Make better projects for less.
There are so many reasons why drying your own wood is the right call for you, but for many woodworkers, the reason is simple: Drying your own wood allows you to harvest materials right in your own back yard. Sustainable, economical, and resourceful, drying your own wood allows you the ultimate in control and creative expression when crafting structures or furniture.
Drying your own wood is not nearly as difficult or as much of a hindrance as you might think. For centuries, using basic tools and a little patience, most woodworkers had to rely on their own ability to prepare lumber for use. By taking some of their methods, along with some modern understanding of how drying works, you can dry your own crack-free wood in six easy steps.
The ultimate in the methodology of Reduce-Reuse-Recycle, there are nearly limitless opportunities to find raw wood in the form of downed trees or overgrown backyards. If you are not yet experienced in sawing, it is rather inexpensive to hire an expert with a portable sawmill. Others who are more experienced can use a chainsaw to mill the wood on-site and transport it to your workshop.
Once back to the shop, it is critical that you seal the raw wood. Failure to seal the log will result in cracks and splits that will all but render your boards useless. Many use a 50/50 blend of wood glue and water to saturate the ends of the boards, covering the pores several times over. Another common method is wax or wood paint.
Air drying your wood for several months in a covered, outdoor spot will allow some of the moisture to release naturally, up to ten percent of the moisture in most cases. Using several spacers to separate the boards and encourage maximum airflow, stack the wood and bind it with tie-downs in an effort to reduce twisting. It is also highly encouraged to have a bottom layer of plastic underneath the stack to reduce the humidity that can be picked up from the moisture of the ground. Whenever possible, place the air drying wood in a location where there is a lot of wind.
Once your wood has air dried for months, it is time to begin assembling your kiln. Lay a large covering of clear plastic roll (poly) along the floor and place a frame built out of 2x4 studs on top. Leaving enough space at the end of the frame to include a standard humidifier on one end and enough room for a house fan on the other, stack your wood with appropriate amounts of spacers. Once the placement is correct, build a wooden frame around the boards, humidifier, and fan. Enclose the structure with plastic, leaving ventilation for the fan. Place the humidifier on maximum and close it into the structure, leaving a space for the waste hose to drain outside of the kiln. The fan will allow for even drying while the humidifier collects the remaining moisture in the boards.
Waiting can be the hardest part – we know. However, after four months in the kiln, your boards will be perfectly seasoned and ready to go.
For so many of us woodworkers, the challenge is not only in creating beautiful pieces of furniture, it is understanding the innerworkings of the materials and using methods that have been handed down for generations. Woodworking is about connecting with something intrinsic and basic within each of us, a call back to who we really are: Harvesting and drying our own wood is that intrinsic desire in its most honest and pure form.