How to Dry Birch Wood

Written by kevin ann reinhart
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How to Dry Birch Wood
Birch dries best slowly and naturally. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Birch tends to discolour and darken when artificial methods such as vacuum or high temperature drying are used to prepare the wood. When air-dried conventionally, the cambium layer about 1/5 inch below the surface remains light in colour while the inner layers darken. Vacuum drying and high temperatures increase the darkening effect throughout the wood. Birch felled in winter, and stored for several weeks before air drying, produces a lighter wood. Birch felled in autumn, and stored for five weeks before undergoing vacuum or high heat drying, also ensures a lighter finished colour. Drying methods definitely affect wood appearance.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Chain saw
  • Birch logs
  • Paraffin
  • Paintbrush
  • 2-by-4 supports, cut to the diameter of the logs
  • Sheltered storage area
  • Moisture meter

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Cut a birch tree into logs using your chain saw. The length of the cut will depend on how you intend to use the dried wood.

  2. 2

    Melt paraffin on low heat until it reaches the consistency of paint.

  3. 3

    Seal the ends of your logs with liquid paraffin applied with a paintbrush.

  4. 4

    Place supports made from 2-by-4s under and between the drying logs.

  5. 5

    Store the logs in a cool, protected, well-ventilated storage shed. Allow the logs to air-dry naturally.

  6. 6

    Check the moisture content of your logs using a moisture meter. Record the reading. Repeat the measurement once yearly.

  7. 7

    Dry the log until the wood reaches the moisture level recommended for the project in which you'll use the wood. This information is available by consultation with your local lumber mill operator.

Tips and warnings

  • Air-dried wood generally requires one year of drying time for each inch of thickness.
  • Maintaining the wood in log form makes drying time longer but avoids cracking and splitting.
  • You can purchase or rent a wood moisture meter from your local wood supply store.
  • Take care when melting paraffin. Keep the wax out of the reach of young children.

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