Drying wood?

Discussion in 'Shop Talk - BladeSmith Questions and Answers' started by BamaJO, Feb 28, 2021.

  1. BamaJO


    Feb 28, 2021
    I hope I am posting this in the correct forum.
    I’ve been lurking around here for a little while, and I’ve searched the forums for an answer to this question, but I haven’t found anything specific, so I thought I’d ask myself. You all seem to have a wealth of knowledge and experience, so maybe someone has some advice for a newbie like me.
    Little back story, I am brand new to knife making. I’ve collected knives for years and just recently decided to try my hand at making them. I started with a cheap, Amazon-special kit knife and thoroughly enjoyed it so I began ordering various scale materials and blade blanks online. I’m only doing some basic scale stock removal and shaping, mostly with a set of files and sandpaper (though I do have a cheap 1x30 belt sander on the way to get my feet wet.) Maybe one day I’ll try my hand at forging, but that’s years away. Two jobs and a toddler mean very little free time for hobbies.
    Anyway, about two years ago we felled a huge water oak that my grandfather planted just before being drafted to WWII. It had grown to about 10 feet in diameter and was just too big and too close to the house. I salvaged a couple logs with the intentions of having them milled and make some type of furniture out of them. That free time is elusive, though, and the logs have been sitting in the yard since. Recently I thought, how great would some handmade knives be for family for Christmas presents made from Pop’s old tree? I know water oak is not typically a go-to for knife scales. But the sentimental value here far outweighs the aesthetics. Although, this giant 80 year old oak does have some pretty interesting grain patterns. They would be camp knives, kitchen knives, and possibly a fillet knife or two. Likely wouldn’t get much use as they would be keepsakes. But who knows?
    I cut the end off one of the logs yesterday and the meat is good. It looks healthy-as healthy as a tree that’s been on the ground for two years can be.
    My question is, am I wasting my time thinking I could get this wood dried out enough to start making some handles by the end of the summer? Has anyone had any luck with drying wood out fairly quickly and what did you do? I’ve seen the oven and microwave discussions, but this wood isn’t completely green. It’s been sitting for two years, though it’s been out in the elements.
    Any advice would be much appreciated.
    Ron Raducanu likes this.
  2. TRfromMT

    TRfromMT Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Jan 4, 2016
    Cut some large, oversize blocks. Seal the ends with latex paint. Place the blocks in a dry, warm place preferably with some airflow, for several weeks. Allow airflow around all sides. Green blocks 6" x 2" x 1.25" should do.

    Then send all of the best ones the K&G for stabilizing. Ask them to check moisture before stabilizing (you have to request this).

    Having them generously sized allows for squaring them up and trimming after stabilizing.

    This is not ideal, but works in a pinch if you are short on time.
  3. dirc


    Jan 31, 2018
  4. weo

    weo KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Sep 21, 2014
    That just means that part of the drying has already begun, but doesn't really change the methods/principles much, if at all. Drying wood has (IMO) too many variables to get a specific recommendation on what will be "the best" in your situation. Things such as the size of the pieces, the location where the tree was grown (how much water was available during it's lifetime), the ambient heat and humidity of your storage area, etc.
    When I had my own place to harvest maple in the foothills of the pacific cascades, it was wet enough that after the first year, I didn't paint the ends (and ended up getting rid of a nearly full bucket of Anchorseal) because this only slowed down the drying that was already slow enough and controlled by my locale.
    This recommendation is a pretty good starting place.
    And fyi, I think a lot of us use the term 'green' to refer to any piece of wood that isn't fully dry.
  5. Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

    Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith ilmarinen - MODERATOR Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 20, 2004
    This is going to be a learning experience. While TrfromMT has good basic info. it will be a lot longer than two weeks to dry it. Getting an inexpensive moisture meter is a good idea. You want it down to 10% or less. I would then have it stabilized by K&G. This will reduce future cracking and improve the look.
  6. FredyCro

    FredyCro Basic Member Basic Member

    Jan 11, 2019
    Yeah, oak splits badly, ask me how I know. :) but if it sat for two years outside it won't be nearly as bad as if was completely green. If you want to do it fast and are going to stabilize it, take a block that you are willing to risk and put it near (but not directly on or next to) to a source of heat in your home and see how it reacts, give it a couple of weeks.
  7. 3fifty7

    3fifty7 Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 24, 2016
    The couple of times I’ve dried wood I’ve put it in my garage for 2 years in large blocks(6”x6”x12”). Then cut them down into slightly oversized (6”x2”x1.5”) and placed them separated on top of my hot water heater for 4-6 months. Trimmed down once more then sent to K&G for stabilization.
  8. Randydb

    Randydb Basic Member Basic Member

    Sep 27, 2014
    I'm guessing you are from Alabama? I agree with WEO, there are tons of variables. I got the Ryobi pin moisture meter that works on my phone. https://www.ryobitools.com/phoneworks/moisture-meter/. Tested it against an expensive meter and it was within 0.5% most of the time. Good enough for me.
    I live just north of the Pacific Northwest in the Canadian Southwest. I find wood in the bush that is interesting and toss it under my porch for a couple years. It's usually about 12-14% when I pull it out and cut it into blocks around 6" x 1.5x 1" or so. I let them dry another month or two in my garage and send them off to K&G to be stabilized. Some of the time K&G winds up drying them a bit more before stabilizing.

    Personally I would try finding some interesting sections of the tree and cut them into 6x2x1.5 pieces, paint or wax the ends and let them sit somewhere dry outside(garden shed, under a porch, etc) for 4 or 5 months to do the initial drying. Check them with a moisture meter and when they get to about 14% or so move them inside where it is warmer to get them down below 9% which is what K&G wants when they stabilize.

    I just googled water oak and there is some really nice looking wood people have used for pen blanks, pepper and salt mills, etc. Some nice looking spalted stuff too. You are going to get pieces with more character from parts of the tree that are gnarled, or burled, and from crotches (the y where branched connect).
  9. BamaJO


    Feb 28, 2021
    Thank you, gentlemen, for the advice. I appreciate your willingness to help out a rookie. I will let y’all know how it goes.

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