07-09-2013 07:05 PM

How thick is your rough lumber? I read in a post not long ago where someone was asking about what meter to get and the answer depended on lumber thickness. For thicker wood you needed the type where the probe had to be driven in because there is going to be higher reading toward the center. I made the mistake of assuming wood was dry enough and built my dining room table with it. There was lots of movement. Now I have a rustic table. The moisture level in the wood must have been close to 20%. If ten is the highest you have, you should be fine.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View firefighterontheside's profile


19631 posts in 2097 days

#4 posted 07-09-2013 07:08 PM

This may have some answers.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View MaroonGoon's profile


281 posts in 2199 days

#5 posted 07-10-2013 02:48 PM

Thanks for all the great info guys! I guess I might be overreacting a little bit. It is pretty humid down here in East Texas so it might actually be hard to get the wood down to such a low level. The last thing I wanted to do was to work with wet wood so thats why I’m trying to make sure all this is right before I begin building. I’m making a couple of matching end tables and coffee table with mortise and tenon joinery so I want to make sure my joints are tight and clean and that they stay that way over time.

Fire: My lumber is just 4/4 all the way. The meter that I have has two little probes on it and I push it in as much as I physically can. I’m afraid to hammer it in case I broke the probes on the meter. Maybe somewhere down the line I’ll get a top notch one where I don’t question the accuracy at all :)

-- "Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone." -- Pablo Picasso

View Nomad62's profile


726 posts in 3199 days

#6 posted 07-10-2013 03:40 PM

Your boards will dry just fine, but they may just need more time; with a fan blowing on them they will dry much faster on the surface than in the center. They may/will warp, check, or deform in any way they want, it’s kind of the nature of the beast. There are many factors involved, and oak is notoriously a difficult wood to dry without damage or loss. As the center dries it will become more stable. Not knowing how long they have been there makes it hard to advise more, but it may be a good idea to just sticker and stack under cover and without the fan and let the lumber equalize (the center drying to the same mc as the outer surface) and find out where it really is. I’d think 6 months should be fine…

-- Power tools put us ahead of the monkeys

View BigRedKnothead's profile


8542 posts in 2223 days

#7 posted 07-10-2013 03:42 PM

Like they said, I think your fine man.

-- "At the end of the day, try and make it beautiful....because the world is full of ugly." Konrad Sauer

View pintodeluxe's profile


5819 posts in 3054 days

#8 posted 07-10-2013 04:29 PM

The outside of lumber will dry quicker than the center. Always cut a couple inches off the end and take you m.c. reading from the center of the end grain.

You can calculate shrinkage based on wood species, initial moisture content, and expected indoor moisture content. For instance I am working on some 4×4” red oak posts now, and at their core they are 10-14% m.c. at most.
Indoors in my pacific NW home they will drop to 6% minimum m.c.
They will shrink nearly 1/8”, which is unacceptable. So, I placed the posts in a small room with a residential dehumidifier and a fan. Even without an external heater, my dehumidifier warmed the room to 92 degrees. Adding an additional heater makes the process faster. In one weeks time, I was getting 6-9% moisture readings.
Now my posts will only shrink a little more than 1/64”, a much more acceptable number.
Here is the shrinkulator… choose scarlet oak and enter your dimensions…

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

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