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Woodworkers, woodcarvers, furniture makers, and DIY enthusiasts often undertake the task of drying wood slices. While this is not a very difficult or complicated task, there is a certain process that should be followed for most effective results. If you’re looking for how to dry wood slices, we’ve compiled the top 4 methods to do so.
How to Dry Wood Slices and Discs
Prior to getting started, we recommend picking up a moisture meter at your local hardware store or online. A moisture meter is relatively inexpensive, and will allow you to directly read the moisture content (as a percentage) in a matter of seconds.
This will help you know how long you need to utilize these techniques for drying wood slices.
The Process and Technique
The simplest and the least expensive way to dry sliced wood discs is to let the wood sit at a certain humidity level. This allows you to get the desired drying level. However, you need to keep several factors in mind.
The time it would take for the wood discs and slices to dry is greatly dependent on the type of wood it is, its moisture level when you left it to dry, the thickness of the wood, and the processing techniques that have been and will be used.
The most important thing to remember when drying wood this way is that you cannot rush the process. If you do it slowly, you will reduce the chances of the wood cracking or splitting. That is why the standard technique used to dry wood is by sealing the end grain and then leaving the piece of wood to dry.
End Grain Preparation
Sealing the end grain slows down the drying process, which is very important when drying wood. You can use a commercial product like Anchorseal to seal the end grain.
If you don’t want to do that, you can also use melted wax. There is no need to worry about the type or the quality of the wax. You can use any type of wax.
Some people make the mistake of using latex paint, but this is generally not something we recommend. Latex paint is quite porous and is not very likely to work effectively as a sealing agent.
You can use varnish or oil-based enamel paint as they work effectively as water barriers. The thicker the coat, the better the drying in most cases. In fact, it might be a good idea to seal the end grain heavily for best results.
You might also consider adding a good stainable wood filler, if the wood needs a little bit of help.
How to Dry Wood Slices in the Oven
When discussing drying wood in the oven, there are actually three variations we’ll go through:
- Microwave Oven
- Toaster Oven
- Conventional Oven
No matter which method you choose, you’ll have to use a dedicated oven for this drying process. As such, we’ve outlined these three methods so you can determine which is best, partly based on what you have available to you.
Using the Microwave
If it’s a really small slice of wood, you could speed dry it easily in a microwave. If this is something you regularly do, there is no harm in investing in a second-hand microwave.
Use that microwave for this purpose alone. However, speed drying this way will only work on smaller pieces.
Using the Toaster Oven
You can use a toaster oven as well for smaller pieces of wood or a conventional oven. The only issue with the conventional oven is that you would not want to use the same oven to cook if you have used it for drying wood.
Extractives may be a minor component and typically constitute less than 10% of the wood. But, when you heat the wood, the physical property changes and there is a release of certain chemicals that could be harmful.
These extractives can turn into harmful compounds when you use the same oven for cooking. Not only will your food develop a certain flavor, but the compounds may be harmful to your body.
If you can invest in a second-hand oven (microwave oven, toaster oven, or conventional oven), you can use them effectively for drying wood discs.
Using a Conventional Oven
Even if you use a conventional oven for drying wood slices, you should do it slowly. You may want to bake the wood for over 24 hours for effective results. This depends on the type of wood and the level of moisture. As a general guideline, you should ideally aim for at least 24 hours.
Dealing with Thermostats
One issue you may observe with ovens (both conventional and toaster ovens) is thermostat inaccuracies. Ovens are often unable to maintain temperatures. Even high-quality brands may report inaccurate temperatures.
In simple words, you cannot always rely on oven thermostats. This can have a negative impact on your wood drying project.
You can use a heat sink within the oven to ensure the area remains heated to a certain level. Microwaving might be a good idea. For small wood discs and slices, you only need to heat the wood for 10-20 seconds and then repeat the exercise after a gap of 2 minutes.
Splitting is a natural effect of drying. When a piece of wood dries, the cells collapse and wither which cause the wood to split. There are some techniques you could use to minimize the risk of splitting:
- Any wood slices that have been outside should be brought to room temperature.
- You could use a wood stabilizer to keep the wood from cracking and splitting during the drying process. This is a technique often used by woodworkers, furniture makers, and woodcarvers.
- An additional advantage of a wood stabilizing solution is that it also makes the wood look cleaner and brighter.
- Apply the wood stabilizing solution once the wood is brought to room temperature.
- Always allow the wood to dry evenly and make sure the wood slice is exposed to air from all sides.
- Do not rush the drying process. This will minimize any risk of damage to the wood discs. Do not add any additional heat or air movements. Speed drying may be okay for smaller pieces. But, if you do it with bigger pieces, you risk splitting and damaging the wood.
If you aren’t going to use an oven to dry your discs and sliced wood, then you are going to be relying on time to slowly dry the wood for you.
In this case, you can speed up the drying process and even out the results by properly stacking the wood. The trick here is to allow air flow in and around all sides of each piece of wood. The more air you allow, the quicker the wood will dry.
You can accomplish this by putting spaces horizontally between layers of wood, and allowing space between each wood piece. Position this in a well ventilated area to increase the air flow, and thus decrease your drying time.
This works best indoors, though, where the wood is sheltered from rain. At the very least, if you don’t have anywhere indoors, position it under an overhang outside. Covering the wood defeats the purpose of allowing air to flow through.
When storing indoors, running a fan through the room will also help to increase the air flow, shortening your drying time.
If you want to know how to dry wood slices, you can follow the techniques outlined above. Drying wood is not a difficult task, but you do have to take care in the timing and temperature.
Whether you decide to let the wood dry at room temperature or use an oven, you need to follow some basic principles. These include being patient throughout the drying process and not rushing it as this will damage your wood discs.
The drying process is also dependent on the type of wood, and the level of drying that is required. In most cases, the process is best managed in a slow and systematic manner.