How Dry Should Wood Be Before Turning

If you’re a woodturner, then you know that your project’s success depends on your wood’s moisture content. Too much moisture and the wood will warp and split; too little and it will be difficult to work with and may crack when drying. In this post, we’ll discuss how to determine the correct moisture content for your wood and how dry should wood be before turning. Keep reading to learn more!

How Dry Should Wood Be Before Turning

Summary: It can be difficult to determine how dry wood should be before turning. Some people believe that wood should be completely dry, while others believe that it should only be half dry. Ultimately, it is best to test the moisture level of the wood by making a small hole and seeing if water leaks out.

What Causes Wood to Crack?

Several factors can cause wood to crack, but the most common is incorrect moisture content. When wood is first cut, it contains a lot of water. As it dries, the water content decreases, and the wood shrinks. If the wood dries too quickly, the shrinkage is uneven and can cause cracking. The second most common cause of wood cracking is environmental conditions.

If the humidity is too high or too low, it can cause the wood to expand or contract, leading to cracking. Another factor that can cause wood to crack is insect damage. If the wood has been infested with insects, it can bore holes through the wood, which can cause it to crack as the insect exit. Also, if the wood has been damaged by fire, it is more susceptible to cracking.

The other main factor that can cause wood to crack is improper storage. If the wood is not stored in a cool, dry place, it can absorb moisture from the air and expand, leading to cracking. Lastly, some woods are just more prone to cracking than others. For example, woods that are high in resin, like pine, are more likely to crack than other woods.

Why It’s Important to Dry Wood Before Turning

There are a few reasons to dry wood before turning. First, it prevents the wood from warping as it dries unevenly. Second, it helps to prevent the formation of cracks and checks in the wood. If the wood is not dry, these cracks can become quite large and cause the wood to break. Another reason to dry wood before turning is to prevent the growth of mold and mildew. If the wood is not dried properly, it can form and cause the wood to rot.

Additionally, drying wood before turning helps to preserve the wood’s natural color. Finally, it is easier to work with dry wood than wet wood. Wet wood is more likely to stick to the tools, making sand and finish difficult.

Cracks Can Become Quite Large

A Complete Guide on How Dry Should Wood Be Before Turning

So, how dry should wood be before turning? The answer is that it depends on the type of wood and the project. For most woods, the moisture content should be between 6-8%. However, the moisture content should be closer to 4-6% for more resinous woods, like pine. If the wood is too dry, it will be difficult to work with and may crack when drying. If the wood is too wet, it will warp and split.

A rule of thumb is that the wood should be dry enough to sand easily but still slightly moist to the touch. There are many ways to determine the correct moisture content for your wood, including:

1. Use a Moisture Meter

One of the easiest ways to determine the moisture content of your wood is to use a moisture meter. Moisture meters are relatively inexpensive and can be found at most hardware stores. First, use a moisture meter to calibrate it by placing it in a known dry or wet sample. Next, insert the probes into the wood at least 2 inches apart. Finally, read the moisture content and compare it to the chart included with your meter. If the moisture content is too high, the wood will need to be dried further. If the moisture content is too low, the wood can be used as is.

2. Weight Method

Another way to determine the moisture content of your wood is by using the weight method. This method is more accurate than the moisture meter but is also more time-consuming. First, weigh the piece of wood. Next, place the wood in an oven set to 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 hours. After 2 hours, remove the wood from the oven and weigh it again.

The difference in weight is the water weight and can be used to determine the moisture content. For example, if the wood weighs 10 pounds before drying and 9 pounds after drying, the moisture content is 10%.

3. Visual Method

The visual method is the least accurate way to determine the moisture content of your wood but it can give you a ballpark idea. Inspect the wood for any obvious signs of moisture like warping, cupping, or staining. If the wood is very dry, it will be lightweight and have cracks. If the wood is too wet, it will be heavy and have a green tint. Try to find wood that is somewhere in the middle for the best results.

Moisture Content of Your Wood

4. Crushing method

The crushing method is another way to determine the moisture content of your wood. It is best to use this method if you are unsure of the accuracy of your moisture meter. Splits or cracks in the wood.

First, find a spot on the log that is free of knots or other blemishes. Cut a small chip off of the log, about the size of a dime. Place the chip in a ziplock bag and seal it. Then, crush the wood chip using a hammer or other heavy object.

After the chip is crushed, open the bag and touch the wood dust. The log is ready to turn if it is powdery and feels dry. If the dust is sticky or clumps together, then the log still has too much moisture and needs to be dried further.

The crushing method is not always accurate, but it is a good way to get a general idea of the moisture content of your wood. If you are unsure, it is always better to err on the side of caution and dry your wood a little longer. Better too dry than too wet!

