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Thread: My lumber buying mistake

  1. #1
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    My lumber buying mistake

    I made the mistake of bidding in an online auction of surplus lumber from a sawmill in Linwood NY. I got 320 board feet of what was supposed to be air dried soft maple lumber for about $1.60 a board foot plus tax, so that seemed good. I need to make cabinets, bookshelves, trim boards etc for a house I bought which I am planning to move into in the late spring or early summer.

    I paid online, and when I drove out to get the wood I found that while the bundle looked good on the outside it was moldy on the inside and about as wet as if it had just come off the mill. The seller/sawmiller told me he takes the wood right off the mill and stacks it up with 1/4" thick stickers between the layers and bands it together. He said he had cut it 6 weeks ago, and that it had been very wet since then so it wasn't his fault that it was not dry. I told him I thought it was unethical to represent this wood as being air dried, but I took it home with me since I had already paid and there is no recourse in an auction, of course.

    I will be able to use it eventually, but I don't know how long it will take to get it dry enough to work with. I put in inside, stickered with real stickers that are 1" thick like they are supposed to be, and am blowing a fan through the pile on low to keep the air moving. It's pretty dry in here and getting drier so I'm hoping by February I may be able to get to work on this wood.

    It was my fault that I didn't call the seller and ask what the term 'air dried' means to him. I would strongly advise against buying lumber from this person, he has been sawing for a long time and should know better than to do what he's doing. i am posting this as a cautionary tale, don't buy lumber sight unseen unless it's from a very reputable and well known source.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zachary Hoyt View Post
    I made the mistake of bidding in an online auction of surplus lumber from a sawmill in Linwood NY. I got 320 board feet of what was supposed to be air dried soft maple lumber for about $1.60 a board foot plus tax, so that seemed good. I need to make cabinets, bookshelves, trim boards etc for a house I bought which I am planning to move into in the late spring or early summer.

    I paid online, and when I drove out to get the wood I found that while the bundle looked good on the outside it was moldy on the inside and about as wet as if it had just come off the mill. The seller/sawmiller told me he takes the wood right off the mill and stacks it up with 1/4" thick stickers between the layers and bands it together. He said he had cut it 6 weeks ago, and that it had been very wet since then so it wasn't his fault that it was not dry. I told him I thought it was unethical to represent this wood as being air dried, but I took it home with me since I had already paid and there is no recourse in an auction, of course.

    I will be able to use it eventually, but I don't know how long it will take to get it dry enough to work with. I put in inside, stickered with real stickers that are 1" thick like they are supposed to be, and am blowing a fan through the pile on low to keep the air moving. It's pretty dry in here and getting drier so I'm hoping by February I may be able to get to work on this wood.

    It was my fault that I didn't call the seller and ask what the term 'air dried' means to him. I would strongly advise against buying lumber from this person, he has been sawing for a long time and should know better than to do what he's doing. i am posting this as a cautionary tale, don't buy lumber sight unseen unless it's from a very reputable and well known source.

    1 year per inch, so if it's cut 4/4 you will use it in 46 weeks from now. The first bunch of months if you can stick / stack it outside under cover so it won't get re-wet it will dry a bit faster, esp in winter with dry air and a breeze. However i've dried some wood indoors and you don't need a fan on it really. If you fan it and dry it to fast it will warm / crack etc. BTW, I use 1/2" sticks all the time for stacking, it's plenty. 1/4 however is small unless they are small boards.

    Don't forget to treat the ends of the boards (house paint works just fine) to prevent cracking.

