How To Dry Wood Fast For Woodworking

How To Dry Wood Fast For Woodworking

So, you’ve chopped your own lumber for your next woodworking venture leaving you with a stack of undesirable green wood, or you bought some wet wood riddled with moisture that is in dire need of drying.

Either way, it’s too wet to work with, and you definitely need this wood dry fast before you can start anything. 

Here we’ll cover the exact steps necessary to test and remove moisture from lumber for your next woodworking or furniture-making project.

These essential wood drying tips will greatly assist with the correct drying process, fast! 

Do You Have to Dry Wood Before Building With It?

While it is technically possible to build with green lumber, it isn’t recommended as wood rapidly absorbs moisture and loses it slowly.

Some of the results you can expect when attempting to build and assemble woodworking projects with wet lumber are warped materials and unsightly cracked joints.

If you’ve taken the time to acquire this lumber yourself or even purchased green lumber for a new project, you should undoubtedly consider drying the lumber an essential part of your woodworking project.

You will need to measure the moisture content of your lumber before commencing any work. Using a moisture meter, you should be aiming to attain the following moisture levels:

  • Exterior wood: An acceptable moisture content level ranges between 9% to 14%
  • Interior wood: An acceptable moisture content level ranges between 6% to 8%

Near enough is not good enough here and especially so if you’re using the wood for furniture making. Note that different types of wood vary in terms of density; ie, softwood vs hardwood.

So when measuring the moisture content of a piece of lumber, you have to adjust your meter to the type of wood you’re working with.

How Long Does It Take For Lumber To Dry?

To correctly determine the drying time for any piece of lumber, the following factors will have to be considered:

  • The type of wood in regards to thickness and density
  • The drying method you will be using to dry the wood

One of the more popular methods but without a doubt, the most time-consuming is air drying wood. While environmental factors come into play, you will be looking at anywhere between 3-12 months to air dry lumber.

Air drying lumber is more suitable for lumber that will be utilized for outdoor applications as unless you’re attempting to dry said lumber in Arizona, the typical reduction in moisture content will be around 12% – 18% when it comes to air-drying wet wood.

Drying Wood Indoors vs Outdoors

Although, if you’re air-drying lumber indoors with some climate control measures, you can seed the process up drastically. Making use of a garage heater, a dehumidifier, and a large volume fan in your garage or backyard shed would reduce the drying time by up to 60%.

One of the fastest whys to dry lumber is by kiln drying wood and the results in terms of drying time will largely depend on the density of the lumber. But typically, a piece of wood 2 inches thick will take around 20 hours to dry using a high-temperature kiln.

Although kiln drying wood is very quick and involves way less preparation than dry-drying lumber, it’s nowhere near as fast as drying wood with industrial an microwave system.

Microware drying lumber to the ideal moisture content level for woodworking of 8%, takes days via industrial microwave. Compare that will kiln drying, and it will take around a month to get to the same moisture content level.

How Long Does It Take For Lumber To Dry
Image: Industrial Microwave Systems

Why You Must Dry Wood Before Building With It

Whether you’re building a new set of floating wood shelves with the fresh lumber, you’ve obtained, or you’re simply going to cut boards of lumber to construct a new porch, adequately dry wood will most definitely be required.

You want to dry the lumber effectively you’re planning on using as you’ll be dealing with a decent degree of shrinkage once the wood does finally dry.

Depending on the thickness of your lumber, there are a variety of options to ponder when deciding the best course of action.

While you’ll be limited with some lumber drying methods regarding the thickness of the boards or logs you’ve cut, there are feasible alternatives no matter the thickness or length of the lumber you’re planning on utilizing. 

Do You Have To Dry Wood Before Building With It

How To Dry Wood Fast For Woodworking

Alright, so we’ll be talking about some speed drying tips apart from the standard air-dry method, and we’ll also discuss some techniques here today to rapidly reduce wood moisture.

Still, we do feel that it is important to teach you how to dry wood for woodworking the good old way, the time-tested air dry method that is proven to dry lumber effectively.

Now, this might not be the fastest method of all wood drying techniques out there right now, but it’s not slow either.

If you do this the right way, it should only take a few weeks or a couple of months for your wood to dry enough so it can be used for any woodworking project. Let’s get right to it and find out how most people successfully dry their wood for woodworking.

How To Dry Wood Fast For Woodworking
Image: Sean Evelegh

Step-By-Step Drying Process  to Drying Wood Fast

Step 1: Test (MC) Moisture Content

The first thing that you will want to do here is to purchase yourself a stock wood moisture meter. A wood moisture meter is a little tool used to determine the moisture content of the wood. They feature two metal probes that you touch against the wood, and through the magic of science, it will tell you what the moisture content is.

