Moisture Content for Furniture Making

Lumber in the kiln is ready when its moisture content is the same that it will see in service. August 21, 2006

I have a couple hundred bd ft of butternut lumber that was sawn at the beginning of March. The log was cut down last fall. I have had the lumber stickered at 12" in my heated workshop since it was sawn. I stuck the bottom of the pile with my Delmhorst J-Lite moisture meter and got readings of 10% throughout the pile. Is this lumber ready for use in furniture and cabinets?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor T:
How thick is the lumber? How close was the lumber to the heat source, and how deep does your moisture meter read to?

From the original questioner:
The lumber is sawed to 4/4. It is probably 15 ft from the heat vent, but the air does not blow directly on the lumber. The probes on the meter are probably 1/2".

From contributor D:
Where on the lumber did you pin to get a reading - ends? You need to pin the lumber 2' from the ends and away from major defects. Also, pin halfway into the lumber's thickness.

From Professor Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
Butternut is seldom used for furniture, as it is quite soft and has a lot of fuzz when sanding. 10% MC is probably still a bit high.

From the original questioner:
The moisture readings were taken from the middle of a 6" board at the bottom of the pile. Readings from the top of the pile and at the ends of boards were more like 8%.

From contributor B:
Use your meter and check some pieces of furniture already in your house. (Of course, stick the pins in a hidden spot like on the bottom of a table top.) If you are going to use the lumber for your own house, your lumber should be the same MC as your house furniture. If your lumber MC is equal to what your older furniture is, you should be okay. My moisture meter will read furniture that has been in my house for 8 years between 8-10%. If I have raw lumber that checks the same, I am good to go. Be sure to correct for the species of lumber. I live in a humid climate, so my material doesn't have to get to 6% before I can use it. People worry to death about getting their lumber to 5-6% and then build a bookcase for their basement den that has high humidity in the first place.

From contributor M:
10% is fine. I periodically check lumber that is in our shop and it always measures around 10%. This is all kiln dried lumber, but after it sits in the shop for a while, it all equalizes to the relative humidity of your area. Here in North Texas, there is very minimal RH, so I don't see any issues with 10% MC.