Drying Split Logs

How you dry split smallwood could depend on your intended use for it in furniture, for archery bows, or whatever. October 3, 2009

I have recently been able to split quite a bit of wood out of green logs. The pieces I have been getting are quartered, generally triangular, or like a truncated triangle, with each face being about 6" - 8" wide. The pieces are between 3' and 4' long, mostly catalpa, with some elm, oak, and locust.

I am pretty familiar with drying slabs, but am not sure how to proceed with these chunks. How long should I let it air dry for? I'm in the Northwest. Should I resaw it into slabs, and how much cracking should I expect?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor D:
What do you intend to do with them once they are dry? That can affect which drying method is best. I make archery bows (some), and split 6' sections of logs to about the same size as what you have. For drying, I start with a good foundation (just like you would use for regular lumber), then lay the pieces parallel in the first row. The second row then goes perpendicular to the first row, and so on, alternating from layer to layer. Don't fit the triangles together - they need plenty of air space. It looks kinda like this:


Also, I always seal the ends to prevent/minimize end checking.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. I am looking to get some stock for Krenov-style cabinetmaking, so some pieces for panels, some pieces for legs, a mixed bag. Maybe I should cut some up into say 4/4 slabs, and leave some that I can cut up later into legs, maybe 2" square kind of thing. I do seal the ends with some kind of waxy glop that they sell at Lee Valley - I guess it's like Anchorseal. How long do you leave your wood stacked up for before you use it?

From contributor D:
For what you need, I would think that sawing them as you stated would be the best way for a couple of reasons. First, most of my split logs curve towards the bark side of the stave as they dry (which is desirable in bows, but not so good for cabinets/furniture). Also, it takes much longer for the staves to dry (as opposed to dimensioned lumber). I try to air dry my staves at least a year as a general rule (and even then I sometimes have to allow them additional dry time after I rough the bow out). Also, bugs love the bark, so you have an increased risk of damaging your wood in stave form. Dimensioned lumber takes up less space, stacks neater (and straighter), and would be easier to cut while green. Hope that helps - sounds like you have a nice goody bag of species to play with!

From contributor B:
Contributor D, what wood do you use for your bows? I also make bows, and use primarily Osage staves for mine. It's always interesting to talk to someone else who does it.

Unfortunately I cannot give too much advice in drying split sections for straightness. Osage staves start out bent every direction and must be worked with heat and steam to get them right. But I would suggest that for straightening it may be desirable to remove the bark. I leave the bark on for bows, as it prevents the tiny invisible cracks that can form in the exposed face that are fatal to a bow, but this does cause that side to dry at a different rate than the rest of the wood. Also the sapwood (at least on Osage) tends to shrink a lot as it dries, causing the whole stave to bend toward the bark side as stated earlier (at least that's what I think is happening). Now this, as I said, is mostly guess. I have never tried to dry a stave straight before, and my experience is limited to a few species.

If you leave it in chunk form, it will take longer to dry. Resawing into slabs may prove your best option.

From contributor D:
I'm in the southeast (East-Central Alabama), so unfortunately Osage is few and far between. I was able to obtain one Osage stave from a good friend that I've been drying for almost two years; I plan to use it this year. I mostly use hickory and oak, but am going to try black walnut and eastern cedar soon. I've used vertical bamboo flooring as well. Where are you located?

From contributor B:
I live in North-Central Indiana, the flat part. We have Osage all over from old hedgerows.

I'll warn you, though, when working Osage - it is its own boss, and it doesn't work like other wood does. I believe that the most effective Osage bows do not use quite the same design as a standard hickory bow.

I am considering trying some hickory sometime, and also have some English elm I am considering working into an old style English longbow.