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The most crucial part of drying lumber is the initial drying phase. Some sawmill(s) will put their lumber directly into the kiln after sawing. I however elect to air dry my timber first. This has several advantages over putting green lumber directly into a kiln after sawing. It saves on cost and lets mother nature remove the biggest majority of water from the boards. Kiln drying the air dried wood over green wood is a safer way and yields a better success rate of a properly dried board with little defects. When I talk about drying defects I am referring to excessive checking, case hardening, cupping etc. The only setback or con to this method is in my opinion having to wait for the lumber to air dry down to 20% or less MC before going into the kiln.
So if you are a sawyer that enjoys the process of air drying lumber and the return of you efforts is not needed to be expedited then letting nature take the MC down on your timber would be your better choice. This is a more natural process than putting wood directly into the kiln after sawing and I believe yields a more stable board. I consider air dried wood to be timber that has been sticker/stacked outside in a covered area but open to wind flow on all sides. The ideal moisture content for air drying is 20% MC or less. At that point the timber is what I consider to be, out of the woods. During the drying process as wood goes from being freshly sawn to 20%MC everything bad that is going to happen to the wood has occurred. Timber is at its most vulnerable state when it is loosing the biggest majority of its water content. Once you reach that level of 20%MC you can breathe easy as long as proper kiln drying techniques will follow.
This topic/method really comes down to personal preference and business income needs. Some sawmills are based on productivity and need to move product to make way for incoming inventory and fill large orders. Myself being a small sawmill company I can enjoy the luxury of not being in a hurry to see my investments mature. I am not saying this is the absolute way, but it is the method I follow with great success.
I have found that the best practice for my business is saw it and forget about it.
The next entry in this series will cover correct stacking of wood for drying.
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until next time, Saw on!