Newly cut wood or “greenwood” is prone to cracking or splitting, however, you can employ certain tricks to prevent wood from splitting, and/or cracking. The cracking happens due to the loss of moisture in the wood which can be decreased through the use of sealers.
To prevent cracking or splitting you can opt for tight-grained seasoned hardwoods(least likely to split) or employ “anchorseal” sealant(the most effective method available). First clean the wood of dust, using a brush apply the sealant to the open area of the wood and let it dry(alternatively you can use a sprayer to apply the sealant for the same results).
Anchorseal is the best method to stop cracking or splitting wood, however it is expensive. Therefore if it is not feasible or required, you can make use of other methods to stop wood from crack/split damage. Read on to discover the different tricks you can use to prevent wood from cracking or splitting.
Trick 1: Sealing
Different types of sealants are available which are applied to the open ends of logs in order to stop the drying and shrinking of wood due to contact with the outside air. Commercial sealants such as anchorseal are considered the best solution to the problem of wood splitting/cracking.
If you are looking for a recommendation of a specific brand of anchorseal you can check out the Anchorseal 2 by UC-Coatings that you can buy from Amazon. This is considered to be one of the best sealers to prevent checking and in our personal opinion, it is the best.
Linseed oil and other DIY methods which require either the use of paint, wax, or oils to seal the open ends of wood are also quite effective in decreasing the rate of wood drying which is the main cause of wood splitting and cracking. Let us explore a few of these methods.
Anchorseal is a commercial sealant available that is used on greenwood to prevent wood from cracking or splitting. Sealant is applied to the open area of the wood to prevent damage due to cracking or splitting. Depending on the type of wood you can choose the right version of the sealant for your use as there are different types of the sealant available.
Anchorseal is recommended for use on:
- -Hardwood/Softwood logs and lumber
- -Veneer logs
- -Log cookies
- -Turning blanks
How to apply the Anchorseal sealant
1. Choose the right variant
Anchorseal sealant available in the market has few different types which you can buy. Use the type which is most suitable for the sort of wood you have and calculate the amount of sealant needed(100-200 sq feet per gallon is a good starting point)
2. Ready the wood
First ready the wood that you are going to apply the sealant on by cleaning it of all dust and other particles. Make sure it’s dry, especially the open areas of the wood where you will apply the sealant.
3. Apply the sealant
You can use a brush or sprayer to apply the sealant to the wood. If you use a sprayer make sure it has a 0.21”/0.55mm tip or bigger for an effective spray. Apply to all open ends of the wood until it starts to drip slightly. Little to no drip means you haven’t used enough sealant and too much drip means you have used more sealant than is needed.
4. Let the wood dry
After the application of anchorseal, you should store wood until it is dry. You can store them on any shelf(for smaller pieces) or a shed until they are dry. It is best to store them in an elevated state so you can monitor when the wood is completely dry.
The best time to use Anchorseal is to use it on newly cut greenwood to ensure maximum efficiency and protection from cracks and splits. Anchorseal protects the wood from split/crack damage up to 90% which makes it one of the most effective sealants available.
Using Linseed oil
One of the easiest methods to protect wood from splitting and cracking is to apply boiled linseed oil to it. This method requires that you sand the wood and properly clean the open ends of the wood where the oil will be applied.
Before sanding observe the direction of the wood fibers because you must sand in the direction of those wood fibers. Depending on if you have the wood in the form of boards or long logs the application method is different.
If you have wooden boards then you should sand the entire surface of the wood and then apply the Linseed oil otherwise just sand the open ends of the logs. After sanding make sure to properly clean the wood by removing all dust particles.
After sanding and properly cleaning the wood, apply boiled Linseed oil to the required areas and place the wood in the open air to dry. Make sure to keep the wood away from direct sunlight which can damage the wood coated with linseed oil.
Using paintable wax
Using a combination of melted wax and paint thinner you can have a DIY wood sealant that is very easy to make and use. For this method, you require a large number of candles, a paint thinner, a canning jar, and a measuring scale.
To start off measure the weight of the candles in ounces using the scale. Then break the candles and place them in a preheated saucepan or pot. Keep the candles on the stove until you get fully melted wax.
In the jar place the paint thinner(the amount should be ¼ of the weight of the candles) and add the melted wax to the paint thinner and mix thoroughly. Make sure to keep the paint away from any stove or fireplace.
Apply the paint and wax mixture to your desired greenwood by applying a thin coat of the mixture using a brush. Apply evenly to all open ends of the wood and then allow it to dry.
It is very important to note that this method is only recommended for greenwoods.
The DIY and easy methods described are only to be used if you want to store the sealed wood for just a few months. If you wish to store the wood for longer then it is best to use the best and expensive sealants available to ensure better condition of the stored wood.
Trick 2: Storing Methods for Greenwood
Wood that is newly cut is referred to as greenwood. Greenwood is at a high risk of splitting or cracking due to its high moisture content. Due to the moisture drying In the wood, cracking or splitting occurs.
While storing greenwood it is best to follow a few guidelines in order to ensure minimum to no risk of splitting or cracking:
- -Store the greenwood in the form of boards, not logs. Boards have a lower risk of getting cracks or splits.
- – Store the wood without it touching the ground. This will decrease fungus and mold from infecting the open ends of the wood.
- – Apply fungus treatment to the wood in order to prevent the wood splitting due to fungus and mold growth
- -While storing greenwood, store the wood by orienting the log ends from East to West. Wood stored in this orientation will not be damaged by heat and thus cracks and splits due to heat will not happen. South to West oriented greenwood is more likely to crack due to heat so avoid storing greenwood in this orientation.
- -You can store boards of greenwood underwater or keep them wet especially during the summer and spring months when wood can become more dry due to the season.
