Cheap and easy way to dry most any wood stock without it cracking

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Forum topic by Ambajejus posted 11-15-2014 11:12 AM 1419 views 4 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4 posts in 706 days

11-15-2014 11:12 AM

Topic tags/keywords: home wood drying keep wood from cracking when drying cheap wood drying tip trick

Hey guys, New to the forum and thought i would start by sharing something i learned from my dad, who learned it from his dad.

I live really close to a local logging operation and lumber mill. The owner owns land all over the world and cuts and sells most everything known to man. I can constantly get amazing figured wood from him but the problem with buying freshly milled wood is it is usually 75-95% wet and turns like garbage. With that we need to dry it, and don’t want it to crack or split. i normally buy square milled pieces either 4×4x14 or 8×8x20, sometimes 6×6x18. This makes them easy to stack and easy to store.

What you will need:

Latex Spray paint
a few cheapo dollar store box fans
a cheapo dollar store plastic storage shelf
an old dehumidifier
SQUARE lumber
40 or 80 grit sandpaper

Even if you found the perfect round log that you want to turn, unless you have 6 months to 4 years to wait, it needs to be squared on a band saw for this to work guaranteed and quickly.


It is important that the drying process is done indoors in your home where the temperature is at least 70 degrees. DO NOT spray paint indoors.

1: spray the end grain with the latex spray enamel, i use fast drying, and always do two coats.

Water will evaporate 4 to 6 times as fast from the ends as from the center, this causes warping with the stress at the ends and almost always causes your wood to crack.

2: Rough sand all 4 sides of your stock, i can do 1 piece a minute using an orbital sander so this does not take long.

Unless your wood was cut that day within hours of you prepping it to dry there will be deposits on the outer surface of the wood, sap that has already leaked out, saw dust from the mill that filled in the pores, oil or grease from the blade at the mill. Doing a quick rough sand ensures that the wood can dry evenly along the long grain and prevents one area from drying faster than the other thus making it crack.

3: stack your stock on the plastic storage shelf with about 1” between each piece

you need room for air to circulate

4: Place 2-3 box fans blowing directly at the front of your storage shelf, make sure that the end gran is facing the fans.

5: place the dehumidifier behind the plastic rack to pull the moisture out.

The air from the fans moves the moist air away from the wood and towards the dehumidifier.

i can dry 8-12 4×4x14’ pieces of hardwood stock in about 7-12 days down to 15%-20% this way in a small room ( i use a spare bedroom that has hardwood floors as carpet can slow the drying process)

To speed up the process you can add additional heat to the room with a space heater or by adjusting the thermostat if the room has its own.

15% – 20% is not fully dried wood, but it is dry enough to turn without any problems, it is easy to achieve, and this method almost guarantees your wood wont crack, (honeycomb cracks are the exception as they are a structural flaw not a flaw in the drying process)

Once your piece is turned to size/shape it is usually air dry on its own unless you turned it in less than a week from start, in which case you can let it sit for a week to finish air drying, 12% is the best you will ever get wood to dry via air drying.

If you want it “kiln dry” or roughly 7% moisture content you can make a tabletop kiln out of some 1 by 4’s some 1/4 inch ply. just build an insulated small box, snag a few old CPU case fans from a computer, and snag the power supply from the computer while you are at it. On any given day i can find a computer on Craigslist for $10, those old windows xp machines are a dime a dozen.

Place the CPU inside your insulated wood box (this is your heat source as old CPU’s can bring the temp up to 115 degrees in a well insulated 24” square box. then use the case fans to force the air out of the box. You can again speed this process up by adding an additional heat source. Call me crazy but i vent the clothes dryer into my box when i have a finished piece i want to force dry. <—-I do not recommend this in your house, i only do it because my dryer is in the garage which is solid brick and even if the dryer caught fire the worst it could do is melt to the brick or concrete as there is no combustable material around it.

Hope all that helps some of you. You can save a lot of money buying wet turning stock from your local mill, i get beautiful spalted wood from them for literally a dollar as they cannot use it for lumber. Until i came along they use to throw it in the pit as firewood, now they know to cut it and call me when they get a decent amount.

10 replies so far

View Wildwood's profile


1847 posts in 1552 days

#1 posted 11-15-2014 02:11 PM

Welcome to the forum and like some of the advice your have provided. Wish you had posted some pictures. Guess if live near a mill some of that information might be nice to know.

Sometimes turning wet wood very important to bowl & hollow turners! Depending upon wood density, species & rough thickness some items can be ready to final turn in just a few months.

