Drying Walnut for Gunstock?

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TedH
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Drying Walnut for Gunstock?

Post by TedH »

I have a nice size trunk of a walnut tree that a friend wanted out of his yard. I was going to have it sawed into gunstock size slabs and let it dry for a year or two. Then someone else said that I should chain a couple concrete blocks to it and sink it in the lake for a year or so, and that would make the wood much more dense. I'd never heard of that before, so I'm just wondering if there is any truth to it, and if it's needed.
Last edited by TedH on Tue Nov 16, 2010 6:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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gimdandy
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Re: Walnut for Gunstock?

Post by gimdandy »

Leaving it in water will prevent it from prematurely drying out during the curing process . For what little time is involved I don't think that you'll ever regret it.
Ted , you'll be better off with a 2 year cure min. if that is available.
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Re: Walnut for Gunstock?

Post by cshold »

gimdandy wrote:Leaving it in water will prevent it from prematurely drying out during the curing process . For what little time is involved I don't think that you'll ever regret it.
Ted , you'll be better off with a 2 year cure min. if that is available.
+1 cure time is very very important.
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Re: Walnut for Gunstock?

Post by TedH »

So there is obviously more to the curing process than just drying out? Time is not a factor, I just thought it would be nice to have some walnut blanks on hand if I ever got froggy and wanted to make a stock or two. I also have access to some sort of commercial wood drying kiln that a friend of a friend has. Is there a standard gunstock blank dimension to cut it for drying? I was thinking about 2.5"x 7" and three feet long.
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Re: Drying Walnut for Gunstock?

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Re: Drying Walnut for Gunstock?

Post by Wind »

Hey there TedH -- I would be inclined to be thinking three years to get a moisture content down to 10% or so. I would definitely stay away from kilns as they "over-dry" and create serious stress in the plank, often to the point of fracturing it internally. I would suggest thicker slabs and painting the end grain of each with paraffin to actually retard the drying process as well as reducing "end checks and splits". Indoors or outdoors, it doesn't much matter. If it's outdoors, covered and protected from the elements is better. Here is my dinning room table, chairs and kitchen cabinet drawers, door fronts, as well as face frames. It's just about ready to start milling. Hope this helps. best regards. Wind
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Chuck 100 yd
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Re: Drying Walnut for Gunstock?

Post by Chuck 100 yd »

One year per inch thickness minimum.
This Walnut was cut in Feb. 1988 , I cut it into blanks last summer.
Image

There are logs that have been under water for 100 years being found today. They have to be sawed and dried just like they were just felled today. Sinking it in the stock pond does nothing for you IMHO. :wink:
Image
Big Walnut log. :o My Boss cut it into 3" slabs several of them sold for over $1,200.00 each last summer. :wink:
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Re: Drying Walnut for Gunstock?

Post by Sixgun »

My broth-in-law is a cabinet maker. He does custom work and has made furniture for the DuPonts. he cuts his wood on his sawmill and lays it on level covered ground with 1" pieces of wood in between each layer so the air can circulate. Everything is covered from the elements.-------------Sixgun
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Re: Drying Walnut for Gunstock?

Post by AJMD429 »

Question - if the goal is to dry it out slowly, how does it dry at ALL soaking in a lake?

Is the idea to do a 'curing' of some sort while still wet, THEN dry it out later?

(I know, read the info link above, and I will do that, but just thought someone might know offhand...)
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Re: Drying Walnut for Gunstock?

Post by HEAD0001 »

I will tell you how we did it.

I had a bunch of Walnut, Cherry, and Oak fireplace mantles and Walnut gun stocks cut.

Drying lumber can be very difficult when you go to sizes over 1". What happens is the outside obviously dries faster than the inside, so you have to slow down the drying of the outside of the wood in order for the inside to dry efficiently. That is basically what the water bath does. The water absorbs into the exterior part of the board while the inside dries.

Proper drying needs to be done in order to stop end splitting, and surface cracks on the lumber, twisting, and other problems like checking.

So what we did with the mantles was we covered the entire mantle with a light coating of spray undercoating that you use on a truck. after applying a thin film we stored the mantles in the attic of a house. It took several years for the mantles to dry properly, but they did, and without defect. It takes a lot of extra time to do it this way, but it works. I sold some absolutely beautiful Oak and Cherry fireplace mantles that had zero defect from the drying process. The cants(or mantles) were 12" to 14" wide. 3" thick. And 8 to 10 feet long. I left them in the attic for about six years.

I checked the EMC(equilibrium moisture content) with a lignometer. After taking the rubber off the lumber they tested out at about 10%(between 9-12%).

It is very tough to dry large cants of wood. Time and doing it slow is the way to decrease defect. The faster you dry the large cants, the more defect you will have.

There are some very informative manuals available from the Department of Forestry. Buy a couple, they are great reads. We used them in college where I got my Degree in Wood Science. Tom.
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Re: Drying Walnut for Gunstock?