  3. #3
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    1 year per inch is not meaningful, it depends a lot on the circumstances. In the loft here I can get lumber as air dried as it gets in the NE US in a month or two in the summer, but in the winter it dries far more slowly. I'm running the fan for a few days to try to get the mold/surface moisture dried out of the middle of the stack, but then I'll just let it sit for a while without the fan and see what happens.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zachary Hoyt View Post
    1 year per inch is not meaningful, it depends a lot on the circumstances. In the loft here I can get lumber as air dried as it gets in the NE US in a month or two in the summer, but in the winter it dries far more slowly. I'm running the fan for a few days to try to get the mold/surface moisture dried out of the middle of the stack, but then I'll just let it sit for a while without the fan and see what happens.
    Ok, well you know your conditions where you are at, and if you are storing in a loft, in summer, it's more like the wood is in a kiln if it's 115 degrees up there. I am air-drying wood all the time for about 15 or so years now. I buy wood from local sawyers and stick/stack it and it's ready in a year, sometimes 1.5 to 2 if it's a slab. I use a moisture meter to be sure.

  5. #5
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    Here's a link to a thread on WoodWeb that includes a comment from Dr. Wenger about air drying times:
    https://www.woodweb.com/knowledge_ba...ck_Lumber.html

    The wood is in a heated space, with current RH at about 40%, so I am hoping it won't dry too fast and crack. Being soft maple I think there's a better chance of avoiding damage than with some other woods, but I'm not sure. I usually let the wood air dry more slowly in the unheated loft, and then bring it in to acclimate, but time is not on my side now.
    Last edited by Zachary Hoyt; 11-18-2021 at 1:55 PM.

  6. #6
    1 year per inch is a wives tale. Stickered inch lumber will effectively lose all its going to lose in 4-6 mos. It may pull down a half percent or percent more with long term stickering but without heat pretty much nada. The year per inch only pertains to thick material slow drying.

    Your stickered pile with a fan will likely be even faster than 4-6.. If your worried about drying it too fast cover the pile with plastic and you'll stall the drying.
    Last edited by Mark Bolton; 11-18-2021 at 2:15 PM.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Zachary Hoyt View Post
    Here's a link to a thread on WoodWeb that includes a comment from Dr. Wenger about air drying times:
    https://www.woodweb.com/knowledge_ba...ck_Lumber.html

    Keep in mind that Gene's comments are most often related directly to commercial operations. i.e. air drying your material for more than 60 days before going into the kiln is #1 wasting time ($$) and increasing your exposure to degrade. That doesnt necessarily mean that the wood is saleable "air dried" lumber in 60 days. In the piles Ive stacked off the sawmill in average weather, covered outside with dunnage roof tin (so still seeing dew, damp, wind blown rain, which helps slow drying) 4-6 months is way past its max air dry MC. After that its either got to go into the kiln, barn attic, whatever to go any further. The 1 year per inch has never held true for anything other than large thick slabs/timbers and those you often have to slow down heavily (plastic).

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zachary Hoyt View Post
    Here's a link to a thread on WoodWeb that includes a comment from Dr. Wenger about air drying times:
    https://www.woodweb.com/knowledge_ba...ck_Lumber.html

    The wood is in a heated space, with current RH at about 40%, so I am hoping it won't dry too fast and crack. Being soft maple I think there's a better chance of avoiding damage than with some other woods, but I'm not sure. I usually let the wood air dry more slowly in the unheated loft, and then bring it in to acclimate, but time is not on my side now.
    40% RH with lumber that's above FSP is too low; there's a high risk of degrade. I use EBAC's drying schedules for drying lumber. For soft maple you don't use 40% RH until the MC is below 15%. At FSP (29% MC) the specified RH is 75%.

    There's no point in painting the ends after 3 days of the wood being cut to length, whether log or lumber.

    I would put a plastic tent around your stack with a dehumidifier, fan and heater, and follow EBAC's drying schedule with regards to MC vs. RH. If you add insulation you'll be able to follow EBAC's temp. schedule, too, at least partially, and that will accelerate the drying. In the end, RH is key to avoiding drying problems. I dry AD wood in a foam and fiberglass insulation box that's in my unheated shed with nothing more than a fan and 1500 W heater. AD wood will dry in 2 to 3 weeks for less than $50 for 500 BF. You don't need to exceed 110F but it's possible to go to 140F if there's a need to sterilize the wood. With wood at 25% it takes about a month for 4/4 and 6 weeks for 8/4, depending upon the species.