Yes it is important to end seal wood from freshly cut down tree you want to use for woodturning. Depending upon time of the year a tree is cut down effect moisture content (sap running, not running). Regardless of time of the year or moisture content of the tree; moisture is lost 12% faster from the ends of a log than across the grain. You always leave bowl and spindle blanks longer than needed to allow for some end checking no matter what end sealer you use.

Yes do not need to spend a lot of money on end sealers; paints, whether latex or oil will work. So will most clear wood film finishes. Wax and wood glue make excellent end sealers.

Depending upon where you live and annual average relative humidity not uncommon to air dry wood for turning to a moisture content of 12 to 20% if store correctly.

Yes, a homemade kiln is an asset and does not require big bucks to build. A homemade kiln can be both a blessing or curse for drying wood you want to turn. There is a learning curve depending upon species & thickness of wood trying to dry. A constant temperature and increased air circulation will speed up water removal from wood. Most long time woodturners only use their kilns for rough turned items. Many pen turners will use smaller kilns to dry their pen blanks they purchase or mill themselves. So simple light bulb(s) and fan(s) work well in any size homemade kilns. High temperatures not really required unless can adjust humidity levels too.

-- Bill

View Nubsnstubs's profile


804 posts in 1147 days

#2 posted 11-15-2014 02:13 PM

Hey amba, welcome, and thanks for that info. I already know about some, but you added some things to my knowlege base. Thank you for that. Soooo, you’re using you house as a work shop??? heheeh Since I have a house larger than I need, I’ve commandeered 1 bedroom and am using it as my tool crib, and since I don’t have a need for the living room, it’s my warehouse. My wife does a lot of protesting, but I don’t have any other place to put the stuff…... Jerry (in Tucson)

-- Jerry (in Tucson)

View Ambajejus's profile


4 posts in 706 days

#3 posted 11-15-2014 06:41 PM


Yep, house, garage, and basement. My wife and i are young (30&34), and never really had much. Quite a few years ago i invested in Bitcoin and last year we were able to retire from it. I spent my youth working in the family wood shop, and i am now ashamed to admit i hated it. I never thought a day would come when i could afford a house and last year i bought one. Now that i dont have a job to go to, i realized being retired really sucks, the biggest problem of the day is what to do to keep myself occupied, i never really had hobbies. About 8 months ago i decided i was going to build a woodshop in my garage, then it took over the basement, now 2 spare bedrooms, the kitchen, and dining room.

I am lucky in that my wife does not protest, we started a family after we retired which is something we never thought we would be able to afford to do, and now we have a daughter which fills her days with joy, and all because i ignored her protest 5 years ago when i started sinking every leftover dollar i had in bitcoin. She actually told me last month “it smells amazing in here with all this wood drying in the house”.

Although i can afford to go buy things like a commercial kiln and all that, i find more pleasure in building things myself as it gives me something to do.

sanding the boards came from a friend who owns the local lumber mill. He owns land in Africa and imports Padauk in mass quantities. Some months ago i bought a ton of it and in drying to dry it, about 40% cracked on the long grain. I called him and asked what was going on, and he told me to sand the sides. Since then i have never had a piece of anything crack as i always sand the sides.

The latex spray enamel was a trick from my dad when i use to work in the family wood shop after my grandpa passed away. We use to dip fresh wood in paraffin wax on the end grain but then in the late 90’s they switched to green or blue latex spray enamel.

On really hard woods like red oak i sometimes re-wet the outside of the board at night and turn the fans and DH off. it helps relieve the pressure on the wood and by morning even with the fans and DH off most of that moisture has already evaporated, but allowed the core to relax a little too. My grandpa always use to turn the kilns off at the shop at night for the last 2 weeks of drying on hard woods and he had a little spray tank like a 2 gallon garden sprayer and he use to go spray all the surface wood he could reach. One thing i never saw a lot of was cracked wood so i keep to what i know and saw.

View a1Jim's profile


115166 posts in 2994 days

#4 posted 11-15-2014 07:56 PM

Welcome to Ljs
Thanks for the info on drying wood. Most of the processes I’m familiar with but the sanding part is a new one on me,I’ve found skim planning wood works well also.
It’s great to hear that such a young couple were able to retire, congrats on being so smart.

-- Custom furniture

View bold1's profile


259 posts in 1264 days

#5 posted 11-15-2014 08:40 PM

I was interested to learn that honeycomb cracks have nothing to do with how the wood dries.

View Ambajejus's profile


4 posts in 706 days

#6 posted 11-15-2014 09:09 PM

I was interested to learn that honeycomb cracks have nothing to do with how the wood dries.

