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Author Topic: difficulties in drying hickory  (Read 4117 times)

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Offline mikeb1079

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difficulties in drying hickory
« on: November 03, 2013, 09:47:48 PM »
hey folks, last june i cut some hickory out at my uncles place.  was a beautiful straight tree, with no visible defect.  almost felt bad cutting it up actually.  anyways, i noticed on the saw that it had a bunch of internal stress and seemed like it wanted to split pretty bad.  well, i sawed it all up and stacked it out back to air dry for a while.  just today i lifted the tarp and re-stacked all that i had sawn from horizontal to vertical storage.  my goodness!  i'll bet that at least a 1/3 to 1/2 of what i cut i just threw straight onto the firewood pile.  almost every defect you could think of was present:  cup, bow, twist, splits, etc etc.  just ugly ugly boards.  granted, i didn't band the stack w/anything, just put some cinder blocks on top and let em lay.  also, i realize that they started out on a bad foot with all that internal stress.  so my question is this:  does hickory usually behave this badly? or was this just a combination of a stressed tree and a problematic species to dry in the first place?
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Offline coxy

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Re: difficulties in drying hickory
« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2013, 06:29:25 AM »
seems like the hickory by you is the same as where I live if I cut them down and cut them to log size they are fire wood in a few hours split 4ways  this summer I cut a few down and left them  with the leaves on them for about a month that seemed to help

Offline YellowHammer

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Re: difficulties in drying hickory
« Reply #2 on: November 05, 2013, 01:09:48 PM »
I also experience a relatively high percentages of kiln drying defects with hickory, higher than average with other hardwood species.
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Offline mmartone

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Re: difficulties in drying hickory
« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2013, 06:19:54 PM »
I have 2 small piles of hickory drying, one is quarter saw the other is slabbed, they are about 6 months old, and look pretty good.
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Offline kelLOGg

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Re: difficulties in drying hickory
« Reply #4 on: November 09, 2013, 05:59:41 PM »
My only experience w/ hickory was milling/drying a standing dead one (~23"dia). It cut nicely. I stickered it for shed drying under its own weight for several years because I had no plans for it. Then I kiln dried, T&Ged it for flooring in my office. It has a few worm holes and looks GREAT. I had no problem w/ stress.
Maybe dead first helps,
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Offline GeneWengert-WoodDoc

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Re: difficulties in drying hickory
« Reply #5 on: November 09, 2013, 09:03:19 PM »
There are four species of trees that produce hickory lumber.  Not all are the same in terms of drying quality.  Also, when we get near the edge of the natural range of a species, we tend to see more poor quality drying characteristics.  I have seen a lot of beautiful lumber from further south.  Slow drying and avoiding rain wetting will help in any case.  So, I think you had a tree with too much stress mainly.
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Offline WDH

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Re: difficulties in drying hickory
« Reply #6 on: November 09, 2013, 10:00:44 PM »
 smiley_devil
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Offline mikeb1079

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Re: difficulties in drying hickory
« Reply #7 on: November 10, 2013, 09:09:44 PM »
thanks for the replies fellas, i should add that this was shagbark hickory.  i'll still be able to salvage some nice lumber out of it but i was a little disappointed in the losses.  i did notice also that the thicker stuff faired better (2" plus).  i think next time i'll try some banding straps?
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Offline hackberry jake

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Re: difficulties in drying hickory
« Reply #8 on: November 26, 2013, 11:35:57 PM »
Most of the hickory I get is shagbark, I too have noticed drying problems... and cutting problems... and blade dulling problems... and splintering/tear-out problems, and powderpost problems... it makes good firewood though!
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Offline WDH

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Re: difficulties in drying hickory
« Reply #9 on: November 27, 2013, 06:54:20 AM »
I swore the last time that I cut hickory that I would never cut anymore again, and so far for the last 4 years, I have been true to the oath  :).
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Offline mesquite buckeye

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Re: difficulties in drying hickory
« Reply #10 on: November 27, 2013, 11:01:01 AM »
It's way easier than red gum eucalyptus. Try that one sometime if you like lumpy pretzels. :snowball: ;D
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Offline WDH

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Re: difficulties in drying hickory
« Reply #11 on: November 27, 2013, 09:14:03 PM »
Pass on the red gum. 
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Offline mesquite buckeye

