Air-dried lumber tips
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Wood Magazine

Air-dried lumber tips

Your editorial on air-dried lumber (issue 156, page 8) pointed out the positives about air-dried lumber. I'd like to add my thoughts...

Your editorial on air-dried lumber (issue 156, page 8) pointed out the positives about air-dried lumber. I'd like to add my thoughts on risks involved with this wood.

  • Stability: Modern heating and cooling systems make indoor humidity very low year round in many buildings. Kiln drying to an equilibrium moisture content below that which the wood will experience in later uses greatly reduces the tendency to "explode," as you described. To ensure that the wood remains stable, you should stack and sticker it where it will be used.
  • Disease and insects: Wood is full of them, but they get killed off by the high temperatures used in kiln-drying. If disease and insects invade your house, they can spread to other wooden pieces.

Even with these risks, I am fond of using wood that I have cut myself or someone has given to me. If you don't have space or time to air-dry your wood, or you are worried about the risks I mentioned, seek out a small sawmill or kiln operation that accepts wood from amateurs for drying.

-- David Gibson, Kittery Point, Maine

I enjoyed reading Bill Krier's insights on air-dried wood (issue 156, page 8). For years I've purchased undried red oak from a mill and dried it in my basement. I aid the process only by painting the ends to minimize checking and running a dehumidifier near the stack.

Because I don't have a moisture meter, I use a bathroom scale to determine when the wood has reached equilibrium moisture content (EMC) and is ready to use. To do this, I mark and weigh one of the largest pieces in the stack. Then I recheck and record its weight regularly over the next few months. When the weight stabilizes, I know the boards have reached EMC.

-- Frank Nye, Hackensack, Minn.

Over the years I've stacked a lot of wood for air-drying at my family's lumber business. I'd like to add my insights to your comments in the June/July issue.

  • Coat the ends of the boards with paint or wax to reduce checking.
  • Make all the stickers the same size (roughly 1" square), and space them evenly, right up to the ends of the boards.
  • When drying outside, cover the stack with builder's felt. It keeps water off boards that are too long to fit under a sheet of plywood.



Wood Magazine