How to tell Air dried from Kiln dried??

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Forum topic by becikeja posted 05-18-2014 10:26 PM 1504 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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884 posts in 2812 days

05-18-2014 10:26 PM

I enjoy pushing my skill level and trying new projects. It’s the most enjoyable part of the hobby for me. Currently I am starting to investigate the idea of steam bending. From what I have read, for good results you need to use Air dried lumber. Evidently kiln dried is more prone to cracking. So, with that in mind I looked across my shop and thought how do I know which lumber is air dried and which has been kiln dried? Over the years I have acquired wood from lumber yards, craigs list, friends, or even downed trees. I have no idea how any of it was dried. Is there a simple way to tell? I assume most lumber yard wood is kiln dried for speed and cost purposes, but I do know the lumber yard I used to buy from sold both and that I have purchased both, but no clue which is which.

Any advice on how to tell Air dried versus kiln dried would be appreciated.

-- Don't outsmart your common sense

5 replies so far

View Don W's profile

Don W

18715 posts in 2566 days

#1 posted 05-18-2014 10:31 PM

I’ve never heard of a way to tell, so maybe we’ll both learn something here. If I had to bet though, I’d say you can’t tell.

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

View woodchuckerNJ's profile


1274 posts in 1633 days

#2 posted 05-18-2014 10:57 PM

I don’t know of a way, but I do know that if it were done wrong you can tell.
If done wrong there are different signs to look for.

-- Jeff NJ

View jdh122's profile


1012 posts in 2816 days

#3 posted 05-18-2014 11:19 PM

Others can give you better advice than I can about how to tell the two apart, but the biggest difference for steam bending is not between kiln and air dried, but between wood that is nearly green and wood that is dried. Also important is the difference between wood that is sawn and wood that is split. So far I’ve mostly done steam bending with rived wood and have never had problems with cracks on the outside of the bend (which is the type of cracking that you’re talking about, I think). That said, lots of people report being able to steam bend even kiln dried wood with little difficulty, although there is likely to be a slightly higher failure rate.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View Loren's profile


10396 posts in 3647 days

#4 posted 05-18-2014 11:23 PM

the requirement of air dried woods for steam bending
is overstated. I have no doubt they bend better, but
all I can get in Los Angeles is kiln dried and I bend it.

If the bending is done in a technically correct manner
results in modest bends are acceptable for fine furniture
parts. I’ve bent 3/4” thick kiln dried walnut on an 8”
radius without trouble.

Don’t even think about bending furniture parts without a
back strap with adjustable end stop, robust bending
forms and a tight steam box.

View becikeja's profile


884 posts in 2812 days

#5 posted 05-19-2014 12:15 AM

Thanks for the comments. I guess I’ll just give a try and see what happens.

-- Don't outsmart your common sense

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