Drying With a Microwave #1: Part 1 - A bit of a warning.

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Blog entry by Druid posted 02-26-2016 12:12 AM 1939 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Drying With a Microwave series Part 2: Like a Phoenix from the ashes. »

I have noticed several enquiries and comments on Lumberjocks regarding the use of a microwave oven for the purpose of drying green wood, so I want to pass along a description of a recent event that happened to someone I know. For this posting, I will refer to this person as “ABC” (A Bowl Carver), and I will let you assume that ABC is male.

As a bit of background, ABC was injured in an automobile accident, and as part of his rehabilitation process I am currently teaching him how to carve. Since ABC currently has no carving tools, he is working with a few that I have lent to him until we can source some of his own.
Following a review of various styles of carving, ABC decided that he would like to try a heart shaped bowl as his first carving. I provided a suitably sized cedar blank, and he wasted no time learning his basic techniques with the carving chisels. A few days later, I met with ABC again, and my expectation was that he would have made good progress on carving out the interior of the bowl, and that the next step would be to start on the exterior.
SURPRISE!!! ABC had almost completed the heart shaped bowl that he had decided to carve as his first project!!!
Unfortunately, as he was carving part of the bottom of the bowl, he cut through a thin area of the bottom. To correct this, he properly fitted a replacement plug of wood into the opening, and glued it in place. Then a friend of ABC dropped by and asked why he wasn’t working on his carving, so ABC explained that he was waiting for the glue to dry. His friend said he could get it to dry very quickly, and took the carving into the house. When he came back out, without the bowl, ABC asked what he had done, and was told that his friend had put the carving “into the microwave oven”.
At this point, ABC ran into the house and opened the microwave to find this in a cloud of smoke . . .

His carving had split apart, and started to char badly. ABC’s friend had only set the microwave for 45 seconds, but obviously this was too much. For his first carving, this was the end. So I asked ABC if he would mind if I posted this story as a warning to other wood carvers, to let them know what may happen when using a microwave oven to dry their wood or glue. He has graciously agreed, but of course this was not his fault, even though it was quite a learning experience.
Yes, it is possible to use a microwave safely for drying purposes, and since several Lumberjocks members have posted information on their successful experiences, I would suggest that a bit of research on our site would be well worth your time if you want to try this approach.

-- John, British Columbia, Canada

9 comments so far

View Roger's profile


21051 posts in 3817 days

#1 posted 02-26-2016 12:29 AM

I think this looks pretty cool. Glad it didn’t go up in flames. There are different settings on every microwave. When you put something in the wave and say, punch in so many seconds or minutes, then hit the start button, the wave is on high power at this point. You can adjust this “power level” beginning at the high which is usually 10, then all the way down to 1 probably. I use a midrange setting, usually 7 or 8 when warming a plate of food, lets say. By using a different level other than high/10, the food will warm slower, and be warmer all the way through, instead of burning hot on the edges and cold in the middle. Try it out some time, and experiment with the power settings and time. Maybe with wood, a midrange setting could work better… Just my thoughts.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View lew's profile


13317 posts in 4768 days

#2 posted 02-26-2016 12:33 AM

Another word of caution- DO NOT do this in the microwave when your wife is home!

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View GROOVY56's profile


51 posts in 2932 days

#3 posted 02-26-2016 01:17 AM

I attempted to steam a wood strip in microwave, by wrapping in wet paper towels. Got a new microwave for the kitchen and a rustic smelling one for the shop, threw out the piece of charcoal,,,

View kiefer's profile


5812 posts in 3680 days

#4 posted 02-26-2016 01:34 AM

Sad to this but caution is in order .
I have steam bent small pieces wrapped in a wet cloth with good results but started with low power settings and short bursts and went from there in small increments .
Trouble is the more and faster is better attitude which can lead to big problems !
Think of a slow cooker which uses low settings and takes a long time but produces delicious results .


-- Kiefer

View NormG's profile


6508 posts in 4017 days

#5 posted 02-26-2016 04:10 AM

Safety first

-- Norman - I never never make a mistake, I just change the design.

View Cliff 's profile


1880 posts in 2737 days

#6 posted 02-26-2016 10:51 AM

WOW!!!! Talk about a broken heart!!

Quite seriously….I am constantly amazed at the hidden power of the Micro Wave Oven….great invention but, EXTREME CAUTION.



-- Cliff Australia : Snoring is good. It blows away all the Sawdust.

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4347 days

#7 posted 03-04-2016 02:30 PM

A good subject John. I always use the defrost setting when drying wood. I’ve never ruined a piece, but I proceed with great caution. Also, I don’t do this a lot, so my experience is fairly limited. I have found that air drying in a paper bag is best for larger pieces, but that might be difficult for beginners who are keen to see a finished product straight away.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Druid's profile


2205 posts in 3808 days

#8 posted 03-06-2016 07:03 AM

Interesting comments, so thanks.
As I mention in Part 2, ABC’s “friend” quickly left as the smoke cleared. ABC certainly has the common sense to NOT simply stick the carving into the microwave and set it on full power, and I believe that ABC’s “friend” now knows that too.
Experience . . . Something you get right after you needed it.

-- John, British Columbia, Canada

View bushmaster's profile


4122 posts in 3295 days

#9 posted 07-17-2016 01:27 AM

Druid sent me a message and asked me if I left my last project in he microwave for four hours as I had mention in the post. The answer is YES. I am amazed the ABC bowl burnt up in just 45 seconds, that one hot microwave. But as several people have mentioned, do not use them to dry wood on full power. I have an old microwave that you have to set the power level before you set the time. What I use for most projects is low, there is one lower called warm. When I first put the vase in I set the time for 2 hours as I had to go into town to get something. After all these experiences I have thoughts of caution about leaving it unattended. Then checked it later and put it in for another hour. then another hour before turning. It felt nice and dry, so ready to finish turning. This project the grain runs top to bottom, nice part of it is it shrinks round with no cracks, the bottom I had put endlog sealer on, it helps but will get splits there anyway. I have often used it to dry bowls from half logs, I usually put the bowl in a paper bag and still microwave for an hour or two in several sessions. Most often one will get surface cracks in the end grain sections. It warps oval so these are lathed off and seam to seal off. Microwave can work but the best of course is air drying when you have the time. Lthing and drying green wood has advantages, easier to lathe and colors are better preserved. But take caution when microwaving, actually better for drying wood than cooking. the high heat destroys allot of the food value.

-- Brian - Hazelton, British Columbia

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