What is Wood Seasoning? Explained!

What is Wood Seasoning? Explained!

In this article, I wish to try and explain some of the fundamentals of ‘seasoning wood’ and ‘harvesting the forest’ but we won’t go into too much detail as I’m sure you will get bored! So here we will approach the basics of seasoning timber and the harvest.

 It’s a learning curve!

I feel that when we purchase our pre-packed timber products it is with disregard to the process. I for one buy packaged timber and wane edged hardwoods but I have through my experiences with working with said materials learned all these stages. I hope I can educate those willing to learn the world of Wood so read on…..

 Industry Self Regulation meets Ethics!

For product manufacturing to be considered ethical when our forests are suffering from ‘over felling’ we as the customer has a responsibility to ensure the environment is protected.

harvesting wood with grab

What is The FSC PEFC

In the UK, France and other countries, this protection is covered by the efforts of the FSC and the PEFC, their work is praised by industry and individuals alike. The FSC is a non-governmental organization mirroring this is their statement: “FSC is an international, non-governmental organization dedicated to promoting responsible management of the world’s forests.

PEFC states it is the world’s leading forest certification organization.

This international ‘not for profit’, non-governmental organization is dedicated to promoting sustainable forest management. The Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification is the certification system of choice for small forest owners, as written on their own website. This organization covers 307 million hectares, 750,000 owners and 20,000 companies which is no mean feat. Their great work has clearly made

Harvesting the logs

Every managed forest will go through the selection process or designation for a total fell for the purpose of property development. The selection process involves marking trees that are ready for felling sometimes with species in high demand taking priority.

Once the Tree is Laid Down?

Now the tree log is harvested debranched it is then liable for cutting into planks or beams but depending on it’s a future destination. Crown and branch will be chipped and sold into firewood or chipped for wood burner pellets and or chipboard.

 The Sawmills

Sawmills are generally not too far from the forests so it would make sense that there are many sawmills in countries which have a large wood harvesting program such as Finland and Sweden.

saw mill

 The Saw

There is something about watching the timber being dominated by the big round saw blade of the broadly used circular saw or the wide band of the sawmills band saw. There are many different types of saws for use in the sawmill. The Circular saw is the most common saw in many sawmills. Early saw blades were sharpened with a flat file but today

 The Reducer Saw

The log is first reduced from the round removing the round segments leaving a square profile.

 The Profiling Saw (not all sawmills use this method)

These saws cut the profile from the log cross-section then the circular saws cut the boards into different sectional sizes.

 Block sawing then Resawing (ripping)

Although profiling is a very good system which is becoming the chosen method ‘Block Sawing’ to create a square block then ‘Resawing’  into planks is still widely used with coniferous softwood species such as ‘Douglas Fir’

 Slab Sawing / Plain Sawn

The mill we use uses this method for a large proportion of their stock ‘Kiln Dried Oak’. This simple method leaves the wane edge on the planks ready for seasoning by kiln or air.

slab sawn timber

 Quarter Sawn Logs

Quartersawn and Plain sawn are the two most likely cuts and have fundamental differences. In practice, the most obvious is the direction of the grain as you look at the end of the plank. On a plain sawn plank the grain has concentric circles but the Quartersawn has vertical grain from one face to the other.

 Quarter Sawn in Radial

The chosen method by select sawmills whose goal is to produce the best quality and stable planks ideal for furniture production. Quartersawn radial timber does produce a lot of waste as the planks produced has a triangular section left behind.

 Seasoning your Freshly Cut Timber

radial sawn wood

You have probably heard the term ‘Green Timber’ ‘or bleu in France) but this timber can contain up to 50% water, you might have been told hydration is good but with the timber… ‘Not So Great!’ So unless you are going to raise a framed barn made from Green Oak you will need to season the wood.

How low should you go?

Well if it is just firewood then 20% or less water content, it is ready to burn. Burning wood that has not spent at least one season or maybe two in the sun you will be at risk of causing a creosote layer to build up in the chimney. This is the No 1 cause of chimney fires!

If you are considering buying timber which has undergone seasoning it may bne a good idea to check the timber for moisture yourself. You can do this with some basic equipment. A moisture meter is a good solution but what type of moisture meter should you consider.

Moisture meters come in two main types: Invasive or non Invasive.

Invasive moisture meters

When a wood moisture meter needs to employ pins to measure the moisture contained in wood it is known as invasive. This is because of the possible but minor damage.

Non Invasive moisture meters

There is a modern alternative to pin type moisture meters. This is the type I use and I have found it reliable within reason as nothing is perfect.

Moisture Meters

General Tools MMD7NP Pinless, Non-Invasive, Non-Marring, Digital Moisture Meter, Water Leak Detector, Moisture Testerup To ¾” (19mm) Deep, Backlit LCD Screen, Visual/Audible Alarms

https://amzn.to/2ZZhGQU

Calculated Industries 7445 AccuMASTER Duo Pro Pin & Pinless Moisture Meter Detects Hidden Leaks and Moisture | Combo Non-invasive Pad + Pin Sensors | for Restoration Contractors, Woodworkers, DIYs

https://amzn.to/35zD3JE

FLIR MR60 Moisture Meter Pro

https://amzn.to/2s7qgRe

Seasoned Wood for Joinery

Greenwood certainly has its place in construction or outdoor furniture but for joinery, the water content needs to be reduced.

