Wood is a great material to work with, and if you want to enjoy using it both for any kind of woodwork or as firewood, you must first dry it properly to an acceptable moisture level. The whole process is known as wood drying. That being said, there are two basic ways to dry wood: air drying and kiln drying. Air-drying, which simply means leaving your lumber to dry naturally, takes at least a year per inch of thickness to dry. This drying period is considered way too long for people that need to do a quick woodworking project. While the drying time depends on a number of factors such as the moisture content of your wood, the wood species, and lumber thickness, there are always other options of drying wood faster such as kilning or the use of a microwave or an conventional oven.
How to Dry Wood Fast:
If you want to dry your wood really fast you can use a microwave or a conventional oven. With a microwave, you can dry a small quantity of smaller wood in an hour, and with a conventional oven, you can dry wood in within 2 hours. If you have a lot of wood to dry Kiln drying is the fastest method. It is important that the size of the wood you want to dry fits your microwave or oven.
How Long Does It Take Wood to Dry?
The quickest answer is, it can take around a few months to a year for the wood to dry completely. The species of wood you’re using, the weather or climate change for that particular year, the thickness and length of the log, and the method by which you dry the wood, all play an important part in the drying time. There’s a general rule that states that you must allow per inch of wood thickness at least one year of drying time. This only means that if you will be drying a large piece of log, then you should be looking at a very long drying time, especially if you want to use the natural method of seasoning wood.
However, if you don’t have that much time to spend, then you can try out some easy and faster methods of drying wood completely. If you want to be on top of things, you may also decide to find out more about the kind of wood you are using, to see if you can get an idea of how long it takes to dry.
Speeding up the Drying Process of Wood
Waiting for a whole year for your wood to dry out may not sound practical enough, especially if you’ve got other plans to use the wood quickly. The good news however is that there are different ways to shorten the drying time. As mentioned earlier, you can use a kiln to achieve this. This method is usually employed by large manufacturers at timber mills who don’t have the luxury of waiting for so long. Some owners can also decide to build their own kiln, but it often requires some initial investment and proper care, making it costly to maintain.
Typically, the more you split the wood, the lesser time it takes to dry. So if you have thin slices, for instance, expect them to dry very quickly than whole logs. However, they aren’t always as useful. Another thing that can help is by exposing your wood to direct sunlight- which helps to dry the wood by heating the moisture present in the wood and causing it to evaporate. This is where adequate spacing comes to play, as you would want all your logs to get equal amount of sunlight. This spacing principle also applies to airflow, since it also speeds up the drying time of wood. The more air you allow to flow past the logs, the more moisture that will be removed. Below are some ways by which you can speed up the drying process of wood:
Using a Microwave for Small Pieces of Wood
To dry wood in a microwave is easy, but can only be used for small pieces of wood. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher, some large tongs or thick oven mitts, and something to put the wood on to cool down.
● Step 1: Put the wood in the microwave
Put the wood in the microwave and make sure that it fits, and if your microwave uses a rotating plate that it can still rotate. You can stack similar wood pieces that have an equal moisture level. If you are not certain about the moisture level using a moisture meter. Also, add some paper towels to suck up the moisture released from the wood.
● Step 2: Set the microwave to its lowest setting
When you start the drying process use the microwave in its lowest power setting. Sometimes this setting is called defrost.
● Step 3: Let the microwave run for 30 seconds
Turn the microwave on for 30 seconds and make sure that there is no smoke or fire visible. The wood can get very hot inside and can catch fire, in that case, turn of the microwave immediately.
After the 30 seconds let it cool down a little bit and remove the wood from the oven. Use oven gloves as it can get very hot.
● Step 4: Check the moisture level and repeat the process
Use a moisture meter to check the moisture level. Repeat the process until you have reached the needed moisture level. Make sure you turn the wood every time so parts that where touching can now release the moisture
● Step 5: Let the wood cool down
When you have reached the needed moisture level let the wood cool down, this can take up to an hour.
Using a Conventional Oven for Small Pieces of Wood
To dry wood in a conventional oven is also easy, and similar to a microwave can only be used for smaller pieces of wood. Make sure that you prepare yourself well and do not forget to have a fire extinguisher, some large tongs or thick oven mitts, and something to put the wood on to cool down.
