Membership In a coven of wood, witches might be the best diploma for the wood seasoner. Science seems to have thrown up its hands on the subject of air-drying green woods and retreated to the relative predictability of kiln and radio-frequency drying.
Both kiln and radio-frequency drying are beyond the means of the do-it-yourselfer, though if you live near such installations, you may be able to persuade the operators to dry small batches of home-cut wood for you.
Seasoning green wood at home (Air-drying)
‘Airdrying, despite its unpredictability, is often the only hope for the average woodcarver who wants to carve rare or commercially scarce woods—such ‘as diamond willow, madrone, manzanita, persimmon,
ginkgo, Baywood, or Osage orange.
Your worst enemy in air-drying or seasoning is the too-rapid evaporation of surface and end layers versus the too slow drying of the interior. This results in cracks split and shakes, which, in some species, can reduce a large log to a tiny, carvable remainder. This article gives a guide on how to season green wood without a kiln
How to season green wood in 5 steps
- To dry logs, leave the bark on and coat the cut ends, including branch cut-off points. Use wax, shellac, one of the commercial lumber end-sealers available through most large lumber yards, or the black tree-and-grafting sealer sold at most nurseries.
- Some dark sealers will stain wood up to an inch into the end grain. Therefore, allow for this when Cutting logs to lengths for specific jobs.
- Raise logs off the ground and separate them from adjoining logs to allow air circulation. A shelter from the rain, snow, and the intense sun is helpful.
- A warm, dry attic, basement, or shed Is ideal. Keep watch on the tends and reseal if cracks appear in sealant.
- Control humidity with a plastic tarpaulin if drying occurs too fast. Use PEG treatment for green logs.
Dry wood vs wet wood
How Long does green wood take to season?
‘Seasoning time varies according to the density of the wood, water content, cross-section thickness of the wood, temperature, and humidity. Only experience is a reasonably accurate guide.
Generally, relative weights of woods give a fair clue to seasoning time within the scale of 1 through 4 summers. Some pines and firs dry reasonably well in one year as logs and cut lumber in one or two months (in a relatively dry summer). A red oak, manzanita, or rosewood may take several summers in the log form.
These charts indicate the drying time for a stack of 1-inch-thick green boards outdoors.
The low end of the range for each species is for lumber stacked in spring or summer—prime drying weather.
The high end is for wood stacked in autumn or winter. The figures assume that the lumber is dried in a region with a climate similar to that of where the wood was cut.
Fastest way of seasoning wood
If you have the equipment, you might bore a hole through the center of the log heartwood, which will ‘significantly speed drying. A variation on this was used by medieval carvers who often had to work with less-than-dry woods.
They hollowed the backs of statues Intended for wall-mounting, leaving a carved shell that dried with a minimum of cracking.
Drying your own wood will bring many a temporary heartache over a log split beyond use, but the odds are you will have enough successes with a few exotic logs to make up for all the failures.