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How to Dry Wood in an Oven

Drying wood to a reasonable moisture level is an important process, especially if you will be using the lumber for woodwork or as firewood for heating. Naturally, wood is filled with a lot of moisture, and the moisture must be completely removed to improve the wood’s efficiency, durability, and ability to withstand pests and mold infestation. Particularly, firewood must be properly dried and seasoned for it to burn well and to prevent ashes and creosote from forming. If you’ll be using the lumber you’re the woodwork projects you can use a conventional oven to dry wood. This simply involves heating the wood in an oven at a lower temperature for one hour or more. If you want to dry large quantities or large pieces of wood, using an oven is not a good idea.

How to Dry Wood in an Oven:

  • Step 1: Prepare Your Oven
  • Step 2: Set the Temperature and Preheat the Oven
  • Step 3: Measure Your Wood’s Moisture Level
  • Step 4: Spread Your Wood Pieces Out On the Center Rack
  • Step 5: Double-Check the Temperature and Placement of the Wood
  • Step 6: Bake the Wood for One Hour
  • Step 7: Check Your Wood after an Hour
  • Step 8: Put Your Wood on Wire Cooling Racks to Let It Cool
  • Step 9: Inspect the Wood for Cracks or Drying Defects
ArnoldReinhold – CC BY-SA 3.0

Drying wood in an oven is the most accurate and reliable method of determining the moisture content of wood at any moisture level. This is what makes it the main method against which other methods are compared. Do you want to know how to dry wood yourself using an oven? No? Then you’ve come to the right place. This article will guide you through the ways by which ovens can be used to dry wood.

Can You Use Your Household Oven For Small Pieces Of Wood?

A conventional kitchen model microwave oven may be used to remove moisture to shorten the drying time. This kind of oven is best used in combination with an electrically heated forced circulation oven to achieve better results. Simply use the microwave to remove the moisture present in moisture sections of green wood (fresh wood), you can then move the wood to the electric oven to remove the remaining moisture using a more controlled condition. If you’ll be using a microwave oven, it is recommended that the oven has the following features;

  • Carousel tray: It must have a carousel tray
  • Low setting: It must feature a controlled setting that runs on medium-low (360 watts) to low (200 watts) power

How to Dry Wood in an Oven

As stated earlier, the most accurate method of measuring the moisture content of wood is the oven-drying method by the use of a conventional oven which is also known to wood processors as a domestic oven. An example includes electric convection or fan-assisted models. Drying wood in an oven is quite simple. Just get a sample of wood and place it in the oven at a temperature of 210 – 215 degrees Fahrenheit (99 – 100 degrees Celsius), then weigh the sample at intervals until you can no longer measure any weight loss. This simply indicates that the sample is ‘oven-dry’.

An alternative method which involves using a common or domestic garden microwave oven also produces good results, if the process is carried out carefully. Oven drying with a microwave oven takes about 20 to 45 minutes per sample and an average of 30 minutes. This method of drying generally takes less time, saving a great deal of time when compared to drying with a conventional oven. Just like how you use your conventional oven, the microwave oven drying method also requires special attention and detailed care. Any mistake in the procedure can easily lead to a series of problems and an eventual failure of the process. Below is a detailed guide on how to dry wood in an oven:

● Step 1: Prepare Your Oven

Take out your racks and reposition them so that one is at the bottom and the other one is in the center. Since you want all sides of the wood to dry evenly, you’ll be making use of the center rack. Carefully place a large sheet pan on top of the bottom rack, as this would serve as a safety precaution to catch any smaller pieces that may slip through the wire. While most ovens come with a built-in thermometer, you may decide to add an extra thermometer to the center rack to get a more accurate reading and to prevent excess loss of moisture. However, be sure to use one that is an oven-safe cooking thermometer.

● Step 2: Set the Temperature and Preheat the Oven

The next thing is to set the temperature of your oven to be closer to 218 degrees Fahrenheit (103 °C). If you’re using an analog oven, then you should first try to heat the oven between 200 degrees  Fahrenheit (93 °C) and 225 degrees  Fahrenheit (107 °C). You should avoid using higher temperatures as wood ignites at 500 degrees Fahrenheit. If your oven has a convection fan, turn it on to ensure circulation. Then check the thermometer after 15 minutes, and continue adjusting the settings until the internal temperature of the oven is between 210 and 225 degrees Fahrenheit.

● Step 3: Measure Your Wood’s Moisture Level before Adding It to the Oven

The best way to check for the moisture content of a piece of wood is to use a moisture meter. To get a better idea of how long you need to dry the wood for, you can write the moisture content down and carefully monitor it. Turn on your electric moisture meter, and press the two metal probe into the side of the wood with just a little pressure. It’s not necessary to insert the probes into the wood, and you also don’t need to apply extreme force. A moisture content level between 15-20% is suitable for firewood. If you do not have a moisture meter, then you can just weigh the wood before you start drying and weigh again after drying to note how much loss in weight. Note that the drier the wood is, the less the weight.

● Step 4: Spread Your Wood Pieces Out On the Center Rack

It’s better if none of your wood pieces touch one another; this will ensure that the heat reaches all parts of the wood. So you should spread them out across the center rack, placing smaller pieces of wood perpendicular to the rungs of the rack to prevent them from slipping through into the sheet pan at the bottom.

● Step 5: Double-Check the Temperature and Placement of the Wood

You must double-check all the factors before closing the oven. Check the temperature and ensure that it isn’t higher than 225 degrees Fahrenheit- this will prevent drying defects such as warping or cracking. Double-check how each piece of wood is placed to ensure that none is touching the another. Your wood may not dry evenly if any of them is touching another.

● Step 6: Bake the Wood for One Hour

Allow the wood to bake in the oven for an hour, you can set a timer for accuracy. The oven should not be left unsupervised while the wood is drying as wood always has a chance of igniting when heated. Hence you should also keep a fire extinguisher close in case of a fire outbreak.

● Step 7: Check Your Wood after an Hour of Heating

After one hour, you must check the moisture content of your wood by using your moisture meter. Use your moisture meter the same way you did before you started drying your wood. Simply press the metal probes into the wood by applying a minimum amount of pressure. After taking note of the moisture content, continue to heat your wood for the next fifteen minutes (if your wood requires additional drying). If you don’t have a moisture meter, you can try the method mentioned above. Simply take a sample of the wood and wait for it to cool on the cooling racks before weighing it.

● Step 8: Put Your Wood on Wire Cooling Racks to Let It Cool

Make sure you’re wearing thick oven mitts before you attempt to lift each piece of wood out of the oven. You can also use a large pair of tongs. Carefully place the heated wood on your wire cooling rack. Then spread them out so that each piece cools evenly. Try to avoid touching the wood to prevent injury.

● Step 9: Inspect the Wood for Cracks or Drying Defects After It Cools

Overheating of wood can cause drying defects such as cracks or warp. Carefully inspect your wood to check for defects. If you find a small crack, you can still repair it by filling it with wood glue or epoxy. To unwarp wood, wrap it in a damp cloth and iron it continuously to straighten it. However, if you’ll be using the wood as firewood, then you don’t necessarily need to worry about cracks or defects.

Final remarks

This common kitchen equipment can go a long way by transforming into a useful tool for drying wood quickly. This will provide excellent results and save you a great deal of time if done properly. It will also save you the initial cost of building or purchasing a kiln. Finally, it will also leave you with more time to do the things you want.