Drying Hickory with the Bark

Secrets of preserving the bark on Hickory during drying. April 18, 2010

I am cutting a lot of bitternut hickory trees this year and have a good supply of tops. I would like to try a go at some hickory furniture with the bark intact. Does anyone have experience with this, specifically drying the bark? I was planning on using a clear coat of catalyzed lacquer finish, but how slowly do I need to dry the limbs prior to application of the finish? I do have a Nyle dry kiln so I can dry to a specific moisture content and regulate the process, but have no experience drying limbs in order to keep the bark intact.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor S:
You have to start with a fresh cut living tree. Anything past two weeks old, you have very little hope of saving the bark. If you have plenty of branches, experiment with your kiln. Trial and error is your best learning tool.

The way I figured it out is, have your kiln load almost done with the heat above 130 f. Leave in for 36 hours, and pull out of kiln for 24 hours. Put them back in for 2 days, watching the ends for cracking (cracking is good). Look at the bark - you don't want any cracks there. There is no exact science on this. If the branches feel lighter, you're probably okay. Before you put any sealer on, use a pin nailer in a few spots to help hold the bark on.

From contributor A:
For bark on hickory, fell in the fall and winter and put the sticks in the kiln the day it is cut. The faster the better. It is a crapshoot at best. I just stick them in the kiln with whatever is in there and whatever MC.

From contributor P:
I have built hickory furniture, bark on, for over twenty-five years. I harvest in the winter months, storing it inside and out till spring, when I try to have it all up and in the dry. If I let it go past May, it will get Bostricid beetles. I have stored hickory green for months before kiln drying in a Nyle system kiln, without any degradation at all. I have delivered thousands of pieces of hickory furniture over the years and have never had a piece returned for slipped or loose bark.