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Wood Seasoning 101

Post in 'The Wood Shed' started by bgoodwithwood, Aug 30, 2009.

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  1. bgoodwithwood

    bgoodwithwood Member

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    I was thinking it may be a good idea to see if anyone has any kind of chart that they would like to share that breaks down seasoning time by species of wood. I know that a lot of variables come into play like location, wind, etc but I think something like this may be handy for those new to woodburing to use as a general guide. Anyone know or have such a guide that they would like to share??

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  2. gzecc

    gzecc Minister of Fire

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  3. maplewood

    maplewood Minister of Fire

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  4. Duetech

    Duetech Minister of Fire

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    Ditto on the thanks GZecc. That's quite an informative link.
  5. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    Lots of good info but as is often the case, some is better, some not so accurate. Take for instance:
    Foot long pieces ready to burn in 2 or 3 months? Maybe in Arizona.
  6. mikepinto65

    mikepinto65 Minister of Fire

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    So is this chart suggesting that Red Oak, for example, with a moisture content of 31% OR LESS is dry enough to burn efficiently?
  7. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    No, it means it is 31% above the desirable 20% seasoned moisture content for a total of 51%. The amount of moisture that needs to be shed is 31% to achieve the desired 20%.
  8. Nonprophet

    Nonprophet Minister of Fire

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    I think that the "seasoned at least one year" advice gets tossed around so much that we start to tell ourselves that nothing less will do.

    Case in point: I scored about 3/4 a cord of doug fir off of Craigslist back in June. The tree was healthy and alive in March when it was taken down and cut into rounds (30" +). I picked the rounds up in June and immediately split it all up. Thinking that I wasn't going to burn it until 2010/11, I left the splits pretty big and just tossed them into a pile until I could get some more pallets to stack them on. Got some pallets a few days ago and started to load the trailer up with the splits, and thought just for giggles I'd get the moisture meter out and check the moisture content. Split one open--get a 19% reading!! So, it will be good to go for this winter.....

    Likewise I salvaged some wild cherry from FS land about 6 weeks ago, 12-14" trees that came down over the winter. I bucked them up and stacked them in July, again figuring they would'nt be ready until 2010/11 because they felt/smelled pretty green when I was bucking them up and it's hardwood. After the surprise with the doug fir, I split a few of the cherry rounds--22% right now and we still have another month of hot weather to come, so they'll be good to go for this winter too.........

    It's worth noting that summer temps are usually 85-95 with low humidity and we do get a 2-3 weeks of high 90's/100's every July (which we did this year) and all this wood was baking in that hot sun.

    It seems to me that a good 75% of this list membership lives in the midwest or further east where you've got hot but humid summers and you're burning mostly hardwoods--and in those circumstances I agree that "seasoned at least one year" is a good rule--but it's not a rule that applies to everyone!

    NP
  9. CTburning

    CTburning New Member

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    In the northeast this year it has been a different story. Until the last couple of weeks most of the maple I split in early march was just starting to check. We finally had a "summer" in August and the wood is deeply checked now and the bark is falling off. What a difference a month makes. I split open a piece and it read 21-22% mc. Not bad for 6 months. I should mention that the type of maple is definitely a soft maple, probably silver or something like it. It dries very fast. Also to mention the Red Oak I cut last October measured at 26% average in the two biggest splits I could find (5") or so. I purposely split the majority of it to less than 3" so it would be ready for this year if I needed it at the end of the season. The size of the splits is the biggest factor in determining how long wood will take to season in your climate. The smaller the split the faster it will season in ANY climate. You just can't compare a Kansas summer to one in Maine because of the temp and humidity.
  10. nshif

    nshif New Member

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    What NP said......same here in Ca, I can usually have white oak ready in 4- 6 summer months.
  11. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    One more thing to remember when talking about oak. There are dozens of different type of oaks. They are not all the same.
  12. Bigg_Redd

    Bigg_Redd Minister of Fire

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    Too many variables for that sort of chart to be useful.

    The first step to learning about seasoning is to stop using the word "season" and just say "dry" or "drying."
  13. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Yep. I am "seasoned". My wood is "dry".
  14. madrone

    madrone Minister of Fire

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    I can stop applying the dry rub? It's getting expensive.
  15. quads

    quads Minister of Fire

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    The word "DRY" should be stricken from every woodburner's vocabulary. Forget about "DRY". It's for describing short-term things, like hay or laundry, but when speaking of something that literally takes a long time to "DRY", it causes too much confusion. Wood can seem dry in as little as a few months, so many people try to burn it then, but it's not dry. Firewood takes at least 8 seasons (2 years or more depending on the species) to be ready to use satisfactorily.