● Step 1: Prepare the Oven
Check that your wood fits in the oven, and make sure you only combine similar wood types with the same moisture level. You can use a moisture meter to check this. Use open racks in the oven if you have them, with closed racks you have to turn the wood more often.
Preheat the oven to somewhere between 200 and 225 degrees F (95 to 110 degrees Celsius). If you have a hot air oven use that setting.
● Step 2: Add the wood to the oven
Try to fit the wood in the oven so no two pieces or touching and make sure that they can not fall through the spaces in the rack. Add a small tray of water at the bottom in an oven resistant jar, this will help to equalize the moisture content in the wood.
● Step 3: Let the wood dry for an hour
Depending on the size of the wood and the needed moisture level it will take about an hour. Thick wood will take longer, smaller pieces that have a lower moisture level will take less time. Check every 10 minutes to see that all is well.
● Step 4: Check the moisture level
Take some pieces out of the oven, and let it cool down a little bit. Don’t forget to use your oven mitts as the wood will be very hot. Check the moisture level of the wood, and if you have not reached the desired level put it back and let it bake in the oven for an additional 10 min. Repeat this process until you reached the moisture level you want. Use a moisture meter if you have one.
● Step 5: Let the wood cool
Remove all the wood from the oven and let it cool down each piece of wood using oven mitts.
Place in a dry, protected space to cool down. This can take an hour. Recheck the moisture content
Measure Wood’s Moisture Content
Take out two wood pieces of different size, then press the two metal pins of a moisture meter into the surface of the wood. If the desired moisture has not been reached, return the wood into the oven. Then when you’ve got the desired moisture content, place the wood on a wire cooling rack to cool.
Tips for Drying Large Lumber
Tip 1. Process quickly:
Make sure you process your logs as soon as possible. If you have just cut down the tree, process the wood into lumber as fast as you can. This is because processing exposes the wood, which helps in the drying process.
Tip 2. Use a good location:
Store your wood in a shaded place with adequate airflow. Look for an indoor location such as a shed or a hayloft (you can also consider an outdoor location that is in the shade). You must never use locations like garages or basements as these would likely lack enough airflow. Also, never store wood inside boxes to dry as they definitely won’t have enough airflow. It’s important to note that your wood needs to dry in a location that has a similar moisture content as that which the finished product will be exposed to. To further improve the drying time, point your household fans toward your wood to encourage airflow. The air circulation will definitely help your wood to dry faster than it normally would.
Tip 3. Seal up the end grain:
Seal up the end grain of your wood immediately after cutting to prevent moisture decay. This actually prevents the wood from drying too fast and causing problems. Wood should not be dried too rapidly or else drying defects and other issues such as cracking or splitting may occur. Since moisture escapes from wood 10 times faster from both ends, leaving them exposed can cause damage to the wood. You can make use of a commercial product such as Anchor seal to cover the end grain. You can also decide to use melted paraffin wax, polyurethane or shellac; either will do just fine. For better results, try to apply them as soon as possible, preferably within minutes.
Tip 4. Stack uniformly:
Stack your lumber uniformly to expose all sides to airflow. Always keep in mind to cut all your lumber uniformly, to the same lengths and thicknesses. The reason for this equal dimensions is to make it easier to stack them in such a way that all their sides are exposed to the prevailing air. Use smaller pieces of wood, also referred to as stickers, to create enough space between each wood, and to improve airflow. Make sure your logs are not in contact with the ground as moisture may collect below, causing it to rot. This will make them dry faster and prevent damages.
Tip 5. Cover the top:
Line the top of your wood with a tarp or plastic sheeting. Do not cover the entire pile of wood to the ground as this will only hold in moisture. By covering just the top, you’ll block the transfer of moisture from the wood underneath to the logs on top.
Drying out your wood is very important before you work with it. This is because wood isn’t very useful when it’s freshly chopped or green with too much moisture. However, when dry, wood is easier to carve into any shape, it’s stronger, and easier to burn in a fire. Drying wood naturally can be time-consuming, but there are still a few methods that you can use to reduce the drying time. Finally, in order to dry wood faster, it’s wise to have an idea of what kind of wood you want to use in the first place. We hope this piece is helpful, good luck!