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Advice on sawing different cedar species for air drying1/26
I am a novice to the art of sawing and drying my own lumber, and I've tried to do extensive research on the topic before posting but still find myself with some questions.
My main problems are sticker staining and discoloration of sapwood, and mildew.
I have been sourcing urban logs from friends who do treework, and when I have a big enough pile I've hired a sawyer with a bandsaw mill to cut them for me. This past summer leading into fall I had approx. 1,000bf of cedar sawn, (western red and cedrus deodora). The Deodar is not a well known species to many woodworkers since it's not native, but was and is a popular ornamental tree and as such it is available in the urban settings I've been sourcing logs from. It has very aromatic heartwood and is quite rot resistant, so i like to use it for siding and decking.
I followed good stacking and stickering protocol (I think?) and let the wood airdry outside during the shoulder season where we still have some nice sunny days mixed with wet ones...(covered from the rain, in the shade, and with fans on it to keep air moving) before moving into a greenhouse to finish off...this brought the MC down to 15% or less now which is sufficient for using as exterior siding and decking. Unfortunately there was quite a bit of mildew and pretty severe "sticker stain" and other sapwood discolorations, primarily on the deodar. The ends were treated with anchorseal, and I had very little loss due to checking or warping.
I've just got several more logs, of the same 2 species, and would like to see what kind of advice I can get on my options for sawing and drying so as not to repeat my mistakes, the sapwood discoloration being the most troublesome. I also wonder about letting the logs set around for 5 months, and if this would also cause the discoloration issues.
I live in the wet part of Oregon, so it will likely be very moist here for the next 5 months. I'd like to avoid the expense of kiln drying the wood, but am skeptical about air drying anything outdoors this time of year. Even if I keep the stack covered from rain, there is often heavy fog and dew that wets anything it contacts.
I have the option to air dry in a covered, but unconditioned barn, but am still concerned about mildew. I could stack in there, but would fans be enough to keep molds at bay and dry it fast enough?
I've listed possible options below, and hope some experts could chime in on what they think my best option to dry the wood is:
1. Mill the logs now (January) and immediately kiln dry.
2. Mill the logs now, stack outdoors to air dry, (with or without fans)
3. Mill the logs now, stack indoors to air dry, with fans.
4. Wait till late spring to mill the logs, then air dry outdoors during summer. (this may not be an option since I am storing them on a friends property with the agreement that I will deal with them in a timely fashion....)
Thanks for reading the long post, and hopefully for helping out!
3, 2, 1
If you want the odor to remain and be strong, then you need to avoid drying over 85 F.
Oregon State university may have some information that can be helpful especially for Cedrus deodara, commonly called deodar cedar. I have no info about processing this wood.
One particular problem with western cedar, Thuja plicata, is that the butt log can contain bacterial wetwood that is very difficult to dry without defect.
How far off the ground are you stacking the lumber? Right on the ground, or are you getting it up in the air? I've been advised and have found that stacking higher dries the lumber more quickly.
Do you fans run all the time, and how are they oriented to the wood (and in particular, the stickers?) Air drying doesn't need active air flow here in PA, but sounds like you have a lot of moisture in the air. Make sure air is actually flowing through the stack, and that the stickers aren't preventing it from reaching the inner most part of your stack.
How thick is the lumber? Thicker lumber requires more drying time, since the moisture needs to migrate out through more layers of wood fibers.
Do you start with pre-dried stickers, or are you using stickers cut from the same material?
How thick are your stickers? They should be 4/4 to assure that moisture moves quickly out of the inner parts of the stack.
Most folks stack layers of wood with edges touching, which is usually OK. When you're pushing air through a stack with fans, etc. the tight edge stacking helps to keep the air moving through the whole stack. But you might need to leave some gaps between yours to help moisture migrate out.
Not sure if you are, but I won't cover the wood directly with plastics. Moisture can't get through that. I use stickers or build a peak of some kind on the top layer and use metal roofing, or other rigid, roofing materials to shed rainwater and keep it out of the stack.
And how tall are your stacks? I keep mine to 4-5' and put 4x4s between them (right over the stickers) to allow for a large air gap between the stacks.
I think you will be OK if you stack in a barn, but is the flooring dirt, or gravel, or is it concrete? Is it well drained around the outside, or is the rainwater just dripping on the ground and seeping inot the immediate soil? Moisture will come up from the ground and can slow down the drying rate. Again stacking the lumber up higher off the floor can help dry it more quickly.
Also, avoid stacking where rain splash will spread mud onto the lumber. This will cause rot as bacteria in the soil attempt to convert the wood back into dirt.
Best of luck,
Thanks Eric and Gene for your helpful comments.
I've milled the wood already and currently have 2 different drying scenarios going on. The larger 2" slabs are stacked on pallets in the barn, with a large fan blowing parallel to the stickers, from the side. The boards, 1-1.5", are stacked and stickered on a trailer outside at the moment since the weather is good. When it starts raining again, I'll back the trailer into the barn. I used well dried port oford cedar stickers, 7/8" thick. I'll be checking for mildew and stain and moving the fans as needed.
I think one of my problems last time was that even though the piles were covered, they were covered with plastic to keep rain out(the top and front and back were covered, with sides open to allow fans to blow through) and there were fans, it was in a very wet area and some heavy storms blew rain in from the side and perhaps the plastic was preventing the air from circulating as good as it could.
Time will tell how this approach works for me, I keep learning something new every time.