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Thread: Newbie question on air drying wood.

  1. #1

    Newbie question on air drying wood.

    I have been lurking for a while now and finally joined. I am a huge diyr and decided to cut some post oak trees down last year to make some oak lumber. Its cut about 1 1/8-1 1/4 thick and random widths. Its now reading 11% on average. Some of the boards are warped, cupped etc. Boards with knots are the worst. My question is.... at what point does the wood quit moving and shrinking dramatically? I would like to go ahead and plane and cut it to closer finished dimensions in hopes of drying a bit more and getting an idea of useable wood.

    Plans are to to make some rustic cabinets out of it. Living in South Texas our humidity is quite high and really do t know if its going to get much drier without having it finished in a kiln.

    Any thoughts on this?

  2. #2
    It will not get any drier than that if air dried outside under cover. You could skip plane the boards and sticker them inside a climate controlled space and let them acclimate for 6 - 8 weeks, then you should be good to go. The only downside to this is without heat from a kiln on a sterilization cycle, there could be some beetle larvae or eggs in the boards like powderpost beetles that would emerge from the wood later after you have made your project. Powderpost beetles love ring porous hardwoods like the oaks.

  3. #3
    Charles, wood stops moving when its totally acclimated, regardless of the MC. What you're seeing in your lumber there is the stresses slowly being released as the lumber dries. Don't worry about it, this is what you want.

    I'll tell you what works for me.

    I also live in a humid climate and I have a lot of lumber in air dry sheds as well as in storage inside my shop.

    My thinking is we don't live in AZ or CO so 6 or 8% MC is not achievable without a kiln, and the problem then is that in our climate, kiln dried lumber will take on moisture anyway (the reverse will be true the core is drier than the outside) This is why I don't really care for KD lumber. All I focus on is getting material acclimated to the environment its in.

    The key is to think months ahead. I move the wood from the outside shed to inside my shop (not air conditioned, but drier in sense my shop is a stable environment not subjected to huge humidity swings like outside).

    Once my lumber is selected, cut to length and skip planed, I move everything to a climate controlled room in my shop where it will stay during the project build. This is just an air conditioned space plus a dehumdifier which I run during the summer months.

    I leave it in stickers for at least a month/inch of thickeness before milling further. I do not own a moisture meter and I don't worry about MC. As I start milling and ripping to wide, I pay attention to what the lumber is doing and I may slow the process down (ie rather than remilling every couple days, I might wait a week.

    So that's the way I do it. A moisture meter might help me, but I'm not concerned about MC just whether the wood is acclimated or not. I used to have issues all the time building projects in my shop then moving inside the house, but this method has worked quite well for me.

    Not meaning to be longwinded but what you're talking about is so important because trouble with unacclimated wood will follow you all the way through a project, especially with things like doors.

    My suggestion is to start going through the lumber and cutting to to eliminate the knotty or really twisted areas etc. Skip plane everything so you can see the grain pattern & begin your wood selection. Make sure you've got at least 20% more lumber than you need.

    Once you've got everything cut to length, sticker everything inside your shop and leave it alone for a few weeks, then see what you've got try to figure the most efficient use. For example, cupped boards can be ripped for narrow pieces, bowed boards used for shorter pieces, etc. I label the boards on the end grain to keep it all organized.

    Joint everything and lightly plane, resticker and move to a climate controlled room if at all possible. If this means moving the wood inside your house, do it and ask for forgiveness later ;-).

    Good luck hope this helps.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    E TN, near Knoxville
    If you search with google for average emc for areas in us you should find a PDF on named

    Equilibrium Moisture
    Content of Wood in
    Outdoor Locations
    in the United States
    and Worldwide

    The table for areas in Texas from '98, probably not much different now unless climate change or local conditions cause a difference.

    Are you reading the moisture on the surface with a pin meter? If so, the moisture inside may not be the same. The "oven dry" method of measuring moisture is very accurate.

    To get it dryer than outside EMC without a kiln will require moving it to a dryer place such as an air-conditioned or dehumidified space (or to another climate!)


  5. #5
    Thanks gentlemen for the valuable information. Looks like I have some work to do.

    I measured with a pin meter after taking some small pieces (12"x24") and planning it to 3/4" so I think its an accurate measurement.

    There is some really nice figure in some of it.
    Last edited by Charles Mathews; 07-14-2018 at 12:30 AM. Reason: add pics

  6. #6
    Just for grins I milled a couple pieces and made some raised panel doors. This is my first experience using this type of wood and even making RP doors.

  7. #7
    Love it! Very beautiful.

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