5. Testing with Your Hands

You can also test the moisture content of your wood with your hands. It’s not the most accurate method, but it’s a good way to get a general idea of how dry your wood is. First sand the wood to smooth any rough edges. Then, take a small piece of the wood and break it in half. If the wood snaps cleanly, it’s dry. If the wood bends or crumbles, it’s still too wet. Try this test on a few pieces of wood from different parts of the log to get an idea of the moisture content throughout.

6. The Toothpick Test

The toothpick test is another way to test the moisture content of your wood. It’s not as accurate as the other methods, but it’s quick and easy. First, find a small, straight piece of wood to do the test. Then, insert the toothpick into the wood at a 45-degree angle. If the toothpick comes out clean, the wood is dry. If the toothpick comes out with wood shavings or sawdust on it, the wood is still too wet to use.

Insert the Toothpick Into the Wood

7. The Thumb Test

The thumb test is another quick and easy way to test the moisture content of your wood. First, find a small piece of wood that you can easily hold in your hand. Then, press your thumb into the wood. If the wood feels hard and is difficult to dent, then it has low moisture content and is suitable for turning. If the wood feels soft and sponges up water easily, then it has high moisture content and is not suitable for turning.

What is the Ideal Moisture Content for Woodturning?

The ideal moisture content for woodturning is around 12-15%. This range is the sweet spot for most woods and will allow your wood to be strong and stable while still being easy to work with. If your wood is too dry, it will be difficult to shape and may crack or break while you are working with it. If your wood is too wet, it will be difficult to work with and may warp or deform as it dries.

You Can Check It Out To Use Moisture Meter for Wood

What is the Best Way to Dry Wood Faster?

The best way to dry wood faster is to use a kiln. Kilns are large, enclosed chambers that can reach high temperatures, which speeds up the drying process. If you don’t have access to a kiln, you can also try stacking your wood in a well-ventilated area with fans blowing on it. This will help to evaporate the moisture from the wood more quickly. Another method is to expose your wood to sunlight, which will also help to speed up the drying process.

Kilns Are Large, Enclosed Chamber

How To Help Wood Dry Faster Before Turning?

Woodturning is an enjoyable craft that requires wood to be dried properly before starting a project. The wood must be dried slowly to prevent cracks and warping during turning. However, sometimes wood is not dry enough when purchased or harvested and needs to be dried more quickly.

To help the wood dry faster before turning, following a few simple steps is essential. First, the wood must be cut into the desired shape and size as soon as possible. This will allow better air circulation and help the wood dry faster.

Second, the wood must be treated with a wood stabilizer or wood sealer to slow down moisture evaporation. Third, using a dehumidifier and fan is recommended to help speed up the drying process. Finally, the wood should be stored in a dry, well-ventilated area and regularly monitored for moisture content until it reaches the desired level.

Why Does Wood Need To Be Dry For Turning?

Wood needs to be dry for turning because of two main reasons: safety and quality of the product. Wet wood contains moisture, which can lead to safety hazards like wood cracking, tool slipping or wood spinning. As wood is turned, the moisture may expand or contract, causing the wood to crack, split or become uneven.

Furthermore, the edges of the tools may slip or bounce off the wood, causing serious accidents. On the other hand, dried wood is more stable and consistent in nature, making it easier to work with and produce a good quality finished product. Dry wood shrinks less and is less likely to crack as it is worked. It is also more likely to hold its shape and texture over time. Therefore, dry wood is safer and of higher quality for turning.

Lowering The Risk Of Damaging The Wood When Turning

Turning wood can be a delicate process, and it’s important to take precautions to prevent damage to the wood. Here are some tips to help you lower the risk of damaging the wood when turning:

  1. Keep your tools sharp: Dull tools can produce a rough surface that marks the wood. Be sure to properly sharpen your tools before using them.
  2. Take it slow: Don’t rush the turning process. Take your time and be gentle with the wood. This will help prevent any cracks or splits.
  3. Use a light touch: Apply only light pressure to the wood with your tools. Too much pressure can lead to deeper cuts and potential damage to the wood.
  4. Secure the wood: Make sure the wood is properly secured and balanced on your lathe. This will help prevent the wood from vibrating or moving, which can result in damage.
  5. Properly sand the wood: Sanding the wood is an important step to achieving a smooth finish. Use the appropriate grit of sandpaper and sand in the direction of the grain to avoid scratches.


So there you have it! Everything you need to know about how dry should wood be before turning. Remember, the key is to find the sweet spot between too dry and too wet. You’ll be well on your way to success if you can do that. Thanks for reading!

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Adrian Green

Adrian has been interested in woodworking since he was a child. His father had a woodworking shop, and Adrian would help him out and learn from him. He gained basic carpentry knowledge as well as an understanding of how to work hard and take care of business. He enjoys woodworking as a hobby. He loves the feeling of creating something with his own hands, and the satisfaction that comes from seeing his finished products used by others. So he started this blog to spread his passion and knowledge to those interested in DIY wood-working projects. He knows that with a little guidance and practice, anyone can create beautiful pieces of furniture or décor from scratch.

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