    John

  9. #9
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    I would not have moved it inside, nor would I have put a fan on it. If the center boards are dead wet, you're going to dry it too quickly and get some nasty checking. Humidity is very low in the winter and you can't rush the wood when really wet. Soft maple dries easily, but also attracts powder post beetles. If you have them in your region, get that lumber sprayed with a Borax based preventative insecticide, PDQ. Something like Tim-Bor or Bora Care. Hopefully they haven't moved in already. Then I'd find a mill with a kiln. You do have the creative option of leaving it tight packed and making spalted soft maple too.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Bolton View Post
    1 year per inch is a wives tale. Stickered inch lumber will effectively lose all its going to lose in 4-6 mos. It may pull down a half percent or percent more with long term stickering but without heat pretty much nada. The year per inch only pertains to thick material slow drying.

    Your stickered pile with a fan will likely be even faster than 4-6.. If your worried about drying it too fast cover the pile with plastic and you'll stall the drying.
    I had several thousand bdft of walnut sawn last year, and the 5/4 was down to 11%+/- in 5-6 months. The 8/4 was at that point before 18 months. I havent tested the 12/4 yet, but i wouldnt be the least bit surprised if its ready to sit in a conditioned shop to drop another 1-2% in a couple months. Wood exposed outside to a breeze will dry a lot faster than i expected.

  11. #11
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    I guess I am conducting an unintentional experiment here, and at worst I can burn the wood in the boiler if I ruin it. I'd like to someday make a drying setup like John TenEyck describes, but since I'm moving to much smaller quarters in 6 months or so I don't think I want to try to do it now. PPBs are something I have never seen here, I think they are more common a bit further south and west from what I have heard. We do have bugs in wood but they are only active when the wood is wet and leave or die when it dries out, from my experience. Thank you all very much for your advice.

  12. #12
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    Bummer on how that seller represented wet wood as "air dried"...and their excuse about wet weather and only 6 weeks since cutting is major bogus.

    You might want to reconsider having it stacked inside. Air drying is best outside where prevailing winds wick away the moisture from the stack and there's no need for electricity to run the fan. A simple rain/snow cover on top is all you need; otherwise the stack is open to the air so the wind can do its thing.

    Ironically...I had several logs milled up today at the old property and I brought it back to the new property, stacked and stickered it. I. Am. Beat!

    IMG_0399.jpg
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  13. #13
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    I've seen no mention of a moisture meter in this discussion. I've heard even the inexpensive pin type meters work pretty well. I doubt the inexpensive ones are are as accurate as the more expensive ones but if they're repeatable, tracking the moisture % over time has value as well. Once a 'new' board is the same moisture as wood that has been in the same space for a year or more the 'new' board isn't going to get drier. As far as 'finished' moisture, I've had wood in a heated basement test 6% to 7% in late February or early March. I do have a dehumidifier for summertime use but that same board that was 6% in late February will be 10% or more by late summer depending on where I set the dehumidifier. Before we got the dehumidifier summer moisture content in a fairly dry basement would run 12%.

  14. #14
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    I normally stack lumber in the loft of the sawmill building which is very well ventilated, but over the winter it dries pretty slowly out there. I haven't had to stack hardwood lumber outside since we built that building in 2008. I am hoping to hurry this wood along a bit, as I would not expect it to be ready to use till June if I left it in the loft. Maybe I will ruin it by drying too quickly, but I hope not. I have a very old Delmhorst analog moisture meter but it has not been calibrated in the 10 years I have had it, and for who knows how long before that, so I don't know how helpful it would be. My plan is to wait a couple of months and then cut off a 2 foot piece and weigh it, and put it in the boiler room for a couple of weeks, weighing it every few days. If it loses more weight I'll know it wasn't dry yet, but if it stays pretty close to the same I'll be ready to try working with the maple then. The boiler room is hotter and drier than the rest of the heated building.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Curt Harms View Post
    I've seen no mention of a moisture meter in this discussion..
    post #4 i mentioned use of a moisture meter. I really is the best way to make sure the wood is ready for use. I see no point in being inpatient, spent a lot of time building something only to have the wood not be ready for use.

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