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Tip #13
10 Tips to Store Wood

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If you're like most of us, when you're busy on a project and stop to take a look around your shop, you probably see more lumber cluttering things up than anything else. The lumber and scraps for your current project . . . the cut-offs from your last project . . . and the stock you're planning to use for your next project. Lumber, lumber and more lumber -- and no place to put it where it'll be out of the way.

It’s times like this when you realize that efficient lumber storage is every bit as important as efficient tool storage. Here are a few important factors to keep in mind when planning your lumber storage.

First, the place or places you choose to store your lumber should be well ventilated with plenty of opportunities for air circulation. Next, all wood should be stored in a dry area, out of direct sunlight and elevated about a foot off the ground to prevent direct contact with moisture. If you're planning to use lumber that's been stored outside or in a shed, barn or detached garage where the humidity and temperature are uncontrolled, you should bring it into your shop area (assuming that your shop is temperature and humidity controlled) a couple of weeks before you start working on your project to give it a chance to stabilize before work begins.

On the other hand, if you haven't purchased the lumber you'll be using for your project, and you're planning to buy it from a mill or other source that sells kiln dried lumber from a controlled storage environment (where you know the moisture content will be 8% or less), it's best to wait until you're ready to start work to buy your lumber.

Once kiln dried lumber has reached it's equilibrium moisture content, it's as dry as it will ever be (unless you live in Phoenix AZ or other arid desert location). If kiln dried wood sits in a damp environment (I.E. summer in the midwest), the wood will start to pick up moisture as it sits around. Shortly, the outside of the board will have a higher moisture content than the inside of the board. This will cause sawing problems. The wood will probably pinch the blade as it's cut and warp after the cut is complete. After a few months the wood will stabilize and again be usable.

So, the wood you plan to use “someday” (that has been in the loft of your garage in your basement for several years), is still wonderful, it just is no longer at 6% moisture content, but has reached its own equilibrium at more like 12% - 15%. This is still plenty dry for cabinet or furniture making (The early Philadelphia master craftsmen didn't have kilns), you just have to remember and plan for the fact that ALL wood will expand and contract every year through the seasons.

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