How do you dry wood?

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Blog entry by monkeyman83 posted 12-09-2016 12:23 PM 944 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I will start with a little back story. At the end of September, I came into possession of two oak logs from a local tree service. The guys in the yard cut it up into sections for me so I could handle it myself. I then split each piece in half and rough turned a bowl blank from it. I ended up with 24 rough turned bowl blanks about 1 to 1.5 inches thick. This wood was extremely wet. The tree had just been cut down the week I took it. The bowls took me about 3 weeks to turn. These bowls are now all wrapped up individually in paper bags and are all over my house. Some have cracked and some have not. Generally, the ones that have cracked had the pith of the wood in the bowl. Once a month I pick a few at random and test them for moisture content. They seem to be drying nicely. Since the middle of October they have come down an average of 7% moisture based on my cheap, although pretty accurate, moisture tester. A guy I work with and I have had several discussions on how to best dry wood. I am interested in the comments from the LJ community. I know there is a lot of experience out there so lets pool our knowledge.
Method 1.
Air drying. Let the wood sit out on a shelf or the floor somewhere. Generally, I think this allows the piece to dry too quickly and leads to cracking and warping. Warping can be dealt with but cracking takes a little more work.
Method 2.
Paper bag drying. This is how I am drying my bowls. I have never used this method before, so I will have a better understanding of how well it works in a few months.
Method 3.
Bury the wood in saw dust. I have used this method before. I buried the piece in saw dust and, once per month, I would take it out and spread the saw dust all over my shop for a day to let the dust dry. Then, I would re-bury the piece. This was very slow, but the piece dried with minimal warping and no cracking.
Method 4.
Kiln drying. Never done it or seen it. I have no data.
Method 5.
Coat the piece in polyurethane or shellac. I have never done this but it seems like it wouldn’t allow the piece to dry at all.
Method 6.
Boil the wood. Heard about this method but I have no idea if it would work or how.
Method 7.
Submerge the piece in water. I have heard about this method. I know if the environment is oxygen depleted then the wood won’t tend to rot. However, I’m not sure how being in water would cause the wood to dry.
Method 8.
Oven/microwave drying. I have never seen this method but I guess it is similar to kiln drying. A little faster maybe.
Well that is all of the ways I can think of to dry a piece of wood that is not in log form. I would love to hear the thoughts anyone else has on this topic. I think that this subject is an excellent one for getting the community talking and sharing experiences and techniques. Take care all and happy woodworking.

-- It may not be pretty...but it's functional.

4 comments so far

View gargey's profile


1013 posts in 1551 days

#1 posted 12-09-2016 12:38 PM

Submerge the piece in water.
- monkeyman83

By far the most effective way to dry things.

View HokieKen's profile (online now)


14059 posts in 1914 days

#2 posted 12-09-2016 06:09 PM

Method 1 is the only way I’ve ever done it. I have some Walnut logs I picked up to use for turning blanks. I coated the ends with Anchorseal and set them outside but under my patio so they won’t see direct moisture from rain. These will be the first batch of wood I’ve dried from completely green so can’t say for sure how it came out yet. I will say that it’s been about 6 months and there’s very little checking going on.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View Wildwood's profile


2867 posts in 2910 days

#3 posted 12-09-2016 08:40 PM

I am a big fan of air drying, and depending upon time of the year may or may not leave bowl blank in a paper bag for week or two. My only secret is turn to a uniform thickness. Bottoms of my bowls might be just a tad fatter on the bottom. If want a bowl to warp will turn to 3/16” to 1/4” thickness. If turning normal normal size 3/8” or ½” thick will leave a rough out any where from 5/8” , 3/4”, 1” thick. A lot has to do with wood species, size and design of a bowl.

Pith remove or leave in? Normally will cut or turn away pith and surrounding wood near it. Have turned a few items with pith showing and except for small amount of cracking look okay. Again uniform thickness!

You can look over these articles and see if anything interest you. Except for air drying think many of the procedures expensive and time consuming. I do like light bulb & fan kilns just never got around to making one. Have to watch heat or you just force wood to crack.

A nice reference is this hand book.

-- Bill

View Matt Hegedus's profile

Matt Hegedus

147 posts in 1568 days

#4 posted 12-10-2016 02:19 PM

Ahh the age old question… how to dry this wood?

I air dry mine in a dry basement… slow but predictable results.

Sure I’ve had some checking, but I work around it. Now I polycoat the ends of every plank I stack and sticker. I now have more stickers than any other item in my house. Piles of them.

Hope this helps someone.

Interesting note: my sawyer cut down a red oak tree this year and told me that water POURED out of it for 30 minutes after the base cut. I thought that was pretty neat. He said no other tree had as much water in it. I guess the open pores contribute to that.

-- From Pittsburgh, PA

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