Working with wood is a joy and wonder around the world. Some of the most luxurious pieces of furniture or architecture around are wooden. Regardless of the species, all wood must properly dry before any project can begin. The organic nature of wood is its strongest aspect and its downfall. The expanding and shrinking properties of wood are due to moisture or temperature change. These changes cause havoc in a project when they are not planned for or prevented. However, the well planned project will use wood that expands or shrinks to strengthen the joints and bonds.
What Can Go Wrong
Wood is going to move regardless of the process. While some movement may strengthen a project, most movement will weaken or ruin a project. The worst wood to use is that which is not dry on the inside and with a hard outer shell. When lumber is dried too quickly, the outside layer will harden, locking in the moisture. This locked structure will explode when the pressure from expansion becomes too great. On the other side of the spectrum is occasional warping or cupping. This unsightly occurrence will destabilize the wood and shorten the life of the structure, but it does not pose an immediate hazard. Knowing the wood used for any project is crucial
A Multi-Step Process
Patience is key when drying wood whether in a kiln or air-dried. Patience differs for every climate. American standards for dried wood hover in the 6-8% range. Europe is generally wetter and thus has a wetter lumber standard, about 12-15%. J. Gibson McIlvain is a trusted wholesale lumber supplier in the United States that has implemented a multi-step drying process to insure the highest quality for any project. While this process is not wholly unique to McIlvain, they do take pride in the efficiency of their system. They believe that slow and steady is the key to strong reliable wood every time.
McIlvain has extensive air drying sections in their yards. Every piece of lumber is stacked and stickered upon arrival and left to dry as naturally as possible. Stickering is very effective because it facilitates constant even airflow on the wood. Two supports placed between each board ensure even moisture content. Each board end is painted or waxed to allow the moisture to evaporate evenly. This process can take a few weeks or a year depending on the arrival condition of the wood. This time is crucial to the wood, and McIlvain never rushes the drying process.
After each board is dried enough to be safely “set,” they are moved to a kiln. Heating wood to the point of setting involves hardening the lignin (material between the cell walls of wood). This strengthens the wood to create stronger joints and stable lumber. Setting happens in the kiln where the environment is extremely controlled. A slow heat up and cool down can take a couple of weeks or a month depending on the type of wood. McIlvain uses their own lumber byproducts to fuel their kilns. Thus, the kilns dispose of waste, cut cost and ensure quality!
Properly dried wood will prevent accidents on a job site while ensuring longevity of the project. McIlvain’s multi-step, quality controlled process is trusted for the lumber needed today and the peace of mind wanted tomorrow.