Mats Bengtsson Home Improvement and Do It Yourself

How to find wood dry enough for furniture making

Mats Bengtsson mib over the years

How to find wood dry enough for furniture making

If you want to build something similar to furnitures you need some wood that is suitable. For flat things like cabinets that are going to be painted, MDF and plywood works well. Especially MDF is very easy to work with, and is thus very suitable for the first furniture making attempts.

Sooner or later you are likely to want to do a little more than building with flat panels. That is probably when you need to move from MDF, or plywood, to wood. That step, to working with real wood, is actually quite a big step to take, due to all the things that was not needed when you worked with MDF, but are needed in order to work with wood:

  • One of the things is the need to understand that unlike MDF, wood moves.
  • Finding flat wood is sometimes a problem. If you go into a store selling planed wood and look at the planks they sell, you will likely see that for the smaller dimensions, there is a number of planks that are not straight and flat anymore. But they were probably flat and straight when they were planed.
  • What happens is that when the wood swells or dries (its moisture content percentage increases or lowers), it might bend a bit. Thus, you not only want to find flat wood, you want to find wood that remains flat.
  • Finding wood that remains flat is a tougher problem than finding flat wood (one solution used is to glue pieces together to reduce bending).

When you build things from wood you will benefit from using wood that has dried enough to keep its flatness well enough. You also want it to keep its shape when you have built your piece from it. The wood will still move. It does this since the humidity in the air changes during the year. With those changes, the moisture content in the wood also changes. Thus the wood swells and shrinks during the year. But you want those moves to be as small and predictable as possible. You want to base your work on dry enough wood. Thus:

  • Either buy already dried wood, or buy the wood with enough time for you to dry it before use
  • If you do not buy the wood pre-dried, invest in a cheap moisture meter
  • Decide the moisture content percentage which you consider ok. Weigh in usage as well as time of year when doing that. However, also know that wood that has walked the drying path many times is more stable than wood that has reached the dry state only once.
  • Find a good way to dry your wood after you have bought it
  • Find a good way to store your wood after it has been bought

One simple way to solve all of above is to:

  • Buy your wood in end of winter or early spring.
  • If you have a de humidifier keep the wood close to that
  • When the wood is dry, and the air outside is warm so you either cannot or do not want to keep the relative humidity low enough to dry the wood, then store the wood in the attic (this heats the wood which is also good).
  • Moisture content can be checked with for example a mini-ligno moisture meter, which means the investment can end on 70€ total.


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