Air Drying Wood Slabs

Duration: 6:05

Logs are cut and converted to lumber while the log is still wet, commonly referred to as green, and the material needs to be dried before it can be used in your shop. Air drying wood slabs is a really low tech way to dry lumber.

Prep

Before stacking the green wood paint the end grain to seal it. End grain is very porous and, if it hasn’t been sealed, moisture can escape from the end grain too quickly, causing the wood to crack. You can use left over latex paint or end grain sealer for this.

Moisture content

MC (moisture content) is expressed as a percentage. 30% MC (not at all unlikely for a freshly cut log) means 30% of the log’s weight is made up of water, 70% is made up of wood. Air drying typically brings MC down to 12-14%. Final moisture content shouldn’t be guessed at. If you’re going to dry wood, you really need to own a moisture meter.

Making the stack

Air needs to be able to flow over each board and throughout the stack. Use stickers to provide space between each layer so you have good airflow. Some woods, like maple, are more susceptible to stains from stickers than others. The safest way to avoid staining is to make the stickers from the same material as you are air drying. Stickers should be spaced about every 16”, and should align with each other vertically to prevent sagging.

Timing

A rule of thumb for air drying wood slabs is to allow one year per inch of thickness. Some environments may demand more time. Use a moisture meter to check the material.

Check out this great article for more insight on air drying wood.

Discussion
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10 Responses to “Air Drying Wood Slabs”
  1. zenforme
    zenforme

    Would you do anything different if you were trying a soft wood like Western red cedar or ponderosa pine?

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello Tino,
      Here’s what the experts had to say about your question:

      No, the process would be the same.

      Sincerely,
      Paul
      Wood Workers Guild of America Expert

      Reply
  2. Mark Ellis
    Mark Ellis

    How long do you have between the time the slab is sliced, to stacking it up for drying? I’m assuming, as quick as possible, but what if it’s in a area where you can’t retrieve it all or some other reason for not being able to stack it immediately.

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello Mark,

      Here’s what the experts had to say about your question:
      Well, the sooner the better of course, but better late than never. Once you slice it, it starts to dry quickly if it has exposure to air, and it can move/crack during the first few weeks after it’s cut if the ends aren’t sealed. So, I would stack it as soon as you can.

      Sincerely,
      Paul
      Wood Workers Guild of America Expert

      Reply
  3. Dave Ussell
    Dave Ussell

    Although it may seem obvious to many it won’t be to all and that is one minor oversight in the video. You did it but you didn’t say to make sure the ratchet straps are aligned with the stickers.
    Dave out

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello Dave,

      Thank you for your feedback. I have forwarded your comment to the proper department. We value your opinion, and it will help with the development of our online streaming community. We will continue to listen and work hard for your complete satisfaction.

      Sincerely,
      Danesha
      Wood Workers Guild of America Video Membership

      Reply
  4. Nat Hargrove
    Nat Hargrove

    Truly enjoy your tips and tutorials. I always gain something new or I’m reminded. I have currently purchased a WoodMizer portable Saw Mill so I have been studying up on the drying process. Grey info on the process but I really had to laugh out loud when you were describing stickers made from plywood, ” how much does plywood cost anyway?” ! Well let me tell ya…. Thanks again for the info you guys put out there !!

    Reply
  5. Blake Dozier
    Blake Dozier

    I understand what you meant about the cost of using plywood for the stickers but, have you checked the prices of plywood lately? Good article. I had not thought about using the offcut scrap as stickers of even the ratchet straps for the needed pressure.

    Reply
  6. CARL
    CARL

    Would it be better to maybe put stickers under the straps to prevent bleeding?

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello Carl,
      Here’s what the experts had to say about your question:
      It wouldn’t hurt anything to do that.

      Sincerely,
      Paul
      Wood Workers Guild of America Expert

      Reply