You will want to use this moisture meter to test the moisture content in the wood. Now, for most woodworking projects, the maximum acceptable moisture content is 7%. If the wood has a higher moisture content than that, you know that it needs to be dried.

Step 2: Prep The Stack

Now that you know that your wood needs to be dried, you want to lay out a row of stickers on the ground. These are nothing more than pieces of wood that are already dry, such as some old 2 x 4’s. Lay them out evenly with about 16 inches of space in between each of these stickers.

This will provide you with an elevated base, so that air can get to the wood from the ground, and so that moisture from the ground does not make the wood you are looking to dry even wetter. Make sure to get enough stickers to support all of the wood you want to dry.

Step 3 : Lay Your Lumber

Take the boards you want to dry and start stacking them on the stickers, starting with the first layer, of course. Make sure that the wood you are drying is laying perpendicular to the stickers, and make sure to leave about an inch of space in between each piece of wood.

This method will vastly increase the airflow to each piece of wood. The more airflow through the stack of wood, the faster it will dry.

Step 4 : Increase Airflow

Now that you have made the first layer, you will need to add another layer of stickers. Remember, the wooden pieces you are drying cannot be stacked directly on top of each other, because this way, no air will get to them.

You need to alternate between layers of stickers spaced 16 inches apart with segments of the drying wood perpendicular to the stickers at 1 inch apart. Sticker, wood, sticker, wood, and so on and so forth. You need this airflow for air-drying, or you’re your wood might never dry properly.

Step 5: Weigh Down The Stack

One vital thing that you need to do when you have finished creating your stack is to weigh your lumber down, and if you have it outdoors, protect it from the rain. This usually involves getting a piece of plywood big enough to cover the whole top of the stack, laying that plywood on the pile, and then weighing it down with cinderblocks or bricks, lots of them to create pressure.

Wood will warp as it dries, and this is definitely no good for woodworking projects, so you need to weigh it down sufficiently so it cannot warp as it is drying to prevent future defects. A piece of plywood like this will also help keep the rain away if you have the stack outdoors.

Pro Tip to Speed up the Wood Drying Process

If you have done this right and followed all of the steps, your wood should dry reasonably fast. Do keep in mind that the drier and warmer the air is, the quicker this process will go helping reduce your drying time.

To air dry any lumber, whether you’re attempting to air dry firewood logs or larger stacks of wood for a future project, you need to practice a degree of patience. 

But if you follow the tips we’ve highlighted in this guide, that stack of lumber you’re relying on for your future project will be perfectly dry in a reasonable time frame.

One way to take advantage of the time delay with air-drying lumber is to air dry a bit more wood than you need, and spend the interim planning and designing another project. Because if you love woodworking as much as we do, there’s anyways another project you’re considering.

Essential Tips For Drying Wet Wood Fast

Let’s now go over some other tips on how you can speed up the process of drying wood for woodworking. These methods for drying wood have stood the test of time because they are not only highly effective, but are also extremely efficient when looking to dry wood fast. 

Tips For Drying Wood Fast
Image: Raw Heartwood

Air Dry Wood Indoors If Possible

Alright, so in many places it’s going to be really humid, it might rain, and the point here is just mother nature can be quite temperamental. So, if you have to, outdoors will work fine, but indoors, such as in a dry garage, will work even better.

This is especially true if you have your heating system located in the garage, as that will help generate dry heat. Now if that’s not a reality and you’re keen on fast-tracking the heating process, a good quality garage heater will work wonders. 

Even the heat from your home, if connected to the garage, will help speed up the drying process. At the very least, having your drying stack indoors will help keep it out of the rain.

Tips on How to Dry Wood Fast Outside

If you have no other choice but to dry your wood outdoors, you do want to choose a good place to do it. Now, the sun is a big bonus when it comes to drying wood. Your wood will dry many times faster if it is exposed to lots of sunlight every day.

So, if possible, have the drying stack in the sun. It also helps if you have it exposed somewhere that it is extremely windy.

The more sun and wind can get to the drying stack, the faster this process will go. However, you do want to be careful with this, because if you live somewhere it rains a lot, having your wood in an exposed area will actually slow the process down.

So, if you are expecting lots of rain, keep it somewhere covered where it won’t get rained on. Now if that’s not possible, at the very least, you should make use of a heavy-duty waterproof trap to protect your lumber from potential rain.  

