How Long Should Wood Dry Before Carving

Drying wood before carving it is essential when it comes to woods like birch and cherry which are much easier to carve when converted from raw green wood into dry wood. However, this process takes some time that depends on many factors, but if you are wondering how long drying wood takes, here is the general rule:

On average, it takes wood 5-8 weeks to dry before carving when set in perfect conditions. The time required depends a lot on the humidity and temperature of the area where the wood is drying. While there are ways to speed this process up, the most reliable method requires around 2 months of drying.

In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about woodworking, including answers to basic questions like “is seasoning and drying the same thing”, “how long the process takes”, and “what components you need”.

How To Dry Wood Faster In 5 Steps

Now that you understand the importance of creating the right conditions for drying wood, it’s time for you to learn the process of preparing the timber which will help it dry faster.  There are different techniques for preparing timber for drying, for the time being, the most universal and widely practiced process will be detailed below

Many people who live in towns, suburbs, or countrysides have walnut, hickory, or maple trees in their backyards. The following technique will help you make most of the common timber types.

Things You’ll Need

  • Paraffin wax or Shellac
  • Paint brush
  • Carving Axe or Saw

Step 1: Cutting The Wood

The first step of the process is chopping the wood to the right size. Ideally, you want it chopped into small blocks for smaller carvings and larger chunks for bigger ones. If you aim to carve something out of a branch or narrow piece of timber, try to cut horizontally across the grain for the best results.

When working with bigger chunks of timber, for example, the trunk of a fallen tree, cutting vertically will make your job easier, unless you’re trying make something lengthy like a fishing pole. Whichever you opt for, retaining grain should be your top priority when chopping the wood.

Step 2: Remove The Bark

Once the timber has been cut in size, you will need to remove the bark if there are any. Depending on what type of wood you’re trying to dry, this part of the process might get a bit difficult. Some trees have bark that holds tight to the wood, making it hard to remove while others have flaky barks that fall off with very little effort.

The reason you want to be removing the bark is that it allows moisture escape through the sides of the wood, speeding up the drying process.

Step 3: Apply Your Sealer

Once the bark has been removed, you will need to coast the wood with a sealer. If you were wondering what to do with the paraffin wax or shellac, this step is where you use them. While shellac can be applied as a coating directly, paraffin wax needs to preheated. The coating must be applied around end, not on the entire surface of the wood. Try to ensure that the seal goes 5 or 10mm past the end grain.

Step 4: Leave The Wood To Dry

Once you’re done applying the sealer, it’s time to stack the wood properly in the room where you plan to store it for drying. Make sure the wood is not stacked together tightly as it will prevent air from flowing out of the wood properly. As mentioned before, having a kiln installed will produce the best result.

Sufficient spacing between stacks allows the wood to “breathe” properly, as well as expose all sides of the surface to air, drying them evenly.

Step 5: Waiting For The Wood To Dry

The last and final part of the process is waiting for the wood to dry. The usual drying time for most timber is usually six weeks. Summer, autumn and spring are the best seasons for drying thanks to the warm and pleasant temperature that stays between 55 to 65 degrees F in most parts of the world. During these seasons you can even dry them out in open air provided there is no rain.

Winter makes things a lot more difficult as the moisture stays frozen in the wood, requiring the wood to be stored in a warm and dry place, preferably warmed by a kiln or your home’s central heating system (if you have one) to maintain the optimal timeframe for drying wood.

6 Alternative methods of drying wood

While the process described above is the most standard way to ensure that you have dry wood for woodcarving ready in six weeks’ time, it’s not the only method for drying wood. Here are a couple of simple hacks and alternatives to drying wood that just might come in handy in the right circumstance.

– If you’re in a bit of a rush, you can use this method for drying wood, but be warned, it takes a lot of practice and attempts to perfect. The basic idea is to put the wood through a “diet” that will drastically decrease the moisture content. This effect is achieved by heating and cooling the wood repeatedly until it reaches the perfect condition.

