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It's been a bad year for seasoning wood

Post in 'The Wood Shed' started by mike1234, Oct 6, 2009.

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  1. Ratman

    Ratman Feeling the Heat

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    Class B as in poor acting etc.
    Like something you'd see on the Sci-Fi channel.
    The movie must have made an impression on me since I was only 14 then.

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  2. iceman

    iceman Minister of Fire

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    i hope all of those who are worried had the tops off yest and today here in the NE... the way the wind was whipping i am sure it woulda helped those who are worried
  3. ikessky

    ikessky Minister of Fire

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    I just checked out Soylent Green on wikipedia. Sounds like something that Hollywood could do a pretty good remake of right now!
  4. JerseyWreckDiver

    JerseyWreckDiver New Member

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    I'm sorry, but this fantasy of wood not absorbing much water sitting out in the rain for sometimes days, then shedding all of the little water it did take as soon as the sun hits is it flat out rubbish/folklore/BS with no basis in fact or shred of proof of any kind. Want proof that it's wrong? What are paper towels made from???

    I've spent the bulk of my life as a professional woodworker and building inspector (ie. I see a little wood rot here and there...). I made it a point to STUDY wood and the effects moisture has on it from many different angles and perspectives. I've read several books written by scientists about wood in general, wood movement and the effects of moisture, and the right and wrong ways to dry it, not to mention how to manipulate wood using water as a tool. I also have a very strong background in Physics and more then a few years burning wood for my primary source of heat.

    First, while Corey's information is interesting, there are several facets that make it not very reliable for the uncovered argument. First and foremost, the bulk of his dried wood seems to be Hedge, aka, Osage Orange. If you've never seen Osage Orange it has a grain density not dissimilar from hard plastic. You can hardly see the pores with a good strong magnifying glass. In fact it's one of the few woods that has such a high specific gravity that it doesn't float. So I think it is fair to say it is a little on the uncommon side of the spectrum and not a good example. Second, where in the stack was the sample wood pulled from? Very top, side, middle? Essentially the wood in the middle is, to some degree covered by the wood over it.

    So that aside. What makes wood, or any other material dry or not? Same thing that makes your house loose heat or gain it, a difference between the inside and the outside. If you have a split of wood that is 40% MC at it's core and say 30% around it's surface, that is surrounded by relatively dry air (even 95% humidity air has 5% of it's molecules able to take on water vapor) the moisture on the woods surface will move into the air, faster or slower depending on the humidity, but it will move. Since the outer surface of the wood has less moisture then the core, the moisture in the core will continue to migrate to the outer surface in a continuing attempt to reach equilibrium. This in and of itself proves that moisture moves through wood. So now it starts raining on all those piles of uncovered wood and the splits get soaked with water. Water, I think even we all can agree water is 100% MC... So water is sitting on top of something that was engineered by nature to be at 50-60% moisture content, which is now at 30% and the water, 100%, soaks in. Remember the paper towels? The longer the water sits on the wood, the deeper it soaks in, the diffusion from the core to the surface, to the air has completely stopped and reversed. The moisture content is going back up all through the wood. Want to see proof? Take a piece of clean, green wood, the whiter the better, and bring it in the house to dry, then put it in the oven on a nice low setting maybe 125 degrees. (I'll not be responsible for any house fires, if your too stupid for your own good, it's your problem) and dry it for several hours. Cut it in half and see what the inside of the end grain looks like then take half and put it out in the rain, or simulated rain, for a while. Cut it open again, across the grain, and look at the stains and how far they've penetrated. It absorbed water. Even better, use an accurate scale that weights in grams and weigh both pieces, put one out in the rain for a while and then weight it again, any weight over the dry weight is water. So, sure, if the amount of dry weather you have overtakes the amount of wet, eventually your wood will dry, to some extent, but if you expose it to only dry and never wet, it WILL dry faster. And unless you have your wood layed out only one layer deep across your yard, and even if you do, the sun is not going to make up for the rain.

    Think I'm wrong? Ok, tell me this, as a building inspector, I continually see window sills, door frames, decking, roof trim and the like that is sitting out in the sun & wind all day long, but when it is uncovered, as in not painted or otherwise treated to repel water, it rots! Why do you think that is? Wood does not rot without water. By the thinking of the "the sun makes up for it" crowd, the sun should dry it back to it's kiln dried state and it should be as fine as your dinning room table for centuries... but it isn't.

    Now I'm not saying that having your wood exposed to the sun doesn't help, but having it exposed to a soaking rain sure as hell doesn't either. I designed my sheds to have a permanent roof, which sits over, not on top of, my wood and it is open to the wind on all six sides (I keep it up off the ground at least eight inches and have plastic over the soil under the shed) and it dries a hell of a lot faster then it ever did leaving it exposed to the elements. Even if it will dry eventually, I think anyone can agree that 3 steps forward, two steps back is not preferable over 3 steps forward and no steps back. (Unless your dancing or just stepped on a hot coal or something.)
  5. billb3

    billb3 Minister of Fire

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    Nor understand the principles of how a wooden hull works, nor ever built a raft of logs when they were kids, either.
  6. quads

    quads Minister of Fire

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    Paper???

    The less desirable types of wood and paper may not season the same as the oak that I am used to. We have many oak fence posts, the bottom buried in the ground and the top with the end grain pointing straight towards the rain with no cover. Some of those fence posts are only just now starting to rot off at ground level after holding the wire up for 75 years. And even now, the top half of those posts would burn wonderfully. If that type of neglect was good enough for a fence post, it's good enough for my firewood, which I will most likely be burning within the next 75 years.

