Air drying wood for projects

Many woodworkers like to use wood they’ve cut down on their farm. The drying process is important because when wood releases moisture, it can change shape. You don't want that to happen after the project is finished.

Lucas Peters is the digital content manager at WOOD Magazine. He says the first step in drying wood is to seal the ends of the boards.

"If you haven't already done this with the logs, and even if you have, paint the ends of the boards with latex paint.  Give it a good coating.  The ends are where the moisture escapes more quickly, and they'll split and check with the uneven drying," says Peters. "So, sealing the ends slows down the drying for the ends."

Start the air-drying process outdoors, where the wind can blow through the stack. Don't put the wood in constant sunlight or the boards might dry too fast and crack.

Create a level bed of cinder blocks, add some runners to it, then cross the runners with four-by-four posts. Stack your first layer of wood on top of the posts.

"Then you'll want to use inch-square what we call "stickers". That's one-inch-by-one-inch pieces of wood.  Place those about two-feet on center on your first layer, then stack your next layer and continue doing that, keeping your stickers right in line," he says. "For your top layer then, add another layer of stickers, a sheet of plywood, and weigh it down with some more cinder blocks.  And that's going to keep everything out of the rain, and weighted down."  

Once it's been outside for a few months, you can bring the wood inside, stacking it the same way.

The general rule of thumb for air-drying time is one-year-per-inch of thickness. You'll have to check the wood periodically for mold and splitting. Use a moisture meter to assess how well it's drying. When the moisture level has reduced to 10%-15%, it's ready.

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