Producing Drying Defects on Purpose

A client requests surface checks in his kiln charge of white oak. Should the operator oblige? May 11, 2005

This a first for me. A potential client asked if I could dry his #2 and 3 white oak too fast to put surface checks in it. He wants it to appear aged. It will be made into flooring. I suppose I could easily crank up the heat and/or compressor setting and put in a smaller charge. Any suggestions?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor T:
I make rustic furniture and checks fail to turn us rustic folks on. He'd be better off finding a bunch of knotty oak such as pin or scarlet for an unusual look. These oaks are as hard as white oak and thus suitable for flooring.

From contributor D:
You are correct that drying as fast as possible will open checks, but they may create more problems than the customer wants when he tries to work the wood. I would dry it normally and buy him a hatchet.

From contributor Z:
Here's an idea that I have not tried, so keep that in mind. After your charge has gotten below well below FSP, say 20%, rewet the oak. That should swell the outside oak fiber and then hopefully check on the outside of the lumber. Then rewet again with some dirty water. The small dirt particles in the dirty water should settle in the open cracks and have a nice effect when planed.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
I would be concerned that the checks you make by greatly accelerating the process will be very large and could catch the small heel of a shoe, etc. Why not dry too fast for one or two days and then go back to normal settings?

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the responses. Sounds like I should do some experimenting.

From contributor I:
You will get good character, but you will also get long splits into the boards along the grain, and it gets worse the closer you get to the pith line. I didn't size the boards I tried, just cut through and through, into the kiln straight off the saw. Some will pop all the way along and pull into "c" shaped boards, with a bit of wave in them. You've then got a lot of cutting to edge them up.

From contributor G:
Checking is not something you want in a floor, even when you want it to look old. Old floors don't check, they just age. Put them down and whip them with an old logging chain, then finish. Checking, in my opinion, is a sign of bad lumber, and not a sign of old lumber.

From contributor M:
I just delivered 600 sqft of oak siding to a client that wanted the rustic look. The material was dried using a normal schedule. The rustic look came by leaving one side unplaned. The results were outstanding, client was happy and I got paid. This material was milled on a 54" circle saw, which is what produced the aged look the client was after.

From contributor J:
I get a lot of red oak kd s2s to 1 inch because I mould with a product that has a 7/8 inch lip glass reveal on the profile side. When we order no. 1 com, I get a lot of internal checking and honeycombing out of the moulder. These are defects to us and I get terrible yield. When we get prime grade s-2-s red oak, I get twice if not better yield. They (management) say we can't afford prime grade all the time. It seems to me that there is high demand for good red oak and we take what is out there. Our #1 com seems to be pushed through at times, and most of it goes into waste. To me, wormy red oak is far better for rustic appearance.

From contributor G:
It's getting hard to find good red oak. The good logs bring more money for veneer than they do lumber. Many mills are trying to pass off good common as FAS-1F. Lots of knots on one side, but I'm finding them on both sides. Red oaks are being cut smaller and smaller. Soon, I feel there won't be any at all. The internal checking is caused by improper drying. Many of the mills are bending not only the grading guidelines, but also the procedures for properly drying hardwood lumber. Production, production, production! The end user (woodworker) eats all the waste.