Air-Drying Silver Maple

Basic advice on stacking, stickering, and covering Maple for air drying in winter. October 17, 2012

I am planning to have two silver maple trees milled to 5/4, and am planning to stack it for air drying. I don't have a drying shed, so this will be out in the open with plywood overlapping the sides by 4-5", weighted down (stacks will be around 5' high, 6' wide, 4' deep). I have kiln dried stickers from the guy who is milling the wood. The same sawyer said he always tarps his lumber to keep the rain off in the winter (SW Michigan). Here's the question: to tarp or not? I've had advice both ways, and don't know which way to go. Thanks for any/all thoughts.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor Y:
Be sure to build a sound foundation for the stack and coat the ends. Some sort of protection from rain would be good - but you can't just wrap it up with a tarp. Some here like a carport or a garage with some air flow would be better, if you can arrange it.

From the original questioner:
A carport or shed isn't possible right away. I need to get the wood milled and stickered sooner rather than later. I could build a shed around the stacks, though, once the weather warms up. The base is solid - 2x4 frames, gravel to level, concrete blocks, and 4x6ís as the base. I really wonder how important it is to keep rain off of the lumber after it's cut? It's winter now and not much drying is going on and I have Anchorseal for the ends. Should I attach tarps or something to the plywood top that I can flip down when it rains? Or not worry about it?

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
No tarp if it stays above freezing. A wider roof on the sides would be good. 12" overhang.

From the original questioner:

Does all drying stop if it's below freezing during the day?

From contributor B:
I've cut and air dried some silver maple and you need to do everything you can to keep it dry as it water stains easily. A plywood or similar cover is good, and if you tarp it you need to only go about 1/4 way down the side or the top will stain from condensation for sure. The wood I was able to use turned a beautiful golden color as it dried, really nice stuff to work with other than it liked to clog up my tablesaw blade.

Drying slows to a snailís pace when it gets really cold, but that won't hurt as long as it stays dry. I would only tarp the sides if a storm came along, but then I would untarp again after the winds went away. If you absolutely need to, you could put some 8' long 2x4's across the top of the stack, then put a tarp on that and weight down the sides so it didn't blow away; this would give some air movement so long as you left good room for fresh air to get in.

From the original questioner:
This is exactly what I was wondering about. The wood is now milled, and there's some gorgeous stuff in the pile - wonderful figure. Of course I'd like to maximize my chances of actually getting the wood dry and using it, even though it's my first time with such a relatively large amount (500 bf or so). I'll do exactly as you suggest: plywood on the top, overlapping as much as I can (8-12"), then tarps that I can drop over when it rains. Exactly what I was wondering.

From contributor S:
I use 50% shade cloth to wrap my stacks. I order it in 36' x 6' pieces. It has a webbing boarder with grommets every 12". It keeps the driving snow and rain off the boards while allowing the air to flow. In the summer, it protects the wood from too much sun. Hang it from the plywood roof just inside of your overhang, but away from the boards. If you Google "shade cloth", you will find some suppliers. I get mine from NB, Canada.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
Some wood species, especially the white colored woods need to be dried as fast as possible to obtain the whitest color possible. Restricting air flow, especially in warmer months, will result in color loss for white, wetter wood. You can get Shade-Dri from UC Coatings here in the U.S.

From the original questioner:
All of my lumber is slightly different widths, so I've got it all sorted by width. Is it ok to use shims to make sure the stack is even all the way up? For example, if I've got 5/4 lumber for 3' out of the 4' width of the stack, can I put a 4/4 board next to the 5/4 and then shim the stickers for the next layer? I've been spacing the boards out so they take up the whole 4' width, so some have 2-3" inches between them. Is that ok? Feel free to tell me I'm overthinking all this.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
Spacing between boards is not necessary, but it is important to get even sides, so if there is not enough space for another board in a layer, then you can make one or several spaces, as needed. It is best, without a doubt, to have the same thickness in one layer, even if you mix widths and lengths. If you shim, as suggested, then the one side of the lumber is ok, but the other side is partially in a wind shadow of the thicker piece.

One additional comment: With a 4' wide pile, it can get fairly unstable (tippy) as you go up. Using some 4x4s every 3 or 4' in elevation will help, but even then at 8', you need to stop going much higher.

From the original questioner:
I figured that the sides of the pile did have to be even, so I did spaces out three 14" wide boards to make the sides flush with the stickers (at 48"). Thanks for confirming my guess and thanks for the suggestions on the widths. I hadn't thought about the wind shadow, so I'll stay with the same widths on the same layer. I'm not planning on going much higher than 5' for the stack, so the stack will be 4' wide/deep, 7' long, and 5' tall. I was thinking about stabilizing it halfway up with two or three ratcheting band clamps. Do you think that's a good idea?

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
I like to have a pile width of about 46" with 48" stickers. It gives you a bit of a safety margin with sticker placement, so to speak. You have to be the judge on when the pile seems to be getting unstable.