Controlling color in air-dried alder

Ideas for achieving color uniformity when air-drying alder. July 26, 2000

What tools or secrets are out there for controlling the color of western red alder during the air-drying process?

I have no kiln to dry in and will continue to air-dry the wood, but would like to at least have it come out the same color, even if it's not the preferred color for the species. Some kind of consistency would be nice. Any advice?

Don't dry it outdoors. We dry ours in a dry shop with a woodstove in the far corner. Alder and big leaf maple both go to a light brown color if you air-dry them outside in a moist climate. I live in British Columbia, so we found that out really fast.

The color of alder depends on the rate of drying and on the temperature used.

When air-drying, you have no control over either critical factor, so you have no control over color. You cannot achieve the same color from load to load, or even within the same load. You need some sort of drying operation that enables you to control air flow, relative humidity (RH) and temperature.

Alder will not air-dry properly outdoors for sure. There is likely a kiln in your area that you could use for a small fee.

I've found that I can dry alder, maple, and others outdoors, with no stain or discoloring; the trick is to keep the wood and stickers clean. I stand my wood on end and pressure-wash it. It's wet and green to start, so this removes dust, dirt, etc. Then, I use fans to bring the outer edges down to 20 percent moisture content.

Stickers are the number-one cause of staining in hardwoods. Keep the wood clean, and your worries are gone.