Ask WWGOA: Drying Cut Wood

Question:

Simple question maybe. How is the best way to dry wood cut from trees? I have several around the farm here, ranging from Pecan to Oak. During fall we trim them up and think they would be a cheap supply. I have heard several ways using a coat of latex over the cut ends to using denatured alcohol. How you would use that I have not a clue. Any thoughts?

Submitted by Dave L.

Answer:

Wood can be air dried. To do that you should cut the log into planks as soon as you can after the tree is down. Seal the ends with latex paint to prevent moisture from escaping the end grain too quickly. Then stack the wood up using stickers as shown in this video.

If you want to keep the trimmed parts as branches, perhaps for bowl blanks, you should still seal the ends. It’s nearly impossible to get a log to dry without cracking, so they’re typically turned green (wet). You can use products like Pentacryl to stabilize the material. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. I’m not familiar with using denatured alcohol on green wood.

George


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Discussion
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17 Responses to “Ask WWGOA: Drying Cut Wood”
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Dear Frederick,

      Thank you for your patience. In response to your question-

      This is a judgment call, unfortunately. Found in the manufacturer’s FAQ:
      “Although Pentacryl is considered non-toxic, it is not registered as food grade. Therefore, we cannot endorse that it can be used on items intended for use with food”

      Paul
      Woodworkers Guild of America

      Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hey Max,

      Here’s a link to a video that you might find helpful.

      https://www.wwgoa.com/video/drying-wood-in-a-microwave-006540/

      Our expert, Paul has said this about the technique:

      I would not use this as a general drying technique as it is too aggressive. This product is a good choice for other woodworking projects, as it stabilizes and accelerates drying in a less aggressive way.
      http://amzn.to/2wXDj7e

      If you have any questions or concerns, please chat, email or call us at 1-855-253-0822.

      Happy Woodworking!
      Madeline
      Woodworkers Guild of America Video Membership

      Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      It depends on your area. Here in MN the equilibrium moisture content is 8-9%.

      Paul
      Woodworkers Guild of America

      Reply
  1. EDWARD
    EDWARD

    I am just starting to get into turning and got some large apple tree rounds that I want to process into bowl blanks. I sealed the ends with Anchorseal but don’t know if I should air dry the rounds and cut them into bowl blanks and air dry those. Also , if I cut them into bowl blanks, do I seal the whole blank or just the grain ends ?

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Apple is great for turning. Go ahead and turn it whenever you want to. You can cut your blanks now or later. Either way is fine. You can seal just the end grain if you plan to turn within a couple weeks. Otherwise seal the whole thing.

      Paul
      Woodworkers Guild of America

      Reply
  2. Lisa Curtis
    Lisa Curtis

    I carve wood. What is the best way to dry limbs? I don’t want planks. Do I paint or seal the cut ends?

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Yep, seal the ends to slow the drying process and minimize cracking.

      Paul
      Woodworkers Guild of America

      Reply
  3. Jim Naylor
    Jim Naylor

    Is there a rule of thumb for the time span you can expect to air dry lumber, before being used for projects?

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      The rule of thumb is one year per inch of thickness.

      Paul
      Woodworkers Guild of America

      Reply
  4. Charles Fetters
    Charles Fetters

    If you do not paint the end of a board that you are drying right away or coat it with something to preserve it…can this be done later to prevent the board from spliting or is it too late?

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      It has to be done pretty quickly. Immediately is best, but it’s worth trying at any point prior to the cracks appearing.

      Paul
      Woodworkers Guild of America

      Reply
  5. Bill Nettles
    Bill Nettles

    George;
    I had a friend cut down 8 Pecan trees. He delivered the logs to my home with the branches removed. I had a friend with a portable saw mill come 2 days later and cut them into lumber. I stacked them up with space between the boards for air circulation. When done I had a rather large pile of 6 to 8 inch wide boards 8 to 10 feet in length covered from the elements. I started using the boards after resting a little over 2 years. Before the logs were cut into boards, I used endgrain sealer, purchased from Woodcraft, on both ends of the logs. When I started using them. I found the moisture content was 9 to 11 percent which is what the ambient air content was. There was enough weight on top to keep the boards very flat during the drying process. But, I had no way of preventing the boards from curling. Sitting on their edge, some of the boards looked like arches. Some six years since this project of drying was undertaken, I have used all but 13 of the boards and have not had to discard any. I cannot think of any way to stop that type of warpage from happening.

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      I haven’t experienced this. I’m also not familiar with pecan wood to know whether it requires some special handling during cutting or drying. My only suggestion would be to add more weight during the drying process. From the sounds of it, you would need a lot more.

      Paul
      Woodworkers Guild of America

      Reply