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Re: difficulties in drying hickory
« Reply #12 on: November 28, 2013, 01:55:48 AM »
It is however, unbelievably beautiful. ;D :o
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Offline scsmith42

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Re: difficulties in drying hickory
« Reply #13 on: November 28, 2013, 10:23:50 AM »
just today i lifted the tarp

That line caught my eye.... was the entire stack tarped where air could not flow freely through it?
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Offline Ivey

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Re: difficulties in drying hickory
« Reply #14 on: November 28, 2013, 03:25:01 PM »
Caught my eye too Scott. Hope it was not covered to the bottom..
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Offline mesquite buckeye

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Re: difficulties in drying hickory
« Reply #15 on: November 28, 2013, 11:01:21 PM »
Out here in the dry country we play that game sometimes to even out the drying and slow it down. Tarp on, tarp off, tarp on, tarp off.

Got to check it every day or it will mold.

Sometimes we even have to wet the piles down to slow down the cracking.
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Offline GeneWengert-WoodDoc

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Re: difficulties in drying hickory
« Reply #16 on: November 29, 2013, 09:07:24 AM »
I do believe that drying species that need slow drying in a dry environment like AZ is a good opportunity for using the plastic mesh cloth called Shade-Dri, as it stops most air flow, allowing the RH to build up and drying to go slowing when the wood is fairly wet.  Use the closer spaced mesh.  A roof to protect the pile from direct sunlight would also be part of the solution.

As I see it, a tarp is going to create very, very slow drying...warp and stain...and then when uncovered, a risk of cracking due to the sudden exposure to low RH.  The risk is zero when under about 50% MC...cracks you see at lower MCs are pre-existing and they are just re-opening.  We do know that high RH and low RH cycling in a few hours does make checks worse...deeper and wider, even at lower MCs.  Cycling also increases warp.

The bottom line, with the intent of trying to help, is to not use a tarp cover on the edges of the pile...top and ends would be ok.
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Offline 5quarter

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Re: difficulties in drying hickory
« Reply #17 on: December 01, 2013, 12:35:00 AM »
I have a couple big dumpster mesh covers That are a lot like shade dri material. takes the worry out of air drying oak and other thicker stock. tarps are bad news. I have also used osb leaned against the stack to restrict but not eliminate air flow. works ok in a pinch.
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Offline mesquite buckeye

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Re: difficulties in drying hickory
« Reply #18 on: December 01, 2013, 08:44:51 PM »
I do believe that drying species that need slow drying in a dry environment like AZ is a good opportunity for using the plastic mesh cloth called Shade-Dri, as it stops most air flow, allowing the RH to build up and drying to go slowing when the wood is fairly wet.  Use the closer spaced mesh.  A roof to protect the pile from direct sunlight would also be part of the solution.

As I see it, a tarp is going to create very, very slow drying...warp and stain...and then when uncovered, a risk of cracking due to the sudden exposure to low RH.  The risk is zero when under about 50% MC...cracks you see at lower MCs are pre-existing and they are just re-opening.  We do know that high RH and low RH cycling in a few hours does make checks worse...deeper and wider, even at lower MCs.  Cycling also increases warp.

The bottom line, with the intent of trying to help, is to not use a tarp cover on the edges of the pile...top and ends would be ok.

My comments were in regard to drying red gum eucalyptus, a notoriously difficult species. With this one we aren't talking surface checks, but big, nasty cracks, collapse to close to half the sawn thickness in some cases and lots and lots of prezeling. I was able to slow down the cracking to a more controlled rate by putting the stickered stack into a closed building, which the stack occupied maybe 5-10% of. It was a pretty warm time of the year, so probably 90-100F, 5-10%RH. The wood dried so fast that it was literally tearing itself to pieces. First, I added the tarp, which helped, but still the cracks kept getting bigger. Then, I started misting the pile and covering it, which seemed to help a bit, as the cracks stopped growing. I had to mist every day or two for at least a week or two, just to slow down the moisture loss. I think this also made the humidity go up inside the building, also helpful. After a couple of weeks, the wood got some green surface mold, in spots, so off with the cover and back off with the water. Lots of playing around just to try to get something. The wood pretty much stopped moving after maybe 1.5 months, pretty quick drying even for out here. The wood is beautiful, highly figured, and very lumpy and crooked. Still makes pretty stuff if you don't mind the extra work, lots of quilted, curly and birdseye figure. Most of what I got is going to be flooring in our house. Movement seems minimal once it gets dry and sits around for a few years.