Post by Chuck 100 yd »

Most water escapes from the end grain of wood. Sealing the end grain with wax/paint,etc. will slow the drying and prevent checks/cracking and splitting of the wood. Note the wax used on the boards in my picture. Hardly any end checking at all.
In Washington we have a high humidity almost all year long. It takes years for wood to get down below 10% moisture content. Don`t force dry it!
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Re: Drying Walnut for Gunstock?

Post by Driftwood Johnson »

Howdy

I used to be a professional woodworker/cabinet maker. The rule of thumb for air drying fresh cut lumber is one year per inch of thickness. This can vary though, depending on the climate where the wood is stored. One inch per year is a good rule for a relatively dry climate. But in places of high humidity, it can take longer to dry the wood out.

Air dried wood can never approach the dryness of kiln dried wood. Kiln dried wood has the moisture content down around 5%-7%. It is difficult to get air dried wood much drier than 12% or so moisture content. This is because water is held in wood in two different ways. Some of the water is held between the wood fibers, some of the water is held inside the fibers. Air drying will remove the water between the fibers, but the water held inside the fibers will remain no matter how long the wood is allowed to dry. It takes the heat of a kiln to drive the water out of inside the fibers.

Over the years, almost all the wood I used was kiln dried. Oak, Ash, Cherry and Walnut. In order to build quality furniture you need the wood as stable as possible, and the best way to do that is with kiln dried wood. A properly run kiln, operated by somebody who knows what he is doing, will not result in very much checked or cracked wood.

The reason wood can check or crack while it is drying is the outer layers dry out before the interior. Wood always shrinks across the grain when it dries. So the outer layer of a board is trying to shrink while the wetter interior prevents it from shrinking. So the bonds between the fibers give way and cracks or checks appear. The best way to prevent this is to control how fast the water escapes. Wood is like a big celery stick. A great deal of moisture can escape through the ends. So coating the ends of a plank with heavy paint or wax will retard how fast the water escapes, and help prevent checking or cracking. However, there will always be some.

The other thing that is very important when drying wood is to stack it properly. This is true with either air dried wood or kiln dried wood. The stack should be made someplace clean and dry. The bottom boards should not be in contact with the ground. The stack should start on a lever surface with the bottom boards supported every foot or so with sticks. If necessary, start the stack with a foundation of dimensional lumber to keep everything flat and level. All the sticks must be the same thickness, so all the boards remain parallel. Drying wood needs to be stickered. This means that thin sticks are laid across the boards, so that the majority of the surface of the planks can have air circulating around them. It is very important that all the sticks line up as nearly vertical as possible. This will support all the boards from the same point and help prevent warping.

A proper stack of wood should be protected from rain. The stack should be in a shady place, not exposed to the direct heat of the sun. There should be some air space all around the stack to allow air to circulate naturally.

Whether or not a board will twist, cup, or warp when it is first cut is largely dependent on the grain of the individual board. One needs to learn to read the grain to get the most out of a board with the least deformation.

I worked with wood for over ten years, I went through many thousands of board feet of lumber, and I never, ever heard of sinking a board in water to prevent warping.
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Re: Drying Walnut for Gunstock?

Post by Cimarron »

I don't think I can add anything to Driftwood Johnson's post. He gives a lot of good advice. Speaking from the sawmillers point of view I have to add that if the tree was in someones yard there is a possability of "hardware" in it. By that I mean bits and pieces of steel. We have come across horse shoes, railroad spikes, nails, bolts, a door hinge, pieces of chain not to mention bullets, big and small caliber, when sawing. In walnut the wood around these pieces of "hardware" will have a purple stain to it. When people bring a log into the mill we ask them where it came from. If it was in town or a fence row we will give it a once over with a metal detector. We run 56 and 60 inch circular blades in our sawmill and what you don't want to do is find a piece of steel with your blade.
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Re: Drying Walnut for Gunstock?

Post by HEAD0001 »

DriftWood makes some good points. But I disagree with some of his points. And I will tell you why.

First off wood will always seek what is called EMC(Equilibrium Moisture Content). Now how it gets to EMC is the real trick.

First of all he is correct about properly running a dry kiln. It is an art, known by few.

Since he brought up the cellular level I wish to respond to that. Regardless of how well you kiln dry lumber you are going to do some cellular wall degeneration(or destruction). It is that simple. Destruction of cellular tissue is the only way to expeditiously withdraw the moisture from the wood.

Now he is correct that wood can be dried down to 7% in a kiln. But that is not always good. The reason it is not good is because the wood is going to seek EMC(remember that term). And the EMC that it seeks is whatever the average moisture content is of the area in which the lumber is going to be for the rest of its life. For example an average EMC is about 9%-10% across this country. However there are higher and lower areas of the country. So immediately if lumber was dried to 7% it is going to start taking on moisture to attain that EMC.

Woodworkers prefer dry kilned lumber because on average the dry kilned lumber has been dried properly-whereas most air dried lumber is not. However properly dried air dried lumber is every bit as good-the problem is finding properly air dried lumber.

