Professionals and Amateurs Together

Drying Lumber


How long do I have to let my freshly sawn lumber dry before it is suitable for making furniture?—Anonymous


Garrett Hack replies: The rule of thumb is a year to the inch (thickness), but really the type of wood makes a difference and how thick it is. 1˝ pine can dry in 6 months, red oak takes many times longer especially if it is thick. Be patient. You will get better results drying your wood slowly. It will be more stable and sweeter to work. Even wood air dried for many years needs several weeks to acclimate to shop conditions before milling. To really know what’s going on, check your lumber with a moisture meter and wait until it drops below 9%.

Bob Couch replies: I hate to start with “it depends” but it really does. It depends to some degree on the species, the storage conditions and where you live. I have had a number logs sawn, mostly cherry and I always figure at least one year but preferably two. Open grain woods tend to dry a bit quicker than tight grained woods. If you have it stickered in a pile out in the open, make sure your tarp covers the ends and not the full sides, This will help with checking and splitting on the ends and improve the airflow. Air can’t flow through the stack from one end to the other because of the stickers. If you can get your material out of the weather so you don’t need the tarp, all the better.

Steve Costain replies: One year per inch is an often recommended number, invest in a good moisture meter, 6%–8% ( I dry smaller pieces in my shop with a fan blowing on the pile and I have dried some good sized pieces in the hot second story of my barn.

Peter Breu replies: A general rule of thumb is a year for every inch of thickness assuming air drying outside which is ideal. Be careful to allow for air to move around the wood, seal the ends with paint, weigh down the stack with each layer stickered at least an inch apart, covered with a light roof (ply is fine) and make sure it is straight and flat. It will dry as it is stacked. The stickers should be cut from the same wood you are drying.

Trying to speed up that timing requires very careful control of air movement, heating, etc. Putting that wet wood in the back of a garage or in the basement is asking for disaster.

Tags: Wood