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 dry your lumber before you can start anything. Here we'll cover exactly what's necessary to remove moisture from lumber for your next creative woodworking project, with some essential tips to greatly assist with the drying process.
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.
Whether you're building a new DIY woodworking bench 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.
How To Dry Wood For Woodworking
Alright, so we'll be talking about some speed drying tips apart from 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 on the stickers, and make sure to leave about an inch of space in between each piece of wood. This method will increase the airflow to each piece of wood. The more airflow through the stack of wood, the faster it will dry.
- 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.
- One vital thing that you need to do when you have finished creating your stack is to weigh it 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.
- 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 logs or larger stacks of wood, 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.
Tips For Drying 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 effective, but highly efficient when looking to dry wood fast.
Do It 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.
If Outdoors – Choose A Dry, Windy, & Sunny Area
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.
Use A Dehumidifier & Fan
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 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 time constraints with project deadlines, this is a brilliant option to consider for season wood.
If you happen to have access a kiln, and the pieces of wood you want to dry are not too large, by all means, go ahead, and kiln dry 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, 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.
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 that would fit into a standard type microwave. While this method of wood drying is very effectual 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.
Using a moisture meter would be recommended by testing the moisture level content throughout the process and nuke the wood lower interval levels for extra care.
As this is an experimental procedure that delivers faster results than air-drying, 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 average water level, this could be a viable option as it is ten times faster than kiln drying wood.
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 less than 7% moisture contained in it.
Again, it is crucial that you determine the moisture content by correctly using a moisture meter. 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.