Drying Softwoods

If the product is structural lumber rather than appearance-grade wood, just dry the stuff as fast as your equipment can. January 27, 2007

I have been seeing so many posts concerning kilns and drying hardwoods that I just have to ask some questions. I live in the Sierra Mountains and cut thousands of bf of pine and other conifers for our ranch buildings and lots of beams for the local timber frame business. (Timberking B-20 owner and love it.)

What is the difference in drying softwood versus hardwood and why are there no books or articles about softwood drying? Does softwood have fewer problems in the kiln drying process? Do the pines dry straighter, quicker or the same? What about air drying? It seems that air dried softwood is used a lot more up here than kiln dried. There doesn't even seem to be much need or interest in drying these softwoods. All of the buildings that we construct on the ranch use Jeffery pine green and only occasionally have any problems. I am thinking of increasing my operations and would like to know a little about that side of the business.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor J:
Hardwoods are generally used for appearance grade lumber, whereas softwoods are generally used as construction grade lumber. With construction grade lumber, no one cares about surface checks, which are not acceptable in appearance grade lumber. Not worrying about surface checks, you speed up the drying process, which eliminates all other concerns such as mold and staining. So in summary, just dry softwoods (intended for construction) as fast as your equipment can.

From contributor M:
Given your dry mountain air, I assume that softwoods dry quickly if stacked and stickered well and kept out of the rain or snow. Here in the South, we kiln dry pine to use in interiors of cabins where the lumber needs to be clear of surface mold and below 10% moisture and air drying just won't get it there effectively. That is the question you need to ask yourself - how will the lumber be used and how can I get it down to the required moisture level quickly with minimal molding and bluing?