For example a person who installs flooring always likes the flooring to sit in the home that it will be used in as long as possible. They are trying to equalize the moisture content of the lumber with the EMC of the home it will reside in.

Properly drying air dried lumber is also a lost art.

Most importantly you must have air flow. Second, as stated above the foundation must be firm, and perfectly level. Probably the most important part of air drying is the stickers you use, and that your stickers are at least as thick as the thinnest side of your lumber, preferably the stickers are already dried, and the stickers absolutely have to be perfectly aligned from top to bottom. And then covered as recommended above. The only other thing I do that is not mentioned above is I also apply a bunch of weight to the top of the cover. Normally I just used blocks from a basement we tore down, and I use a bunch of blocks. The more weight on top the better. For my best grade lumber I go back after six months and restack and realign the entire stack. Give it a few years and you will have one fine product to work with. With zero kiln costs, however the trade off is timing. But the air dried lumber will seek the same EMC as kiln dried lumber. And both will attain EMC over a period of time. That is where I disagree with DriftWood. Both will seek EMC. And it is a tad bit more detrimental to kiln dried lumber because of cellular wall damage, then actual re-hydration. Tom.
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Re: Drying Walnut for Gunstock?

Post by stretch »

Driftwood and Head both make some excellent points.

In a previous life, I made and repaired high-end flutes
and recorders in both wood and metal. Exotics such
as boxwood, grenadilla, and ebony can be very fussy,
and correctly drying and seasoning the wood is critical
to the outcome of the final product.

You're really doing two (or maybe three) things when
you "dry" wood. You're getting the moisture out from
between the fibers, the moisture out of the cells of the
wood, and you're allowing the stresses built into the wood
as the tree grows to even themselves out, ensuring that
your finished product doesn't change shape all by itself.

Drying wood "in the log" creates all sorts of problems. The outside
and inside of the log dry at different rates, and the stresses
inside the log cannot be relieved, which will lead to unstable
wood and cracking within the log. It's a real drag to bandsaw
an old (and very expensive!!) grenadilla log, and find that most
of the wood inside is useless because of internal cracks.

So, what would I do if I were you? What thickness stock do you want?
1.5"? Cut your wood into 2" or 2.5" slices. Parrafin the ends (or varnish) right
away as has been suggested. The "end gran" dries out first, and the
stresses thus created will crack your wood from the ends. The idea is
to even out the drying in the pieces of wood by not allowing the moisture
to escape so fast from the ends. Some folks will paraffin the entire
piece of wood - which REALLY slows the escape of moisture. It takes a LONG
time to dry that way, but the end product is as stable as it will ever be.
I'd mill the wood into boards and coat the ends.

Stack it like Head described. The "stringers" should be dry, and ideally the same
species as the drying wood. With walnut you're probably okay using most
any species - light maple or even pine is unlikely to bleach/stain the darker
wood.

Kiln dry or air dry? Properly done, either way works to dry the wood. Air drying
is, in my opinion, a little bit better, especially for highly-figured wood. Why?
It takes longer, and time allows the internal stresses in the wood to work their
way out better.

Throw the log in the lake? If you can't mill it into slices right away, it's a good
idea. The log won't dry out and split. Our local mill has a sprinkler system to keep
the logs wet before milling - for just that reason! They air dry the boards outside
for most of a year before final dimensional cutting and planing.

Good luck with your project. We expect photos of beautifully proportioned and
French-polished stocks in a year or two! :lol:

-Stretch
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Re: Drying Walnut for Gunstock?

Post by Sixgun »

Wow, We have some talented/educated/experienced people here. :D I learned more from these posts than what I could learn in a book--and quicker! :D ------------Sixgun
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Re: Drying Walnut for Gunstock?

Post by TedH »

Sixgun wrote:Wow, We have some talented/educated/experienced people here. :D I learned more from these posts than what I could learn in a book--and quicker! :D ------------Sixgun
Indeed! Thank you all!
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Re: Drying Walnut for Gunstock?

Post by kimwcook »

Sixgun wrote:Wow, We have some talented/educated/experienced people here.
Without a doubt.
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Re: Drying Walnut for Gunstock?

Post by olyinaz »

FANTASTIC stuff guys. Thanks a bunch for all of that.

Best,
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Re: Drying Walnut for Gunstock?

Post by Gobblerforge »

Would boards that were taken from a barn that was built at least 80 years ago be air dried by now?. The reason I ask is that I have a bunk of old growth oak from a barn that I dismantled some 5 years ago now and I have the wood stacked in a dry unheated space. I built the dining room table out of some of this old wood and it still moves around a lot.
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Re: Drying Walnut for Gunstock?

Post by Borregos »

Sixgun wrote:Wow, We have some talented/educated/experienced people here. :D I learned more from these posts than what I could learn in a book--and quicker! :D ------------Sixgun
+1 a very interesting and informative thread :D
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Re: Drying Walnut for Gunstock?

Post by gimdandy »

Well Ted ...................there you have it . l don't think l need to expand any further on what l don't know :lol:
Sure glad you brought it up however , this has been most informative
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