Why It Matters - The Drying Process - Live Edge Wood Slabs
Drying your live edge wood slab is by far the most important process for a quality wood product that will last generations. For a stable wood product, the internal moisture content of any single slab will range from 6-10%. After cutting down or collecting a log, excess water content will almost always exist. Once our team mills the log into usable raw lumber the drying process can begin. There are numerous ways to facilitate the drying process:
- Air Drying,
- Solar Kiln,
- Dehumidification Kiln, and
- Vacuum Kiln
When Knock on Wood Custom began, we milled live edge wood slabs at 2" or less thickness and the process at the time was to air dry all of the wood. Air drying appeared to be a reasonable way to dry wood slabs... That was not really the case. The process did not produce a viably consistent and quality product. Sometimes the wood could warp, cup, or twist after we started to work the project, indicating the internal moisture was still to high for anything to be crafted with quality.
Once this shortcoming was identified there was a lot of research completed trying to answer how we could best dry the wood salvaged from the logs. The Virginia Tech Solar Kiln was the next best option. This Solar Kiln assists the drying process by actively and passively drying the wood in an outdoor insulated structure with a clear roof acting much like a greenhouse. This allows the sun and its radiant solar power to be magnified in addition to the structure holding heat in to complete the drying process more naturally over months. This process is a great alternative to air drying and comes at a low cost.
The next option was to bring technology into the process. Using a dehumidification kiln seemed like the next best option. This technology is designed to allow you to rapidly dry lumber in an insulated structure compared to air drying alone. However, the dehumidification kiln is designed for thinner dimensional lumber and preferably species like pine, cedar, and poplar. These wood species are not overly dense and can be dried relatively easy. The largest issue with this process is that most of the wood species Knock on Wood Custom carries would have been required to air dry for 6-12 months prior to going into the kiln.
Finally, a Vacuum Kiln, the state-of-the-art drying process. Using this computer driven system, a tree can be removed by an arborist in Tulsa, Oklahoma, milled into usable live edge wood slabs the same day, and dried to an internal moisture content of 6-10% in as little as 12 hours to 30 days depending on the species and the thickness of the raw wood. From Tree to Table with quality to last generations.