Wood: Dry, dryer, driest

Dry, dryer, driest

We’ve noticed recently that wood that has been coming to Rowden, and to our own workshop, has had noticeably variable moisture content. This is most noticeable when it relates to native species and very small woodyards, though even the largest yards can throw in the odd duff damp board.

Now this is not a problem, unless you’re in a massive hurry. And if you’re in a massive hurry then maybe you should look at your project planning! Most good workshops have a small kiln or at least access to one, just in case wood arrives a little on the wet side.

Ideally for domestic furniture, wood should have a moisture content between 6%-10%, though we have had no problem with wood with a moisture content under 12%. One of the things you have to be careful of with thick boards, say 3” or more, is that the moisture content in the centre of the board is significantly different to that at the surface. 

It doesn’t happen very often, but this is usually the result of a hasty drying process and poor supervision of the process by the yard involved. If it does happen we have always made a point of letting them know. Best to keep ‘em on their toes!

Any wood with a moisture content over, say, 14% should be allowed to dry before being machined. Quite often if it is simply left in a warm dry workshop for a period that is enough. If the boards are large and you’re in a bit of a hurry, then time in a kiln is the best way forward. Done correctly, this will do the wood no harm and give you a material you can trust when it comes to making furniture.

Until next time,



David established Rowden Atelier in 1995, a now world renowned fine woodworking school. Discover Rowden, the woodworking courses, and the work that students go on to do.

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