You see, the last time I cut trees was last Spring. That lumber has been stacked and air-drying for over a year now. I recently finished off my supply of oak, and now I’m starting to get itchy. Another year in the shop to air-dry further? You gotta be kiddin’.
Being a small time sawdust maker and electron slayer, I probably could give in and go to the local hardwood lumber yard and (gulp) buy some lumber. There. I said it. Give me a moment while I go brush my tongue.
Buy lumber? You mean they sell it cut, dried, and ready to transform into what surely someday will be treasured antiques featured in the Carnegie Museum? What fun is that?
No, thank you. I prefer sweating. Swearing. Near-death experiences. To go to a lumber yard and buy ready-made lumber–wouldn’t that be like cheating on my trees? “Sorry guys, I found someone else. Smoother; drier; someone who doesn’t threaten my life by falling with tremendous force to the forest floor.” Just doesn’t seem right.
Moisture content, as I mentioned before, is my sparring partner when preparing to build. Not quite my nemesis, it’s more of a friendly bout.
When you design some of your projects, as most woodworkers do (you just can’t trust printed cut-lists), you always have to keep moisture content in mind. As hard as it is to believe, wood doesn’t die when you cut, dry, and murder millions of electrons on it. It continues to live on in the maddening movement that occurs with the change of the seasons, and with that, the relative humidity in the air. No, when designing furniture, you have to design with the idea that wood movement is inherent, inescapable, and capable of ripping your furniture to pieces.
Oh, yeah, the kiln.
Well, how can I get that beautiful stack of Cherry and Soft Maple out of the drying stack and into my shop–er, studio? (What a snooty word for “shop”.) I need to dry it further, and fast.
Daren Nelson, a woodworker over in Illinois, has plans on Ebay on how to build a nice, inexpensive dehumidifier kiln. **Alert** for those of you (all two or three of you) who read this for the humor and philosophical insight, I’m going into some nuts-and-bolts now.
The kiln is a simple box, airtight and insulated, that contains a small heat source, some fans, and a dehumidifier. Without putting you to sleep, I’ll just say that the initial heat source is turned on to get the kiln to temperature, while the fans and dehumidifier run all the time. The moisture is drawn from the wood by the heat, and the dehumidifier continuously draws the moisture from the air. When the kiln is up to temp, the heat source is turned off and the dehumidifier keeps the temps up to operating range.
Brilliant. Fantastical. Cheap. Did I say cheap? For fifty cents/boardfoot I can have my lumber dried at the (gulp) lumber yard. At home, I can dry it for as little as five or ten cents/boardfoot. In as little as two weeks. Sorry, I’m drooling. In two weeks I can start my merciless slaughter of millions of defenseless electrons. A blood-thirsty grin pasted on my maniacal face, dreaming of the new sideboard against the wall of my dining room. Well, maybe not millions of defenseless electrons. . . have I mentioned my handtool collection?