How Dry Should Wood Be for Woodworking

Published on: June 10, 2022
Written by Eric Devin / Fact-checked by David Rowan

Everyone who deals with wood should be aware of how the material reacts to moisture in the environment. Wood moisture content (MC) should constantly be on your mind if you’re a cabinet maker, a wood flooring specialist laying hardwood floors, or if you utilize wood in construction.

Wood is hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs moisture. As the relative humidity (RH) of the surrounding air changes, it acquires or loses water moisture.

how dry should wood be for woodworking

Before you can utilize the wood for woodworking, make sure it’s dried to a moisture content that’s within 2 percentage points of the equilibrium moisture content in the area where you’ll utilize it. What exactly does this imply? We’ll go over it.

Let’s assume the humidity level in the area where you’ll be using the wood is 19 to 25 percent. The equilibrium moisture content in this situation would be 6%, and the wood moisture content would be 6% as well.

This means that the wood for that area should be dried to roughly 6% moisture content and held at that moisture level throughout the woodworking operation. If you don’t do this, you’ll end up with cracking, warping, and other problems once the wood product is done.

How Do You Know if Wood Is Dry Enough for Woodworking

On average, a moisture meter measurement on wood varies from 6 to 10%. The moisture meter should, however, display low readings for drywall, concrete, and masonry materials, preferably less than 1%.

For woodworkers who construct cabinets, fine furniture, musical instruments, dishes, toys, beautiful art, boat restoration, or a variety of other wood goods, the allowable wood moisture level varies from 6% to 8%. It’s important to note that a moisture value of 0-15 percent is perfectly normal and poses no danger. Moisture readings of more than 15%, on the other hand, suggest that more investigation is required. Water infiltration is indicated by levels between 25 and 30%, implying that remedial work may be necessary.

Specific Types of Wood That Need to Be Dried to a More Precise Moisture Content for Woodworking

Some types of wood need to be dried to a more precise moisture content for woodworking. Hardwoods, such as oak, maple, and cherry, should be dried to a moisture content of around 6-8% for optimal stability and to prevent cracking, warping, and movement. Softwoods, such as pine and cedar, are typically dried to a moisture content of around 12-15%. However, Some other species have different requirements, as well as the desired end use of the finished product and the environment it will be used in. It is important to consult with a professional or reference a reliable source for specific moisture content requirements for the type of wood you are working with.

How Long Does Wood Need to Dry Before Woodworking

When it comes to seasoning timber, the rule of thumb is that one year of air drying is required for every inch of thickness. Because this would take several years for the wood to air dry, another method for turning green wood into boards is to utilize a kiln.

In reality, most varieties of wood will dry out in roughly 1 year per inch of thickness. If the log is 2 inches in diameter, you’ll have to leave it outside for two years before it’s dry enough to burn.

Allowing one year of drying time per inch of wood thickness is the traditional rule of thumb for air-drying lumber; this adage obviously only takes a few of the aforementioned variables into account, but it’s at least a rough starting point in understanding the time investment required to properly air-dry lumber.

How Can I Measure the Moisture Content of a Piece of Wood

There are several ways to measure the moisture content of a piece of wood, including the following:

  1. Oven-dry method: This involves drying a small sample of wood in an oven at a specific temperature, then weighing it to determine the moisture content.
  2. Electrical resistance method: This involves using a device that measures the electrical resistance of the wood, which changes as the moisture content changes.
  3. Nuclear method: This involves using a device that measures the amount of moisture in the wood using nuclear radiation.
  4. Handheld moisture meter: These are available for purchase, these use pins to measure the moisture content of wood by sending an electrical current through the wood.
  5. Pinless moisture meter: These are also available for purchase, these use electromagnetic waves to measure the moisture content of wood without physically penetrating it.

It’s important to note that the moisture content of wood can vary depending on the species and the location of the tree from which it was cut, as well as the location where the wood is stored. Therefore, it is important to take multiple readings from different parts of the wood to get an accurate measurement.

What Is the Fastest Way to Dry Wood for Woodworking

There are various ways to quickly dry wood. The method to use is determined by the kind and quantity of wood. Air drying shed drying, and kiln drying is the three basic drying methods. Kiln drying is significantly faster than air drying. The ambient climate affects both air drying and sheds drying. Kiln drying is more costly, but it produces a more consistent outcome.

Tips for Drying Wood Faster

While employing the air-dry technique has its advantages, there are alternative ways to expedite the process. Here are some of the outdo ideas for drying wood quickly.

It Should Be Dried Indoors

If you have the space, consider drying your wood in your home’s warmth. The temperature is regulated inside, the wood isn’t exposed to the elements, and you may aid the process by using heating and the warmth of the sun via your windows.

Another benefit is that you are not placing the wood on a wet floor. You’d still have to stack everything the same way, especially with the spacers, and weigh it down. The smell is a disadvantage of drying wood indoors. Wood has a strong odor.

The garage is the best area to dry wood since the aromas won’t go into your house. To provide the dry heat needed to eliminate the moisture from the wood, you may invest in a good garage heater.

Choose the Sun and the Wind

If you have to dry your wood outside due to a lack of room, the location you pick for your stack is critical. Choose a sunny location; for example, if your home faces south, stack it where the sun will reach it.