    Don't care who is going to cover their fence posts and who isn't, but I'm not.
  7. daveswoodhauler

    daveswoodhauler Minister of Fire

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    I was trying to listen to some folks this year about not covering the wood piles and letting nature take care of things.
    So, after about 1 month of rain in June I covered the tops only....working out much better....I have about 12 rows that only have 4-5 inches in between for air, and it would have taken for ever for that wood to dry out...especially the wood towards the north side down towards the bottom of the piles.
    Not saying that all should cover the stacks, but it all depends on the situation and weather in your area.
  8. Corey

    Corey Minister of Fire

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    Dennis - yes, that is what 'we' say - though it often falls on deaf ears or generates fierce rebuttal. But even considering the 'drydown' I was surprised it was so dry, so fast.

    Jersey - I've read your post and value your opinion - it just doesn't jive with my observations. Basically, what I see - (assuming seasoned wood in the beginning) if the wood sets out in the rain, when the surface is dry, the wood is dry.

    As a case in point: Yesterday, we logged 1.26 inches of rain which fell as a steady drizzle / light rain through most of the day. Mean temperature was ~50F. I had to use the wipers on the way to work today ~7am. It stopped raining shortly after that and the high temp has made it back up to 50F under partly sunny skies and 10 mph wind. Not exactly the best drying conditions - but most concrete and exposed surfaces are dry. When I look at leaves accumulated on the back patio, most of the concrete is dry, but still have some dampness around the leaves:

    [​IMG]

    So what is happening out at the wood pile? As of 2pm this afternoon:

    End surface of hedge half way down in the pile:
    [​IMG]

    End surface of hedge near the top:
    [​IMG]

    Exposed surface of CCA 4x4 post on compost bin:
    [​IMG]

    Kiln dried 2x4 scrap on top of stack:
    [​IMG]

    Top board of pallet laying out by firewood: (I don't know exactly how dry this was to begin with...don't think it was kiln dried when they made the pallet - and the pallet is fairly new as evidenced by the yellow wood color)
    [​IMG]

    Generally we say anything below 20% is good for burnin' so I guess that would only leave the pallet which is probably a green slab of wood to begin with. Everything else would be considered 'pretty darn dry' I think.

    Lastly - a couple pieces of the wettest hedge I have - happily floating on top of a 5 gallon bucket of water
    [​IMG]

    My only other note would be not to confuse wood rot with moisture and or dryness. Rot is caused by several processes which may or may not be directly related to moisture. Many, many timbers have been pulled from the bottom of lakes - perpetually wet, but sealed off from oxygen- and are in fact some of the most valuable wood today.
  9. rmorris_1@q.com

    rmorris_1@q.com New Member

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    To each his own. However, my experience has been that covered wood dries faster and does not rot. I have had a number of exposed wood piles rot to the point they are useless (at cabin where I get more wood than I can burn). Wood that was covered, and much older than the rotted wood, stayed dry and burns well - same wood types. I heat my home with wood and I put all of my newly split wood directly into my covered wood shed. Like JerseyWreckDiver, my wood shed is open on all six sides (deck is raised off of ground with space between boards). I am now burning wood that is 2.5 to 3 years old and the Oak is wonderful. It lights easily and burns very well in my little VC Winter Warm Insert that can't handle moist Oak at all.
  10. iceman

    iceman Minister of Fire

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    i think there are a lotta good points mentioned.... but truth be told "to each his own" here in the NE we got a lotta rain this summer, but th eend of august and sept were very dry... i have wood that has been outside since last nov and not been covered.... its red oak and almost ready to burn.. it sits in a mostly shaded area but does catch a slight breeze.... i have said it many times before..... believe it or not ... a lot of "seasoning" takes place from oct to march around here .. its when our air in NE is the driest... i have had a tarp over about 5 cords of wood since last april/may (08) that wood is ready to go.... but i have taken off the tarp to get more air in the middle(just in case) and it rained!! in the middle as far as i could see it wasnt even wet! the wood that hasnt been covered...... well lets say that after a gusty afternoon both stacks were completely dry! those that have 6 sides of open air with a cover ... thats great!! those who are just using open air... under the same conditions (sitting next to each other) both will season in the same time.. (or just about) difference is one pile might start growing the fungus and so forth (prolly the one exposed to elements) the bottom line is to evaporate .. you need extreme heat or dry air... example on a nice dry day even though you cant see but the wood will give off moisture, when there is more humidty it will give off less if extremely hot humid it will give off moisture ... when its really dry (like in winter here) it is giving off its moisture even though its cold... we average less humidity oct -march (and dewpoints) than april -sept...

    but .. i have to admit if i could have a shed where i could have 6 sides with flowing air... thats how i would do it.. but to those of us that cant.. don't worry.. your wood will still season:)
  11. Corey

    Corey Minister of Fire

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    Absolutely. I'm not trying to force anyone to do it my way, just showing as best I can what I observe under the local conditions. Me, personally - the only reason I would cover the 'seasoning' wood pile is if I were planning to keep it for 4-5 years or more. In that instance, rot might tend to start setting in on some of the softer woods. But I usually rotate the 'stock' well enough any one piece only sits a couple seasons. I also cover my rack outside the door if it looks like rain or snow, because I may need to burn that wood before it dries off.
  12. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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    That is my strategy as well...just made the rack the size of a season's worth of wood and have a roof over it. Until then, it can sit in the heap and enjoy the sun and wind.
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