    So, even if your firewood seems "DRY" after only a couple of months, it's not. Cut it, split it, stack it, and forget about it for at least 8 seasons (2 years). Maybe a less confusing term would be "year"? I'm "yearing" my wood. My wood has been "yearing" and should be plenty "dry" now that it's "seasoned"?
  16. mikepinto65

    mikepinto65 Minister of Fire

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    The last bit was fun
  17. Bigg_Redd

    Bigg_Redd Minister of Fire

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    That's all well and good, but "seasoned" doesn't have an actually denotation whereas "dry" means "dry." Not "I think it's dry" or "it seems dry," but, "dry."

    Also, that 2 year rule is highly regional. We have no species that takes 2 years to dry.
  18. Nonprophet

    Nonprophet Minister of Fire

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    IMHO if you split a split and check it with a moisture meter and get a 20% or lower reading, it's "dry," "seasoned," whatever--it's ready to burn!!

    Look, it's great when the ends are all nice and weather-checked and grey/silvering. It looks really nice and there's some satisfaction that comes with watching that process and waiting, patiently, for it to happen--kind of like waiting for wine or whiskey to age I suppose. But my stacks aren't meant to be "wood seasoning museums." My stacks are meant to be fuel for my wood stove. When I get a 20% reading or lower, it's good to burn!!

    Would it burn better if it seasoned for a couple more years? Well, that depends upon the wood species and geographic location. Firewood CAN be too dry IMHO. I have some Madrone right now that's been seasoning for 5 years. I can't get any reading at all with my moisture meter. It burns very well, but to me it burns too hot and fast now--it burned much better 2 years ago.

    Just my $.02

    NP
  19. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    From the American Heritage Dictionary:


    sea·soned, sea·son·ing, sea·sons. --tr. 1. To improve or enhance the flavor of (food) by adding salt, spices, herbs, or other flavorings. 2. To add zest, piquancy, or interest to: seasoned the lecture with jokes. 3. To treat or dry (lumber, for example) until ready for use
  20. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    OK. How much salt and how much pepper for nine cords?
  21. Bigg_Redd

    Bigg_Redd Minister of Fire

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    So we agree. "Seasoned, seasoning" have many meanings, most of which having nothing to do with firewood while ""dry" has but one well and commonly understood meaning.

    Glad we could clear that up.
  22. quads

    quads Minister of Fire

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    Dry:
    1 a : free or relatively free from a liquid and especially water b : not being in or under water c : lacking precipitation or humidity
    2 a : characterized by exhaustion of a supply of liquid <a dry well> b : devoid of running water <a dry ravine> c : devoid of natural moisture <my throat was dry> d : no longer sticky or damp e : not giving milk <a dry cow> f : lacking freshness : stale g : anhydrous
    3 a : marked by the absence or scantiness of secretions <a dry cough> b : not shedding or accompanied by tears <a dry sob>
    4 obsolete : involving no bloodshed or drowning <I would fain die a dry death — Shakespeare>
    5 a : marked by the absence of alcoholic beverages <a dry party> b : prohibiting the manufacture or distribution of alcoholic beverages <a dry county>
    6 : served or eaten without butter or margarine <dry toast>
    7 a : lacking sweetness : sec <dry champagne> b : having all or most sugar fermented to alcohol <a dry wine> <dry beer>
    8 a : solid as opposed to liquid <dry groceries> b : reduced to powder or flakes : dehydrated <dry milk>
    9 : functioning without lubrication <a dry clutch> 10 of natural gas : containing no recoverable hydrocarbon (as gasoline) 11 : requiring no liquid in preparation or operation <a dry photocopying process> 12 a : not showing or communicating warmth, enthusiasm, or tender feeling : severe <a dry style of painting> b : wearisome, uninteresting <dry passages of description> c : lacking embellishment : plain 13 a : not yielding what is expected or desired : unproductive <a writer going through a dry spell> b : having no personal bias or emotional concern <the dry light of reason> c : reserved, aloof 14 : marked by matter-of-fact, ironic, or terse manner of expression <a dry wit> 15 : lacking smooth sound qualities <a dry rasping voice> 16 : being a dry run <a dry rehearsal>
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