- -Stack and store wood in such a way that the wood gets ventilation from all sides. This will stop uneven drying of the wood which will cause warping or cracks.
- – Add weight on top of the wood stack. This will allow the wood to dry evenly thus decreasing the chance of warping. Flat and even wood will be more useable than warped wood which will need to be straightened before use.
Trick 3: Drying the wood
Drying the wood through controlled methods is essential as it decrease the chance of wood developing cracks, splits or warping. There are a few methods however the best method is either to air dry it or dry your lumber using a kiln.
Usually wood takes about one year per inch of thickness to dry so the above methods do help to decrease that time required so you can use the lumber more quickly. However depending on the method used, drying can still take a few months depending on the type and amount of wood being dried.
How to Air dry wood
Air drying wood is one of the most effective ways to dry wood with less to no damage to its usefulness. If done properly you can have perfect pieces of wood ready for your projects in a few weeks to months depending on the size of the wood and its thickness.
Things you will need:
1. A wood moisture meter: this is an essential tool to ensure that you get the right amount of moisture in the wood being dried so you don’t dry the wood too much or too little. It tests any wood by poking two probes against the wood and tells you the moisture content of the wood
2. Stickers: these are small planks of wood that will be put in between each piece of wood you will dry. These ensure that each piece of wood gets enough air circulation so it dries evenly. Make sure to have enough of them to store all the wood pieces you require.
3. Wood Sealant: Anchorseal sealant is recommended to decrease the rate of wood cracking. Apply to the open ends of the wooden boards to eliminate the risk of cracks.
4. Wood you need to dry: the wood you need to dry should be in the form of boards so they are easily stacked and less prone to cracking.
5. Cinderblocks or Bricks: once the wood is stacked you need weights to hold the top wood pieces down to minimize warping of the wood. You will need a good amount of these to have enough of these ready.
6. Storage space: you can use a garage or shed for smaller pieces of lumber however for bigger you will probably need an outside storage space that has shelter from the rain. It is very important to shield the wood from the rain however sunlight will be good for drying.
Before stacking the wood for drying clean the wood of any dust and particles then apply a sealant to the open ends. If you will store the wood for more than a few months then use Anchorseal otherwise a cheaper alternative can be used.
Now that you have everything you need, you should stack the “stickers”. Depending on the length of the wood put the stickers with 16 inch distance between each of them. Now put your first log on the stickers making sure there is at least 1 inch of space between the ground and the log to ensure good airflow.
After the first board has been stacked put the next level of stickers on top of the board and stack the next board on top. Do this to make stacks you can easily manage and test with the moisture meter whenever you want. The wood should be set perpendicular to the stickers.
Once you are satisfied with your stacks, you should weigh down with the bricks/cinderblocks. For outdoors it is a good idea to get a large size of plywood, put it on top of the stack of wood and then weigh it down with your bricks. This will add pressure to the wood and decrease the chances of it warping as it dries.
Now just monitor the wood moisture using your moisture meter every few days. Depending on the wood and the methods used the wood might take few weeks to few months. The moisture level of the wood should be less than 7% to be considered dry.
Things to keep in mind
-As the wood dries it shrinks, so do keep the wood size a bit larger than you need in order to have the right size lumber in the end for your project.
-Depending on your area and its weather, the process might be faster or a bit slower. The more warm and dry the air is, the wood will dry faster.
– The “stickers” used should be the same size so that the wood has the same amount of airflow on all sides and is evenly stacked
– The air-drying process is recommended to be done indoors, in a dry place which will minimize the risk of damage from rain.
– A heater or heating system in the storage area will help speed up the process as such heaters provide dry air, which is great for this process.
– A dehumidifier and fan should be used if possible. This is one of the best ways to speed up the drying from months to just weeks or days.
– If you have to store the wood outdoors, then make sure it is in a dry sunny and windy area to increase the rate of drying.
Repairing Cracked Wood
The above methods we have visited do lessen the possibility of cracks appearing however the risk cannot be totally eliminated. So sometimes cracks will appear in the wood even after you have done everything to stop them.
For small cracks you can use wood sealant to fill the crack or even use epoxy which can be used to fill cracks in wood. The epoxy specifically for filling wood cracks is readily available to buy online or from stores.
To fill the crack with epoxy you should buy the same color epoxy as the wood, fill the crack with the epoxy, wait for it to dry then sand off the remaining from the top of the wood. Some epoxies can be painted over, make sure to read the instructions so you know which type you have.
For more in-depth information on how to repair cracked wood, have a read of the article How To Repair a Cracked Wood Carving which covers the topic in more detail.
Bonus Tips To Minimize Wood Splitting/Cracking
– Before hammering nails on wood, hit the pointy tip with a hammer a few times. Now when you hammer the nail in the wood it will easily go through the wood instead of splitting it.
-Avoid diagonally cutting the wood or across the grain which will lessen the chance of splitting.
– For cracks that are just starting to appear you can use a dovetail or butterfly key to stop it from spreading to the rest of the wood. Watch the video below for more details:
Sealing wood is one of the essential ways to stop wood cracking or splitting, so no matter what, do seal the wood before storing. As discussed, do keep in mind the guidelines of storing greenwood as it requires more care when storing as compared to dry wood. Even though dry wood is more recommended for carving, greenwood is better for novice woodcarvers as it’s much easier to work with when using hand tools.
To prepare greenwood for carving the wood must be dried for a minimum of six weeks. The quality of wood determines the likelihood of cracks appearing, as certain types of wood are more prone to developing cracks especially softwoods. To decrease damage due to wood drying just make sure to use a sealant, store it with proper airflow, monitor the drying process and finally stop minor cracks by using a dovetail key.