Green-Wood

Greenwood is the timber sawn from the log that has just been felled so it has not had a chance to dry out to around 16%.  Unseasoned wood can contain more than 50% water. Seasoning is the industry term for the drying process of green timber. Before you consider drying wood yourself it is a good idea to consider it’s end-use as this could dictate how dry you want your wood to be.

Can I use Green-Wood?

The simple answer is ‘Yes’ but it is limited! Whatever project you want to use Greenwood for you must consider shrinkage. When the water is removed from green wood the space it occupied will contract. This contraction will provide shrinkage and a reduced size across the grain. The wood does not shrink noticeably with the grain. Green wood can be used for woodturning then soaked in a PEP or used for small carvings such as the handcraft ‘Whittling’.

Dried Wood

Dried wood is the most commonly used timber in construction and furniture making and the art of seasoning is one to learn correctly. If the timber is cut wrong or stacked without consideration then the end result could be unusable. Poorly dried timber is prone to many defects.

 How dry should your wood be?

The reduction of water is important and should not be overlooked but on average:

  • 16% for construction timber
  • 12% for floorboards or similar
  • 5 – 10% for furniture

Air Dried Wood

Air drying is the natural process of drying timber outside undercover and it does produce nicer timber.

How to Air dry wood

Presuming you have already cut your timber at the mill into a variety of thicknesses it is now your responsibility to prepare for drying.

air dried lumber*

  • First, you must have a level and a horizontally flat area for drying that has not been designated for any other use for the years that will be required for your chosen timber.
  • Prepare your spacers for air circulation these are called ‘Stickers’
  • Paint the ends of your planks with a sealer to prevent rapid moisture loss that could cause splitting
  • Stack timber with stickers between maintaining a level as you go
  • Mark the stack with a date and wood type as it may become difficult to tell as the stack will get dirty
  • Finally, tightly place a strap around the stack of wood
  • Because of the long duration needed to season the timber, it is prone to insect damage such a woodworm.
  • Be sure to protect from the elements

How long will it take

Well on average you should allow one year per 25mm (1 inch) thickness when air drying. Oak, in my opinion, requires longer like many other hardwoods. I like to leave Oak for 5 years or more so it is below 10 % if to be used for furniture. Kiln drying dries wood much faster than air drying.

Kiln Dried Wood

 

You may think of a Kiln as a device used to fire pottery and glazes heating to temperatures around 3000 degrees Centigrade but a wood kiln is a different kettle of fish. There are various methods of kiln drying timber but a warm air Kiln works well.

wood kiln dried

The Kiln drying Kiln?

The wood drying kiln is a warm air kiln which circulates warm air currents around the green timber which rapidly seasons the wood but technically it is dried. This method is best for construction but we have used it is equally good for furniture and Architectural woodworks such as windows door etc.

Kiln Dried Timber vers Tools

Kiln-dried timber is harder than Air-dried so it is more brittle and tough on tool edges so chisels will require more sharpening. Consider using cast steel plane irons and chisels as these have a much harder honed edge. High-Speed Steel woodturning chisels work well will hard timbers so good for kiln-dried.

Is Kiln Dried More Stable?

The simple answer is’ YES’ kiln-dried timber is more stable than air-dried.

But Air Dried is Nicer!

Air-dried timber has a much nicer look and more suited to furniture and decorative projects. Air drying produces a better quality timber product which is nicer to work with than the wood from a kiln

Summing up…

  • Unseasoned green timber is popular for green oak framing but terrible for furniture
  • Greenwood is dangerous and damaging for burning to warm the house
  • Wet wood is fun to carve or turn on the lathe
  • Air-dried timber is good for the fire and great in furniture construction
  • Kiln-dried timber lowers costs and great for construction but it is harder so less tensile.
  • While working with ‘Kiln Dried’ wood it is wise to keep your sharpener close!
  • Green timber will shrink in its width

My conclusion to the politics of forest management

It is great that these organizations are here to guide us in the right direction away from the madness adorning ‘Donald Trump’ and his negative self serving backfiring agenda coupled with the Tory UK government that is hoping to slash environmental regulations post Brexit. So we as individuals must do what is right and at the very least source materials that are harvested with ethics, ecology, and sustainability in mind. So make good decisions and order you timber products from producers using FSC or PEFC certified materials which carry their logo or practising FSC or PEFC recommendations such as www.wallybois.com does on a daily basis.

Thank you for Reading our Article by Marcus Kett

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3 thoughts on “What is Wood Seasoning? Explained!”

  1. Hi. Thanks for the information. I believe that systems suggested to season the wood are really good and knowledgeable.
    During kiln seasoning, hot air usually develops cracks and warping (bending) during the process depending on the quality of wood.
    My study says when we are dealing with water inside the fresh-cut wood, we can treat this as moisture inside the wood and this can be released in the air having less humidity and converted in water. If this process continues then moisture in the wood can be brought down to the required level.
    I tested this method and seasoned wood successfully without cracks and warping.
    You can contact me for further discussion.

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