How to Dry Wood for Carving

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Air-Drying Wood
Air-Drying Wood (Image: http://www.samknightwoodworking.co.uk/id4.html)

If you happen to have a good black walnut, hickory or maple tree fall in your yard and want to use it for carving, you will want to know how to dry it. Some people will use green wood for carving, although this wood still has a lot of water in it. It may feel soft, and there is a good chance that it will shrink and even crack. Learning how to dry wood will save you a lot of aggravation in the long run.

Things You'll Need

  • Paraffin wax
  • Shellac
  • Paint brush

Cut the wood into the sizes you will use to carve. If you plan to carve small items like chess pieces, you will want to cut it up into smaller sizes than if you are going to carve a totem pole. If you are working with branches, try to cut only horizontally across the grain and save the vertical cuts for later.

Remove the bark if possible. Some trees have bark that is very tight to the wood and it is very hard to remove, while on others, the bark practically falls off. As much as you can, remove the loose bark. This will allow the moisture to escape through the sides of the wood.

Coat the end of the wood with a sealer like paraffin or shellac. Paraffin will need to be heated to melt. You can do this in a large coffee can over the stove. (Paraffin is flammable and should never be left unattended on the stove.) Paint just the ends with the sealer of your choice.

Store the wood in a sheltered area where it will be out of the rain. As much as possible, separate the chunks with bricks or alternate the wood so that it is not tightly stacked together. You want good airflow between the pieces.

Dry the wood for at least 6 weeks for a minimum dry time. This cannot be done outside in the winter if the temperatures drop below freezing since the moisture will still be frozen in the wood. During this time, wood can be dried inside your basement or garage if they are insulated and stay between about 55 to 65 degrees F.

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