- bold1

I use to get so mad when i would get honeycomb cracks, it aggravated me because it would do it in entire batches so i use to think it was something to do with drying too. Then i asked the guy at the mill if he knew any tricks and he said “sure, if one piece is going to honeycomb then most likely every piece of wood from the entire length of that set of rigs would also, so turn them into firewood”

Come to find out it is caused by the weather and usually when it happens entire groups of trees have the problem. Its caused by a few different things. Flooding or high precipitation years where the weather is warm, overly mild or non existent winters in places where winter cold occurs, and mold. He said you can usually tell as soon as you cut the wood if it is going to be a problem and they never even bother spending the time trying to dry them if they have heavy ring shake.

With high moisture years the core of the tree remains overly soft and does not form tightly, as years pass that soft spot gets pushed further out in the trees rings, when harvested its a clearly discolored area usually lighter than the rest of the tree, when it begins to dry the softer wood dries much much faster than the rest, the shrinkage causes it to split within days of drying normally.

Honeycombs are really just the byproduct of unusual growing conditions, most any time a tree is exposed to something other than its normal growing conditions the wood forms differently than the rest of the tree until the conditions return to normal. This causes a difference in the wood and it will NEVER dry correctly.

Welcome to Ljs
Thanks for the info on drying wood. Most of the processes I m familiar with but the sanding part is a new one on me,I ve found skim planning wood works well also.
It s great to hear that such a young couple were able to retire, congrats on being so smart.

- a1Jim

I never thought about skim planning, that is a great idea and would take much less time than sanding, i might have to try that on this next batch.

The retirement things was not because of being smart. To be honest, 5 years ago i was a rather angry person especially when it came to government and politics and the state of the economy as i was already aware that i would never realize the dream of home ownership and that Social Security would probably not exist when i got old enough for it. When bitcoin came along, to me it was kind of just a screw the government kind of thing, de-centralized, anonymous, money in where i could be my own bank. I bought it like a mad man as it was my passionate way of saying screw off to the Govt. It wasnt really so much an investment as it was keeping my money out of the federal reserve system and banks. It was pure luck last October that it skyrocketed to $1,300 a coin. Even more luck that when i started i use to by them from friends or make friends mine them for me and i was only paying $1.00 for 20 of them.

I am happy now to own a house, and even happier that my wife is happy and lets me take over almost every area of the house but our bedroom for my crazy projects. I realized when i started turning wood again recently that it is actually quite fun when its not a job and there is no boss. All those years hating working in a wood shop, and come to find out i only hated it because it was a job. Now i am working with wood twice as much as when it was a job, and i love it.

View Wildwood's profile


1847 posts in 1552 days

#7 posted 11-15-2014 11:34 PM

Always thought honeycomb or internal checking improper drying related.

-- Bill

View Ambajejus's profile


4 posts in 706 days

#8 posted 11-16-2014 12:20 AM

Always thought honeycomb or internal checking improper drying related.

- Wildwood

Negative, although you wont see it happen until the drying process is partially done, There is NOTHING you can do to stop it from happening if it is going to happen. I tried 5 different drying techniques on a 4×4x12 that had the tell tale signs of a Honeycomb crack going to occur, my friend at the mill set them aside for me, All 5 honeycombed no matter the technique, even the one i left to air dry for 4 months cracked in the same ring’s as the other 4. All 5 had the same split in the same section of rings. Now i just inspect wood before picking it up and if a piece happens to make it home i just throw it in the burn pile. Coloration is a big tell tale, but other things that give it away are lack of pore’s between a ring when everything else has them. you can find them by dragging the point of a finishing nail across the end grain usually as the point of the nail will sink in where the mushy spot is, or if you have time, you can lay a paper towel on the end grain. within about 10 minutes you will pull it off and see that part of the wood has sunk in between a set of rings. Once you start to take notice of your end grain’s and have one honeycomb on you you will know what i am talking about. After a few times of it happening to you, you will be able to see it just by looking at it when it is freshly cut.

View Wildwood's profile


1847 posts in 1552 days

#9 posted 11-16-2014 11:44 AM

Are you sure not talking about ring shake/wind shake caused by bacterial infection. Ring shake hard to tell from outside of a tree. Wind shake easier to see after tree down after a storm or tornado. Scroll down and click on the picture.

Checking & Honeycombing occurs during improper kiln operation & air drying due to wood drying too fast! Don’t take my word on honeycomb have a look at drying defects and pictures in chapter 13, and fig 13-11 on page 12 of this link!

-- Bill

View bold1's profile


259 posts in 1264 days

#10 posted 11-16-2014 11:24 PM

I have to concur with Wildwood. Having operated the dry kilns at Wood-Mode Inc. for several years. Simply put drying the shell too fast causes it to shrink against the core, which has yet to shrink. The internal stress of the fast drying outer cells shrinking and the slower drying core cells still plumped up with moisture tears the wood apart. If you are honeycombing your wood you’re drying it too fast.

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