You’ll need ventilation in addition to the sun. Locate the windiest location and let the air circulate. Consider how you’d dry your clothes on a line. The sun’s heat and the breeze are required to make everything smell fresh.

It will dry faster if it is exposed to more sunshine and breeze. If it’s going to rain, bring a cover so it doesn’t get wet. However, because the objective is to let the wood breathe, covering it with a sheet can be counterproductive, trapping moisture.

The thought is to keep an eye on the weather and, after the rain stops, expose the wood to the sun and breeze.

Make Use of a Dehumidifier or a Fan

Using a dehumidifier or fan to speed up the drying process of your wood is one of the most effective methods. This only works inside, however, it is really effective if you store your wood in a garage.

Set up your dehumidifier or fan adjacent to your wood stack and turn it on. The dehumidifier draws moisture from the wood, cutting drying time in half from months to weeks. The fan circulates air around the stack at a steady rate, and while it isn’t as rapid as the dehumidifier, it helps to speed up the process.

The only thing to keep in head is that running a dehumidifier consistently for a few weeks will cost you more in electricity. Another matter of fact to keep in head is that you’ll need to empty the dehumidifier’s water tank on a frequent basis.

You’ll be astonished at how quickly that water tank fills up with moisture.


A wood kiln is required for this approach. Because this isn’t something that everyone possesses, this tip will only work for a select few of you. If you have an entree to a wood kiln, however, you will like this method of drying wood.

Imagine being able to acquire dry wood in hours rather than weeks or months. Heat and humidity are used to manage the drying of wood in kilns, with some even adjusting the steam levels. Assume you don’t have access to a wood-drying kiln. Go to Google and type in your location. Within driving distance, there is likely to be a kiln that can help you dry your wood.

The main drawback to this method of acting is that you are limited in the amount of wood you can dry, and employing a third-party kiln comes at a cost. Keep in mind that utilizing a kiln may limit the size of the wood strips you may dry.

Make Use of a Microwave

This isn’t a joke. To eliminate the moisture from the wood, you may dry it in the microwave. You may buy industrial-scale microwaves that dry wood in no time, but they’re still limited by the size of the wood pieces.

If you simply need to dry a few strips, don’t bother with a commercial microwave; a basic unit will be enough.

Rapid moisture extraction offers both benefits and drawbacks. The wood dries rapidly, but unless you know how to do it correctly, you risk burning the board to the core and utterly ruining it.

Microwave the wood for approximately 2 minutes for every 1.5-inch thickness for the best results. Also, have your moisture meter nearby so you can check the moisture content on a frequent basis to ensure it doesn’t dry out too much.

You may be limited to smaller pieces if you use your microwave to eliminate moisture, so you may not be able to dry all of your wood. The advantage is that you can dry your wood 10 times faster than if you used a kiln.

Don’t Wait Any Longer

Don’t wait if you have a fallen tree or timber in your yard that has to be processed. Because it opens up the wood, the sooner you finish it, the better the consequence for drying it off. It also protects the grain pattern from stains, mold, and mildew growth, which might destroy it.

Removing the bark can aid in moisture extraction. The bark works as a water barrier, holding it inside the wood and causing it to decay from the inside out.

When you see spalted or partially rotting wood, you can always know it was kept wrongly.

Remove the Oversized Wood

Because the wood shrinks as it dries, cut it big rather than gauging it to suit your design and then cutting and drying it.

As a result, you won’t wind up with lengths that are too short for your project due to shrinkage throughout the drying process. It also means you’ll have additional sanding and cutting angles and edges to work with.

If you cut beveled edges on the wood and then let it dry, it will distort, flinging the edges out and making them uneven.

Close the Loopholes

The cut ends of logs leak moisture at a rate 10 to 12 times quicker than any other part of the log. You may regulate moisture leakage by slowing the process by closing the ends. You can limit the likelihood of cracking and shrinking, which is known as checking, by controlling the drying period.

To avoid checking, apply wax, paraffin, polyurethane, or even latex paint. Sealing the ends within minutes rather than hours is the optimum technique.

Can Wood Be Too Dry for Woodworking

Because overly dry wood is more brittle, nailing, sawing, and other components of installation or woodworking can cause splits, cracks, knot loss, and other damage, especially when working across the grain. Attempting to carve or turn too dry wood might result in greater surface splintering.


The recommended wood moisture levels for a woodworker are 6 percent to 8%. These values may differ based on the relative humidity of the environment where the wood is being used.

You must ensure that the wood is at the proper moisture levels before using it on a project. If you don’t do this, the wood may expand, shrink, fracture, or distort, producing issues with your project.

Wood moisture levels of 6 to 8% are optimal for a woodworker. The relative humidity of the place where you are utilizing the wood may affect these levels.

You must ensure that the wood is at the proper moisture level before using it on a project. If you don’t, the wood may expand, shrink, fracture, or warp, producing issues with your woodworking project.

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About This Writer

author eric devin

Hi, I am Eric Devin and I am a professional interior architect. Since childhood, I've always enjoyed DIY projects! And, I have loved to solve simple household problems using essential tools and equipment. I have also acquired a lot of information about basic household tools settings by working with contractors.

Hi, I am Eric Devin and I am a professional interior architect. Since childhood, I've always enjoyed DIY projects! And, I have loved to solve simple household problems using essential tools and equipment. I have also acquired a lot of information about basic household tools settings by working with contractors.

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