How long before I can start using this Ash?

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Forum topic by garbonsai posted 04-04-2013 05:23 PM 5243 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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154 posts in 3010 days

04-04-2013 05:23 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question ash

Okay, so I guess this counts as something of a humble-brag, but over the coming months, I’m going to be getting my hands on quite a lot of Ash. I took down 8 trees last fall that were standing dead for several years, and moved about a dozen 10’ x 18–25” diameter logs to my girlfriend’s father, who has a saw mill he built himself. Last weekend I went over and we milled down one of the logs into 5/4” slabs. Here are the results:

And here’s a few examples of the beautiful grain we unveiled:

My question is this. I used a cheapie moisture meter to test the MC as soon as I brought the slabs in from my truck. Most of the tests registered 30% or higher, as compared to a flat 0% for the wood trim and random construction lumber that’s been in the basement for months or years, depending. A couple of days later, I tested the slabs again, and got a more reasonable reading of 11-15% on the slabs, but the same 0% on everything else (save a few pieces of pallet wood I brought in from the garage, where they’d been for 6 months or so).

Did the original 30% come from condensation or something similar? If I keep these slabs, stickered and stacked, in the walkout basement (average temperature 55° in the winter, 65° in the summer, with a dehumidifier that’s set to kick on when the humidity reaches 40% or higher, which it rarely does except in spring and fall), any rough estimates on how long I’m looking at before I can do something with one or two of them?

I plan on turning the rest of the trees into various sizes of lumber, which I’ll sticker and stack outside, under a couple pieces of roofing. If they’re of the same starting moisture content, and I live mid-Michigan, any idea when they’ll be usable? I’ll probably do most of them in 3/4”-5/4” boards.

-- Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball.

12 replies so far

View Kreegan's profile


1452 posts in 3201 days

#1 posted 04-04-2013 05:26 PM

I assume you tested moisture content on the ends? The ends tend to dry out faster, which is why the ends usually check so bad. The rule of thumb I’ve always heard for drying wood is 1 year per inch of thickness, so for 5/4 it would be about 15 months.

View garbonsai's profile


154 posts in 3010 days

#2 posted 04-04-2013 05:30 PM

For what it’s worth, I was testing them at random, and tried to stay away from the ends of the slabs. Thanks for the rule-of-thumb though—good thing I’ll be spending most of my time outside for the next 6 months or so…

-- Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball.

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 5154 days

#3 posted 04-04-2013 05:35 PM

General rule is 1 year per inch of thickness.

Well, now I see the other comment by Rich and I back everything he stated.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View Kreegan's profile


1452 posts in 3201 days

#4 posted 04-04-2013 05:38 PM

My experience drying lumber is all around turning blanks, and I just use a little kitchen scale. When the weight is more or less stable, it’s ready to use. I have a cheapo moisture meter too, but don’t feel like it’s a reliable way to tell moisture content other than right up by the surface.

View Kreegan's profile


1452 posts in 3201 days

#5 posted 04-04-2013 05:40 PM

Also, I don’t think you’ll have 5/4 once it’s done drying. Likely be more in the 1” – 1 1/8” range. I know there’s a rule of thumb for how much the wood will shrink, but do not recall it off the top of my head. I think it’s around 10-15%.

View richardwootton's profile


1701 posts in 3010 days

#6 posted 04-04-2013 06:13 PM

That is some really nice looking wood. I’m not sure if anyone has mentioned it yet, but you should paint or add some wax to the ends to slow the drying from there and hopefully reduce the checking.

-- Richard, Hot Springs, Ar -- Galoot In Training

View sprucegum's profile


324 posts in 3052 days

#7 posted 04-04-2013 06:16 PM

I have dried a good bit of lumber over the years and I find that lumber on sticks dries best outside in a sunny location with good air flow. Since our prevailing wind is from the west I try to have the ends of the boards pointing north and south, I put the poorest boards on the top of the pile then build a sloping roof out of used roofing. If you place a couple of cheap ratchet straps across a layer of boards down several layers from the top you can run them over your roof when the pile is done to hold it in place.
I notice you are in MI so I expect your winters are about like the are here in VT. If you bring some of the wood into a heated portion of your house around Thanksgiving I bet you can use it by New Years day. Nothing like dry winter air in a heated house to dry lumber.
I have used one of the cheap moisture meters in the past and found they worked pretty well. The best way to use it is to cut a board at least a foot from the end and check it in the center, you might put a couple of the poorer boards where you can get to them easy for testing. The one year per inch rule of thumb is just that if it dry you can use it. Nice looking stack of wood by the way Ash is such a great wood for furniture very stable I have done a couple of kitchens with it almost everyone thinks it is oak.

-- A tube of calk and a gallon of paint will make a carpenter what he ain't

View a1Jim's profile


118161 posts in 4631 days

#8 posted 04-04-2013 06:27 PM

The answer is you can use it any time but for furniture I prefer 6-8% moisture content. The more moisture you have in your wood the greater the chance for distortion like cupping,twisting shrinking .Some folks get in a hurry to build their furniture pieces before the woods dry and and suffer all kinds of problems. This is beautiful wood if you have a project you really want to build right away you can take it and have it kiln dried to speed up the process.


View Foster10's profile


6 posts in 2933 days

#9 posted 04-04-2013 06:55 PM

I’ve also heard the 1” per year rule of thumb as well… however, ash wood is supposed to have less moisture than other woods when it is green! Like the old adage, “Ash wet or ash dry, the King will warm his slippers by!”
I burn firewood, and the ash wood I’ve cut burns real nice within a couple of weeks of cutting/splitting, so I would think your planks would take a little less time to get down to the moisture content that is attainable via air drying… it would be interesting to test that theory!

View pintodeluxe's profile


6345 posts in 3868 days

#10 posted 04-04-2013 07:13 PM

Most cheap moisture meters will not read MC below 6%. It will just say 0% or show a blank screen depending on the model.
In my region (pacific NW) I can air dry 1 year/inch of thickness, but never get below 15% MC outside. After that I have to kiln dry down to 6-8% for indoor furniture. Outdoor projects have different rules.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View WDHLT15's profile


1819 posts in 3530 days

#11 posted 04-04-2013 08:00 PM

The 1 year per 1” of thickness rule-of-thumb is a poor one. It depends on the climate, temperature, and most importantly, humidity. In Georgia, 4/4 ash will air dry to 12% in 6 months or slightly less covered outside with good airflow. If you are in the Great White North where it stays frozen for 6 months, maybe 1 year is right. How do I know? Experience and a good moisture meter does not lie.

A basement is a poor place to air dry wood unless you like mold and mildew in your basement.

-- Danny Located in Perry, GA. Forester. Wood-Mizer LT40HD35 Sawmill. Nyle L53 Dehumidification Kiln.

View Nomad62's profile


726 posts in 4012 days

#12 posted 04-04-2013 08:38 PM

give ‘em at least 6 months, but keep an eye on the crotch-wood junction; it will continue to split until it is dry enough to use, a better way to guess if nothing else works better. Using the dehumidifier is a good idea alright. Your readings from your meter seem awfully unreasonable; wood doesn’t dry that quickly, maybe on the surface but not inside. I would be nervous about trusting it, no offense intended. If you have an accurate scale, you may snoop into drying it by weight, the best way to know just how dry it really is. Lastly, ash wood and bugs are the best of friends; if there are no current bug holes you might get lucky but I would recommend some sort of protection like a borate or similar product. Very nice score however you look at it.

-- Power tools put us ahead of the monkeys

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