"Shop-Dried" Versus "Air-Dried" Lumber

A discussion of the quality and value of hardwoods that have been stacked and dried in a dry indoor area, but not in a kiln. March 26, 2013

What would you pay for air dried lumber? There is oak, pine, butternut, ash and some cherry. Just take it as it comes off the pile. Some has a bit of mold on it, some is a bit punky. I checked the moisture content and it was around 8-10%. Been sitting in a shed for 8-10 years.

Forum Responses
(WOODnetWORK Forum)
From contributor J:
Are you selling or buying? Myself, I wouldn't bother with it for any price, unless there was something about it that was really exceptional. Not dry enough, and I don't know anything about how it was stored, dried, etc. My guess (and it's just a guess) is most on this forum wouldn't bother with it. If you're selling, I'd recommend trying the hobbyist sites. Those guys are much more into saving a couple bucks, and probably wouldn't mind stacking it in a corner to finish drying for a while.

From contributor O:
I doubt most shops of any size would be interested at all. You might try very small professional shops or hobbyists. Find your local Woodcraft store and post on their bulletin board.

From Professor Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
I would also be worried about powderpost beetles. If it has mold and is a bit punky, it has been at higher MCs than the 8-10% MC you have now.

From contributor F:
I have worked a fair amount of air dried stock and find it superior to commercial stuff because of the absence of drying defects such as case hardening and reverse case hardening. In a word, stable. Air dried stock stays very straight when you part a board into several smaller pieces.

As far as the moisture content, if not in a hurry, a woodworker could deadstack that stock in the shop for a year and it would be dry and ready for use.

If insects are indeed present, that is a different case entirely. I have, however, gone through stacks of western sycamore and western ash and rid the inventory of powderpost beetles by removal of infested sections and entire boards, and after years of inspection, have no further evidence of infestation such as bore holes or frass.

Air dried stock is a pleasure, especially when working large stock into smaller sections.

From Professor Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
First, air-dried lumber often refers to lumber that is somewhere between 15% to 25% MC. In this discussion, we are talking about lumber that, by leaving it in a very dry area, such as a shop, has reached 6 to 8% MC. In other words, the lumber was air-dried and then dried further in a heated area, but not a kiln. So, for clarification, you are not using air-dried lumber only - it has received other drying.

Second, properly air-dried and then kiln-dried lumber will be identical to lumber that was air-dried and then shop dried. In all cases, properly kiln dried, green-from-the-saw lumber will also be identical or may actually have better color. The problem with kiln drying arises when the final MC is not correct or when stresses are not relieved or when drying was too fast or too slow. Stated another way, not all kiln operators do the best job.

From contributor F:
I understand, but when I talk about using air dried stock, it means dried outdoors without a kiln for at least a year per inch of thickness and then acclimated to a shop by dead stacking for a year or so. Also as you say, it can be pretty hit or miss with KD stock and I have sawn very few boards that were as well behaved as the air dried stock I have worked.

From contributor N:
If it was stickered and in decent shape - straight, uncupped, etc. - about .50 bf. If you clean it, trim it, planed and sanded, about $1/bf. Otherwise maybe a neighbor will trade you a case of beer for it. The market is below bad for wood. I bought 160 bf cherry (old growth), rough cut 6/4 last month for $100, and it was delivered because I didn't have time to pick it up. Around here (PA), you're lucky to get $0.50 bf for cherry or oak. I wouldn't sell any of mine for that, but if you need the cash, it goes that low.