Image: The Dee Mill

Preventing Wood From Warping and Distortion

Wood will warp as it dries, regardless of the air-drying process. This is definitely no good for woodworking projects, so you need to weigh it down sufficiently so it cannot warp as it is drying to prevent future defects.

As previously mentioned, weighing down your wood stack during the heat treatment process is important.

Making use of both concrete blocks (depending on the lumber thickness) and utilizing a tarp will not only help dry lumber fast but will also prevent wood warping and distortion.

Use A Dehumidifier & Fan for Air Drying Lumber

If you really want to speed this process up, you might want to try using a good old dehumidifier. Of course, this only works if you are drying your wood indoors, but if you are, then the dehumidifier is a great way to go.

All you need to do is set up a decent dehumidifier beside the stack of wood to be dried, let it run, and it will suck the moisture right out of the wood. This can speed up the drying time from months or weeks to just a few days. Even better is if you add an air fan into the mix to produce some extra airflow.

Utilizing both a dehumidifier and a high-volume fan for air-drying your wood is something to ponder if you need your wood dry fast.

If you don’t have the time to use a standard wood drying method like air-drying due to time constraints with project deadlines, this is a brilliant option to consider for season wood.

Kiln Drying Wood

If you happen to have access to a kiln, and the pieces of wood you want to dry are not too large, by all means, go ahead, and the kiln dries it.

You’ll go from having wet to dry wood in a couple of hours completely. Kiln-dried wood is a drying process that is far more efficient than air-drying lumber as you can control both the temperature and humidity, while even regulating steam levels.

If you don’t have access to a wood drying kiln, but you’ve got cash to splash, a quick Google search for “kiln drying wood near me” should point you in the right direction and greatly reduce the drying time of your wood.

Although keep in mind, that when it comes to wood drying with a kiln, there are limits in terms of the length of your lumber that restricts using kiln drying.

Kiln Drying Wood
Image: Wayland Constructive

Microwave Wood Drying

Now, unless you have access to an industrial wood drying microwave like the MAX Microwave Dryer, this process is really only suitable for smaller pieces of wood.

Ideally, for smaller bits of wood, you would bypass the high-priced industrial microwave, and go with whatever would fit into a standard type microwave.

While this method of wood drying is very effective in producing the desired result in quickly removing water content from wood, you’ll need to air on the side of caution while using this wood drying technique.

When using this wood drying method, you should take extra care as nuking the wood for too long will scorch it to its core, destroying your wood. You should pay special attention to the amount of time you microwave the wood with 2 mins at 1.5-inch thickness being an ideal time frame for microwaving a piece of wood.

While this option is great for drying wood faster, it’s only useful for smaller bits of cut wood.

Then again, if you’re budget is on the larger side, and you’re working with green wood or logs cut with a higher than the average water level, you could go with the industrial option as it is ten times faster than kiln drying wood.  

Use a Moisture Meter

Using a moisture meter is highly recommended to effectively test the moisture levels of wood pieces, and taking these measurements should be taken throughout the process.

While you could just nuke wood at lower interval levels using the microwave method, gambling with such high heat temperatures can cause drying defects, fast!

In other words, I’d go the conservative route and not the experimental procedure route as cutting corners and not determining the moisture contents will ruin your fine furniture before it even starts.

Making use of a moisture meter will help you establish your drying time, prevent rot, and identify potential mold growth. 

Best Digital Moisture Meter
Digital Moisture Meter For Wood Digital Moisture Meter for Wood
  • Accurately locate excessive moisture content within wooden materials including floors and walls with this moisture meters 2 pin precision system.

  • With 8 calibration scales, you can easily assess any piece of lumber before cracks, splits, warping becomes a problem in everything from walnut to pine.

  • Select from two different measuring modes to precisely assess the %MC (Moisture Content) and the potential moisture level growth.

  • With its bright LED display, strong stainless steel pins, automatic shutdown, and memory function, this is the best budget moisture meter available.

In Conclusion

There you have it, folks, some solid tips, and methods for drying wood fast for woodworking. Just remember, whatever you do, make sure the wood has no more than 8% moisture content.

Again, it is crucial that you determine the moisture content by correctly using a moisture meter if you want your DIY woodworking project to succeed.

Once you do reach this wood moisture level, your wood is ready to work with, and you can now produce beautiful wood crafts without any potential defects due to unwanted water content in your wood.

So now that you’ve successfully learned how to remove moisture from lumber for your next woodworking project, you’ll be able to confidently fire up the miter saw or break out the wood router to bring your brilliant woodworking designs to life.