Understanding acclimation of Wood

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Forum topic by DD6 posted 03-21-2015 06:19 PM 922 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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7 posts in 1360 days

03-21-2015 06:19 PM

I have just started woodworking as a hobby and wanted to get more information concerning acclimation of wood prior to starting projects. I will be working out of my garage and in the winter time it gets very cold and summers can be very hot and humid.

I don’t have a lot of storage area to keep large racks of wood or I could make something up in my 10×12 shed outside to store the wood. What concerns should I have and will the shed be a good place. Everything I have researched as stated I should wait weeks if not months. But that seems to be a very long time to wait to do projects.

I appreciate all comments and advice.

-- Sam Hall TMC(SS) USN Ret

5 replies so far

View bbasiaga's profile


1240 posts in 2193 days

#1 posted 03-21-2015 06:38 PM

You’ll hear a lot of different things. From it must be stored for month’s/years in the exact climate the finished piece will stay in, to just a few days/weeks is OK.

You will hear some others say that you need to partially mill it to thickness, let it acclimatize for a week or two, mill it some more, re-acclimatize, then mill it to final dimensions and go.

There may even be a few who have rituals so complicated that you might feel the need for an altar and some poor, unsuspecting animal.

I try and keep my wood in the basement. It is colder than the rest of the house, but the same humidity. On the few pieces I have made they have turned out fine doing this. I also mill them all at one time with no acclimatization between passes. I do take the in progress peices back in the house when I’m not working though. Maybe I just got lucky.

For me, since I’m not allowed to take over the house with wood, this means I don’t have a lot on hand. I buy for a project, let it sit in the basement a few weeks, and go.


-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1317 posts in 2132 days

#2 posted 03-21-2015 06:53 PM

I’m with brian ^. I know a lot of guys are pretty religious about wood acclimation. I’m not at all. There are times when I buy wood and am working with it in 2 to 3 days. I haven’t ever run into too many problems, though the occassional board has moved on me a little bit. The reality of the situation is that I often decide I want to make something, but don’t want to wait 6 months to start it. It typically isn’t too big of an issue. I will say that the longer a project takes, the more issues you’ll have. Starting in June and Finishing in September probably isn’t too big of an issue. Starting in June and finishing in February could give you some trouble.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View Ghidrah's profile


667 posts in 1420 days

#3 posted 03-22-2015 01:07 AM

The higher the moisture content in the wood while being milled and assembled the greater the shrinkage will be after the fact whether glued and screwed or not. The shrinkage doesn’t have to be more than 1/64” on each item to provide a gap of 1/32”. The MC in the trim in my Lvrm is 11% the MC in the wood in my unheated but dehumidified basement is 16%. The 1X7 C&B pine I purchased at the lumb yd Thurs is 24%. The average is a couple 3 months for every 1” of thickness to get down to milling and assembly state of 10 to 15%.

If you’re looking for the rustic look then go for it if it’s important but not an overly expensive project go for it, everyone needs a learning example. Diff species and sap or heart reacts different and carries more or less moisture. from the lumb yd

-- I meant to do that!

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2888 days

#4 posted 03-22-2015 01:16 AM

If the wood is dry, I don’t worry too much about acclimating it (depending on the project). Big projects, wide panel glue ups, meticulous joinery: I get more concerned but 5-7 days in the shop is as long as I ever wait.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View firefighterontheside's profile


19415 posts in 2054 days

#5 posted 03-22-2015 01:21 AM

Them biggest concern with wood movement issues is when gluing up a large panel, say anything over 18”. You need to build those projects with wood movement as a consideration. Things built with narrow boards, the movement is minimal and doesn’t affect much over time. Also, so you know, wood shrinks and expands across the grain with changes in moisture content, but it changes very little in length. So little that you don’t need to be concerned with that. I say if you’re gonna build something with some boards from a store, you may be better off building it now and getting the project into a controlled atmosphere instead of leaving it out in a humid garage where it may actually absorb more moisture. The biggest problem I have had is when milling rough sawn lumber to narrower dimensions. You need to do that in stages if you want it to be straight at final dimensions.

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

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