View Full Version : Wood Checking

11-13-2009, 08:27 AM
Awhile ago I got a hold of some freshly felled black walnut, which I quickly split into sections, painted the end grain, and let dry in my basement. Today I took a look at it, and there is checking on all of the sections. The checking stops where the heartwood begins, so I'm hoping there's still some usable wood there. I'll take a bandsaw to it tomorrow and find out if I have some expensive firewood.

My question: what went wrong? Maybe the latex paint wasn't thick enough to prevent dry out, or the sections were too wide. This was kind of an expensive lesson, so what should I do next time?


Pete Howlett
11-13-2009, 08:42 AM
Drying in your basement is the cause. This wood should have been stickered and placed in an open ended shed or structure so that there was a flow of air around it. You have a classic case of the exterior rapidly drying and the 'wet' core desperate to keep up with this and failing to do so thus creating the tension which has caused checking. Who advised you to store it in your basement then?

11-13-2009, 08:50 AM
No one told me to put it in the basement, it was just the driest area of my house. I had 2 box fans hitting it 24/7. Maybe the lesson here is to just buy from a luthier supply. Pity, cause I was really into the idea of using all local wood to build this.


Pete Howlett
11-13-2009, 09:02 AM
No - the idea is to dry it properly. Regardless of how much air-flow you had, your basement is dry, the wood is wet. When you air dry wood outside it gives off its moisture more slowly. You have done the equivalent of coming in from the cold and standing in front of the furnace!

Buying wood 'green' as you did is a great way to build your stock pile - If I was in hawaii it is what I'd be doing with that guy who sells fantastic green koa on ebay - I just can't afford the shipping costs of green wood to the UK.

However like all trades, drying wood requires an understanding of the science and technology behind the process. If you will forgive me for stating the obvious - you didn't do your research...

All is not lost: recover your mistake by doing a test cut on one piece and if it is salvageable (I suspect this is 'surface' checking) get the rest of the stuff out of there and outside for at least a year. Make sure it is covered from the elements - usually with a tin sheet and a couple of bricks to stop it blowing away. Then bring it inside when it has got over the trauma of being dessicated in your basement!

11-13-2009, 09:25 AM
I did do a bit of researching, including (but not limited to) asking this forum. Perhaps I didn't read closely enough. I was doing my best to approximate a kiln within my meager budget to satisfy my impatience. But, if there's anything left to salvage, I'll try to rig an outdoor setup like you described and wait the long wait.

Thanks for the info.