The best time to use your wood is when it’s completely dry. The drying process is usually long and requires patience for you to get the best results. The easiest and most affordable way to dry your wood is through air drying. There are also other ways you can dry your wood faster that we shall explain in this article. In this article, we look at how to dry wood. Below are some tips to ensure your wood dries fast.
As we have said earlier, wood drying takes a long time. This means that you need to cut your wood early, like at the beginning of summer. This provides ample time to dry.
Cut the Right Size
Splitting wood helps the wood dry faster as compared to when it is full. Additionally, splitting wood allows proper stacking and saving on space while providing more surface area for drying.
The Proper Place for Drying
The best place to dry your wood is outdoors, where there is sunshine and air movement. Don’t make a mistake of building a shed and placing your wood because you fear thieves or insects. It will take a longer time to dry that wood. Build a roof over your wood so as to allow free movement of air.
Stacking Your Wood Properly
Wood needs lots of space to dry. Start by stacking your wood off the ground. The ground increases the chances of insects and has lots of moisture that can be damaging to your wood. Don’t stack your wood close to each other. Again, your wood should not be against walls as there will be no aeration, which removes released moisture.
In this case, stack your wood starting with the heaviest while placing stickers in between the wood. It creates space for aeration. While you have come completely stacking adding weight to the stack will prevent warping and distortion of the wood when completely dry.
Get a moisture meter to measure the moisture content of your wood as it dries. This helps a woodworker know when the wood is ready for use while avoiding over-drying the wood.
There are effects expected when the wood dries. The good news is that there are ways to prevent them.
- Fungus is found anywhere damp. Wet wood is a good habitat for the growth of fungi. When fungi infect your wood, it leaves a stain on the wood that can be hectic to treat. Worst case scenario, if the wood is completely infected, then you will need to dispose of the wood. You can use natural oils such as linseed and apply it on your wood to avoid insects from affecting your wood.
- Then there is anisotropic shrinkage, which is the process by which wood shrinks and swells over time. As time goes, then the wood shrinks as it loses water and may cause the wood to warp, crack, case hardening, and honeycombing. Adding weight while stacking may reduce this problem. In addition, some people use strap clamps.
- Cracking at the edges of the wood is also another problem, and this is usually counteracted by painting latex paint on the edges. Edges lose more moisture than the rest of the wood, and hence painting the edges ensures the ends don’t lose moisture fast and crack.
Methods of Drying Wood
As the name suggests, it is basically letting it dry by air. The most critical part is the stacking. Stacking provides for maximum drying if conditions such as correct stacking, proper layout, and orientation are met. The lumber is to be stacked in a cool, dry, clean, and covered environment. The speed of drying depends on the location’s weather condition and consistent and uninterrupted air circulation or subjection to the wind.
Drying can be managed by covering the timber with mineral oil or other substances that limit the penetration of moisture. When dried, the ends of lumber become of better quality if covered with a thick coat of paint or oil in the process of drying. It is also essential to cover your timber with a material that provides for moisture movement. The wood, however, has to be oil or petrol coated beforehand for fungal infection treatment.
The process is cheap. It gives a color that is truer and is pretty easy. Air-dried wood is usually of high quality. It is also easy to work on as compared to kiln-dried wood.
It takes longer to dry wood if the climate is not friendly. The process may take months or even years. It is said that the ratio of drying is 1:1, meaning in a year, only one inch of thickness dries.
Kiln drying is an artificial way of drying wood. This means that wood is passed through a heat source to speed up the drying process. Some of the sources of heat include steam exchangers, electricity, solar and dehumidifiers. Kiln drying is achieved by stacking your wood in a room fitted with relative humidity and controlled atmospheric temperature and circulation. This enables woodworkers to overcome the variable weather conditions that may hinder the wood’s natural air drying. In addition, it also reduces the time that would be required to dry wood naturally. However, some considerations have to be taken before drying wood in a kiln and include;
- The species of the wood since different have different anatomical, physical, and mechanical properties that may affect the drying time of the wood.
- The thickness of the wood. The thicker the wood the longer the time is taken and vice versa.
- The sawing pattern used is also a factor in terms of shrinkage anisotropy.
- Each wood is used for a different purpose, and hence the intended purpose of the wood will determine how much drying the wood requires to be.
