Air Drying Cherry Slabs

      Basic advice for a beginner on drying slabs. January 17, 2011

Question
About a month ago I dropped an old cherry tree in the Seattle area. Then with the chainsaw, I cut several slabs - 4", 5", and a good 6" thick, about 10' long. Pretty nice cuts, too (except the first one). My new slabs are out in the weather (were uncovered for a week of spring sun) and now are wrapped in cotton sheets and kept constantly wet (based on varied advice). I think they would make nice bar tops, but want to cure them properly. What's the best course of action?

Forum Resposnes
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From Professor Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
I have not heard of such an approach to drying lumber... wrapping the wood in sheets that are kept wet, or anything close to that. Your advisor certainly has some interesting advice for "curing." You can dry wood using proven technology as covered in the Knowledge Base here. You might especially consult Drying Hardwood Lumber, a US Dept of Agriculture book.

Your technique will lead to fungal staining, discoloration, potential decay, and very little drying. Although slow drying of thick slabs is indeed required, your technique is going a bit overboard.



From contributor A:
I would remove the sheets and buy a gallon of AnchorSeal (look for UC coatings). It is a wax paint for sealing lumber. Coat the ends and about 6 to 8 inches all around the ends. Place in shade where it can get some air flow and sticker with at least 1 inch of spacing between slabs and a good foot off the ground. In a couple of years start looking for someone with a vacuum kiln to dry it on down or just put it in place and leave the bottom unsealed and use it.


From contributor T:
You might also consider ordering a 5 gallon bucket of Bailey's end sealer. Not knocking Anchorseal - it is a good product, but for slabs you want it thick as you can get.

I don't do near the volume contributor A and others do, but I daresay I use more sealer, because ~80% of the primary species we process requires sealing on all faces, so we go through a lot of wax. I buy direct from the manufacturer by the skid and have my own formulation, which the chemist formulated for me after listening to my needs and after several months of trial and error. I don't understand the chemistry, but I do know I have a mildewcide and a fungicide added to my formulation which has dramatically reduced my problems in those areas. A side effect is that it also thickens it even more, which for me is good. You want thick also for those tops.

The Bailey's product is the exact same base formulation that mine is and the thickness of the Bailey's product is not much less than mine. It's a heck of a lot thicker than Anchorseal. I don't have to apply two coats like I did with the Anchorseal. One coat and I am done with it. While you cannot buy directly from the manufacturer unless buying in volume, you can go to baileysonline.com and order just a 5 gallon bucket.

End sealer is emulsified wax. Emulsification allows the wax and the water and polymers, etc. to mix where otherwise it could not. Like oil and water. They won't mix in their natural state but emulsify them together and you can have watered down oil. Some companies use more water than wax and that's why one product will be thinner than another that uses more wax.

There's more to it than that and I am no chemist, but if you have a basic understanding of what end sealer is, you can make a more informed buying decision. Anchorseal is good and it has diehard fans that will not even try anything else... But some say to-may-toe, and some say to-maw-toe.



From contributor T:
What I didn't clarify very well above is that Bailey's buys their sealer from the same manufacturer I do. I said their base was the exact same formulation, but I should have been more clear - it comes from the same manufacturer, so I can vouch firsthand for the product.

I had to order some from Bailey's once when I failed to reorder a skid in a timely manner and was going to be without sealer, so I ordered a few buckets from Bailey's to get me through and I was extremely pleased with their formula.



From the original questioner:
Thank you all for the input. After reading the Knowledge Base here and getting my hands on the book from the Dept of Ag, it sounds like I will be getting some Bailey's or Anchorseal to seal up the ends and rigging up a proper stacking of my slabs. It will be a little tricky because of the three slabs (representing two cuts), only one of the cuts was perfect. The first cut was not so good. I'm thinking the idea here is to not cause any twisting stress on the slabs, yet weight them down to help keep them from warping.

The cotton sheets were just an easy way to keep them temporarily wet and prevent too quick of a drying (worried about splitting) until I learned what to do with them. One guy suggested I immerse them in water for a while.

We have about 8 more weeks of rainy and cool weather around here. I'll keep them in the shade and covered, but allow for movement of air around them. Guess I should remove the bark pretty soon too.



From contributor B:
It sounds like you are coming up the learning curve quickly. It might be worthwhile to find a sawyer with a bandmill who could cut the slabs so that the faces are parallel prior to drying. I use a CNC to flatten slabs that are poorly sawn, but that's most effective after they are dry.


From contributor A:
Unless you park a D5 dozer on top, you will not get enough weight to prevent them from moving. I have found it is best to just let them move. That way you are not hiding a defect that may show up later. Keeping the wood so that it can dry evenly will do more for keeping it flat than anything else you do.

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  • KnowledgeBase: Primary Processing: Air Drying Lumber


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