In a local Penny-Saver newspaper, an individual is offering air-dried cherry
for a reasonable price. However, I am wondering if it would be stable
enough for one to use in furniture construction. Will air-dried wood ever
reach the proper moisture content of kiln-dried wood and is it worth the
time, effort and risk if used in furniture? For example, if wood is
air-dried for 1 year vice 5 years, will the wood aged longer be necessarily
better (or the equal of kiln-dried wood)?
As I recall, a mill owner once told me that air drying alone is not
sufficient to achieve stable lumber. Perhaps he had an axe to grind by this
statement, however, a neutral opinion would be useful.
Thanks and Regards,
Don't take this as an expert opinion. However I do know woodworkers that
use air dried lumber on a regular basis. They store it carefully in a warm,
controlled environment and check the moisture content from time to time.
When content is ok, they move it to the shop. One even has a pretty simple
solar dryer in his back yard.
At the end of the day moisture content should be what counts and moisture
meters are starting to be affordable.
Any other opinions?
There is a visible difference in the character of some species, between
kiln-dried and air-dried. Some find the air-dried character most
Kiln-drying often, not always, produces a more consistent, predictable
outcome from the drying process. For most commercial operations, this is a
You have to decide what you want and need. For hobbyist quantities, if it
were me, I'd call, and go see what the fellow has got to offer. There are
many more variables to cherry than how it has been dried.
A recent magazine article talked about this subject. Conclusion was, they
both work well if dried properly. Kiln dried will absorb moisture in it
must to reach equilibrium. The author did forgo air dried lumber for many
years and now realizes what good bargains he passed up.
IIRC, it was either Wood or American Woodworker that had the article.
Check Hadley and FPL site for the graphs. The difference between air and
kilned wood stored in the same relative humidity for a month is how they got
to the current MC, not a difference in MC.
Air-dried cherry has a good six months' leg up on color over kilned in color
Build loose in dry weather, tight in damp.
If the wood has been stored in an unheated space the key thing to do is to
bring it into a heated space for a month or so before you start to work with
it. During this adjustment time it should be stacked in a way that allows
air to circulate around each board, so put spacers between the boards if
they are in a stack. This adjustment time is a wise idea for both kiln-dried
and air-dried wood but it's especially important for the latter because
there's a bit better chance that when you get it the moisture content will
be a bit high. This, of course, assumes that the wood was properly and
adequately dried to start with -- you can get a good idea of whether it was
properly dried by checking to make sure the boards are not warped, cracked,
or otherwise in bad shape. If the wood has been drying for at least a year
(for 4/4 boards) then you can be pretty confident that it will have reached
equilibrium moisture levels with the air around it. Then you just need to
finish the drying process by bringing it indoors.
I would not have any hesitation about using air-dried wood for furniture or
other projects, in fact I've got some air-dried wood that I dried myself in
a project in my shop now.
If you want to learn more about water and wood and lots of other topics
useful to anyone who works with wood, I highly recommend R. Bruce Hoadley's
book "Understanding Wood".
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