- The amount of allowed degradation. This is because the harsh conditions of the kiln can cause the wood to distort or cause irreversible cracks.
Using a Kitchen Microwave Oven
The method is more suitable for pieces of wood that small or medium-sized. Before we get down to all of it there are a few things to keep in mind.
- Heat pieces that have the same moisture content
- Lower microwave settings reduce the risk of fires.
- When touching hot wood, use gloves as protective gear
- Lower heat is more suitable for wood. Be patient.
For Smaller Pieces of Wood
Measure the weight of the wood. You can use pocket or electronic scales. Weigh the wood in grams. 0.99 grams is the most recommended accuracy. For better results, a scale with a 0.1% accuracy is the best.
Use a moisture meter in this step. The device helps you measure the wood moisture and assist in telling the woodworker how dry or wet the wood is.
Microwave the wood. Set the microwave on a low setting and ensure that it heats for 45 to 60 seconds. The target is 15 % – 25% moisture content.
Reheating using low settings. This step should take a maximum of 4 minutes. The target is 35% moisture content. You can go higher.
We recommend regular weighing when drying. The wood is weighed, up until the point where the moisture content is constant and the weight no longer falls.
Reheating. Keep heating and checking the weight of the wood until you get to a balance. That is a constant weight of wood and a stable moisture content.
For Medium-Sized Wood
Heat up the oven. The goal is 1030C. After, place two kitchen racks in the oven. One at the bottom containing a baking pan large in size. The second rack, place it in the middle to hold a thermometer at one of the ends.
Reach the goal of 1030C by constantly -but in small bits- changing the oven’s settings. Regularly check your thermometer at this stage every single 10 minutes.
Put the wood into the rack in the center. Have it sit there for at least one whole hour. At this time, keep checking every 10 minutes the temperature regularly as well. Also, keep changing the oven settings.
Reheating and monitoring the moisture content. When one hour has passed from step 3, get several pieces and measure their moisture content. Reheat the pieces in spans of 15 minutes. Do this until the moisture content is constant.
How Would You Know If Your Wood Is Dry?
Here are some tips:
- You can check the edges of the wood is they are completely dry and don’t have moisture.
- The weight of the wood is usually lighter.
- Some cracks are visible at the ends, but this is not the case for all wood.
- There is a hollow sound when you thump two blocks of wood together
- If you throw a small piece of the wood into the fire, it will easily catch fire
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to dry wood?
It can take up to 6 to 24 months depending on the size of the wood and your location. For example, when you are in places like the tropics in Africa where there are no seasons like winter and autumn, it is possible to completely dry your wood using air. in some places like the United States and Europe, where it snows, you might need to use other ways to speed up wood drying like using a kiln.
What is the quickest way to dry wood?
Using a dehumidifier or a kiln. The dehumidifier sucks the moisture out of the wood allowing it to dry within a shorter time.
Is microwaving wood recommended?
Yes, it is, but only for small-sized wood. Microwaving wood is a good way to reduce drying time. Furthermore, it doesn’t degrade the quality of the wood.
How can I dry wood without splitting?
Dip your piece of wood in a wood sealer solution without overflowing it. This helps wood from cracking and splitting especially on the ends.
Does dry wood get ruined by water?
Yes, it could if it stays damp. Mold grows within 48 hours, and thus your wood can get stained and ruin your wood. You need to ensure that there is no dampness on your wood as much as possible.
How can I tell if my wood is dry enough for woodwork?
Use a moisture meter to measure the moisture content of the wood. The higher the electric pulse the higher the moisture content.
How can I tell if my treated wood is dry?
Stain your wood with water droplets and see how fast the water will be absorbed. If the water pools, then, it means the wood needs more time to dry. But, if the water is absorbed in less than 10 minutes, you need to stain the wood as fast as possible because it’s dry.
What could happen if I don’t dry wood?
Making products with wet wood is not recommended. This is because as the wood continues to dry the wood may bend or crack creating a destabilized product.
Can I kiln dry wood at home?
For many woodworkers, this can be a great asset as they can dry wood faster and work on their furniture even more frequently, rather than wait for a whole year for the wood to be dry enough.
When it comes to wood drying care must be taken as different woods have different durations of drying. Before engaging in this process, it is good to do enough research and consult professionals because if care is not taken, your wood might not be of good use except being firewood.