The first part of this method requires you to process the wood as detailed above. The difference in the process kicks in once you have applied the sealer to the wood. Once sealed, weight the wood in a cool temperature until it loses some weight. Place the wood in warmer temperature with a 20 degree Celsius temperature increase from the previous storage temperature until it loses weight again.

Performing the process once can drastically reduce the waiting time for the drying process to half, but at the cost of cracks and other blemishes. However, with enough practice, you can reduce the blemishes caused by the drastic loss in moisture.

– If the piece of wood you’re working on is small, you can dry it in a microwave oven in short bursts on defrost. While not very risky provided you’re wearing the proper safety gear, it can wear down your oven depending on multiple factors

– A lot of the free wood you find around backyards, parks, forest clearings, etc are likely to be at least half way there in terms of the drying process if left on their own. Learning to identify the ones that are nearly matured for woodwork can save you a lot of effort and trouble by just polishing it up a bit.

– Many veteran woodworkers opt to speed up the process by carving green then drying it. This is most common in furniture making in general. This way, there is less wood to dry and the dimensions don’t need adjustments. Small objects like cups, noggins or showpieces can be put in a bag after being carved  for a few days to slow the drying a bit.

– You can use bows and clamps to stop the green wood from warping, while using sealers on end grain first to prevent wood growth.

Why Drying Wood Matters

Hard wood in perfect dry natural condition for woodworking is very difficult to find, which means you need to learn the process of drying wood yourself if you want to pursue woodworking as a hobby or career. And part of that process is understanding why drying wood matters.   

While a wide variety of timber is categorized as hard wood, just being categorized as such doesn’t make it viable for woodwork in their undried or unseasoned form. This is where these two processes come into play. Based on the carving requirements, hardwood is either dried or seasoned. It usually takes seven to ten days for both processes.

For example, Ligum Vitae is a hard timber to work with at its base form, but once seasoned one can cut through it like butter. Both Birch and Cherry are much easier to work with once they have been dried, making them a viable option even for rookie wood carvers with some skill and practice.

By knowing how to dry wood you can open up a vast array of options for yourself even as a beginner. The variety learning this skill will bring to the table will bolster your creativity and encourage you to try out new techniques with different types of dry wood, which will steadily improve your learning curve as you spend more time in your workshop.

The Perfect Conditions For Wood To Dry in 5- weeks

The process of drying wood has multiple steps but they’re simple to follow and get accustomed to. But before going into the process of drying wood, you will need to understand the perfect conditions for drying wood. Different timbers have different condition requirements, and unless the drying conditions are optimal, the drying process will remain flawed.

The main purpose of drying wood is to reduce the moisture content in the timber, which in turn makes the timber easier to work with. So basically, it boils down to creating the right heat temperature for the timber to dry to in the usual two month drying time. Most woodworkers use a kiln to achieve the perfect temperature, which is why you’ll always see one in a professional woodworking workshop.

When drying the wood using a kiln, make sure the room or garage it’s being installed in is airtight. Any ventilation in the room temperature during the drying process can cause the humidity to drop, resulting in flaws and cracks in the timber.

How Not To Overdry Your Wood (know when it’s ready to be carved!)

While learning to dry wood is important, it’s just as important to know how to prevent the wood from becoming too dry. If you dry the wood too much, it affects the carving quality by making it brittle and almost useless. Here are a couple of ways to make sure that you don’t end up in such a scenario after putting in your time and hard work:

–  Using a hygrometer to check the moisture content of the wood on a weekly basis. These devices allow you to measure the moisture content and make changes to the process as required.

– Selecting the right species of wood that meshes well with the temperature of your geographic region.

– Use wrapping materials to prevent the wood from in taking moisture from the air.

Final thoughts

Drying wood to make it soft enough for carving might sound laborious, but if done properly can be quite easy. The trick is to fall into step with nature and to be constantly processing some wood for future use. Once you create a proper loop, you will always have processed wood ready at hand within a couple of week’s time. Just be patient and make sure that you process the wood properly.

Martin Swizz

Hi! This is Martin, I like to research, experiment, and learn new things related to wood carving and other kinds of woodworking.

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