Does wood moisture really matter?

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Forum topic by CanadaJeff posted 05-24-2009 03:54 PM 1242 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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207 posts in 3633 days

05-24-2009 03:54 PM

I’m sure it probably does since there is lots of articles dedicated to it, but I can’t figure out why.

If I remember correctly wood is dried to 8-10% moisture content, but if I purchase wood and let it sit around for a year, won’t the moisture content eventually be the same as the environment around it? So basically I’m wondering what’s the point if eventually your wood will be the same as the environment.

I may be way off base on my thinking, but just thought I would see what others think.

8 replies so far

View patron's profile


13606 posts in 3365 days

#1 posted 05-24-2009 04:14 PM

all wood that’s been dried to whatever content is still subject to moisture and its changes .
i know some floor guys that take a moisture meter to the lumber store and go through EVERY board
to get the ones that are right ,even from the same tree . as they are all from different cuts to the log ,
they will shrink/expand differently .
gone are the days of radial sawyering , unless you order and pay for that service .
im doing a t/g red oak floor here at home , and i went one extra step .
after letting flooring sit for a month in the house to let it breath , i dunked each piece in tompsons water seal .
when i layed it up it was tight , with slight cracks bettwen some planks . ive let it sit for a year without
puttying it and now it has shrunk and i have more cracks . but they don’t have hard putty in them , so i can finaly
put the putty and sand and finish . like glass wood is always moving , and unless you encapsulate it in liquid epoxy
it will always expand/contract .

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View a1Jim's profile


117115 posts in 3601 days

#2 posted 05-24-2009 09:35 PM

Hey Jeff
As the guys already said Yes it matters. When building furniture or other wood projects If you don’t think about wood movement. Your project can be forced apart or like sneezics said end up with big gaps. Although total control of wood movement is impossible knowing the possibilities can make or break you project,

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Roper's profile


1389 posts in 3737 days

#3 posted 05-24-2009 09:50 PM

hey skeezics sorry to hear about your panels, a little trick i use is to finish your panels before installing them so when they shrink you don’t see a line of unfinished wood.oh ya and MC always matters.

-- Roper - Master of sawdust-

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4012 days

#4 posted 05-24-2009 10:21 PM

It really matters when you are fitting a 1/8” thick spruce soundboard into a harpsichord.

In really extreme cases it may shrink by 1/2” in width. I have to wait for an average day to install it.

It will change in a matter of hours.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Myron Wooley's profile

Myron Wooley

226 posts in 3920 days

#5 posted 05-24-2009 10:32 PM

I get calls all the time for furniture that has been “damaged by the movers” only to find out they just moved from a moist climate like Houston to our arid San Diego climate. The wood shrinks as it dries, and the tabletop will split, or the side panel will crack. Not the moving company’s fault!

-- The days are long and the years are short...

View daltxguy's profile


1373 posts in 3938 days

#6 posted 05-24-2009 10:47 PM

It matters so much that I wouldn’t hesitate to say that just about everything about woodworking, the wood selection, the grain selection, the construction methods, joints, even finishing – everything has to do with managing wood movement due to moisture content change. It’s the difference between furniture which looks good and furniture which looks good and lasts a lifetime.
Many commercially built pieces are self destructions waiting to happen.
Don’t underestimate the power of wood swelling and shrinkage due to MC changes.

-- If you can't joint it, bead it!

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3768 days

#7 posted 05-24-2009 10:50 PM

You’re in one of the better places to appreciate wood movement. 10 years making furniture in Maine taught me that if you don’t design with wood movement in mind, you’re asking for a lot of grief. The humidity levels between the super dry, heated air of winter, compared to moist, damp air of summer can cause a moisture level change of about 10%, which is pretty severe on the wood movement scale. Like already said, it will cause furniture to push itself apart, or shrink to the point of cracking. The dryer the lumber to start with, the better.

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 3609 days

#8 posted 05-24-2009 11:45 PM

everything that shrinks is a problem believe meLOL nooooh matron not another freezing cold bath.Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

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