If I ever do this again, I will take your suggestion of using Shade-Dri, maybe that will help. Also helpful might be doing the cutting during the coldest time of the year and drying inside a controlled humidity building. Starting to sound like a kiln of sorts, isn't it? Anyway, thanks for your thoughts. ;D
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Re: difficulties in drying hickory
« Reply #19 on: October 19, 2021, 06:07:43 PM »
I just slabbed some nice hickory, 24-30 inches wide.  This thread is scarring me a little lol.  Should I throw them in the kiln or should i wait until spring for it to lose some moisture during winter before kiling? I milled them to 2.5 inches.  Also if in the kiln i assume it would be best to throw it on the bottom of the stacks.  I don't mind some cracking as we use epoxy to repair them.

Thanks for any advice. 

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Re: difficulties in drying hickory
« Reply #20 on: October 19, 2021, 09:11:40 PM »
I started a thread about drying thick pecan from green to dry in a Nyle DH kiln last January I think it was. I'm assuming since the lumber is interchangeable they will dry the same. There is a lot of very good info in that thread if you can find it. ( I would gladly put the link here if I knew how to do it.)
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Offline WDH

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Re: difficulties in drying hickory
« Reply #21 on: October 20, 2021, 07:59:53 AM »
Air drying first will save you a bunch of kiln time that could be used to dry other wood if the kiln is yours.  If your are paying to have it done, air drying it first will save you a bunch of money.  
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Re: difficulties in drying hickory
« Reply #22 on: October 21, 2021, 06:44:32 AM »
There is a reason that most hickory in my area is used for pallets and cross ties. The last time I sawed and dried hickory I took the same oath as Danny. I thought if I cut it 5/4 and stacked it just right and dried it just right I could get some good lumber from it. Nope not a chance. About half went to the burn pile when it came out of the kiln and I ran the rest through the planer twice as many times trying to get it to clean up. Then I burned it. I was watching all of that work go up in smoke and came to the conclusion that if I had put that same effort into a different species I would have had a lot less waste and a product to sell. I don't think I could come out if I sold hickory at $20.00/bf.  I also don't know of anyone that would pay that much. 
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Offline GeneWengert-WoodDoc

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Re: difficulties in drying hickory
« Reply #23 on: October 22, 2021, 08:25:04 AM »
In around 2000, there was a big interest in "character" hickory, both true hickory and pecan hickory.  The lumber price went up.  This interest I hckorylumber has since dropped and the price is down.  When saving, there is a preponderance of charter lumber and little clear pieces.  As with most dense species, processing is not easy.
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Re: difficulties in drying hickory
« Reply #24 on: October 23, 2021, 07:34:03 AM »
Any time processing isn't easy it also becomes expensive.
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Re: difficulties in drying hickory
« Reply #25 on: October 24, 2021, 08:25:16 AM »
We pulled a mixed load out of our solar kiln yesterday (cypress mantles and slabs, live edged water oak, live edged pecan, live edged hickory and live edged sweetgum).  Most dried acceptably flat but some of the oak slabs cupped quite a bit but that is how it goes with low quality red oak.  All of these were air dried down to around 20% before putting in the kiln two weekends ago.  I shut the fans off Wednesday to prevent excessively drying the load.

I agree that sawing and drying hickory is challenging but for a board foot price we probably make more on hickory (pignut hickory and pecan) than anything else although we do not saw a lot of it.  We also have not sawn boards out of hickory, just slabs, usually 2.5" thick.
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Re: difficulties in drying hickory
« Reply #26 on: October 24, 2021, 09:46:01 AM »
Very well done!  What is your target final moisture content?
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Re: difficulties in drying hickory
« Reply #27 on: October 24, 2021, 09:59:38 AM »
The retail outlet that sells our wood wants slabs below 15%.  With such a wide variety of the last load, I turned off the fans when the MC got down to 8-11% in the thick pieces.  We left them in the kiln until yesterday.  This kiln seems to dry wood flatter now that we don't seal it up tightly and do not run the dehumidifier at night.  It has enough leaks that we do not use vents.  When we are drying pine or cypress right off of the mill we leave the doors slightly cracked open.
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