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The little I have learned over my life in wood working, I will share with you: Most of the problems mentioned above can be limited by kiln drying the wood at some point prior to your purchase of it.
My Dad, Caesar Sherrard, built the first solar-powered kiln in
Belize in 1979, one of only two kilns in the country at the time.Since
then, we have improved the design thanks to a certification program
offered by the Centre for Development Enterprise and the Timber Quality
Bureau of Ireland.
Currently, we use a solar-powered heat&vent kiln for lumber and a dehumidifier kiln for turnings. All products made at Caesar's Place are kiln dried by these means. However, we do stock a number of products made in villages throughout Belize and from places around the world where kiln drying is not available.
Now, while you read on, bear in mind that all finishes are micro-porous at best and will allow the absorption and release of moisture in the wood. A micro-porous finish, as opposed to no finish, will only serve to slow the absorption or release of moisture. This is a step in the right direction as moisture entering the wood or leaving the wood is not necessarily a problem. When it happens too quickly is the problem. At this point, we will discard the absorption of moisture as it does not pose a problem except for when it comes to trying to re-dry the wood or if we were to be speaking of draws and doors expanding and sticking in their frames.
So, our mission is to slow the release of moisture (also known as "diffusion") from the wood into the surrounding air. The rate of diffusion will depend on how wet the wood is in comparison to how dry the air surrounding it is. And you should know that the air in your home could be as moist as Florida during the summer or as dry as Arizona in the summer! To complicate the possibilities, many homes are winter-heated and cooled by air-conditioners in the summer. Others have dehumidifiers in their basements. These two effects have the same outcome: super dry air in you home. unless you have a humidifier.
Belize it or not, the solution is simple!
Place your purchase in a plastic bag and seal it till you get home or to your office. Remove the item from the bag, turn the bag inside out (thereby putting some of the air around you into the bag) and re-seal the bag. Leave it in for a week. This process limits the amount of air surrounding the wooden product. Diffusion starts rapidly at first (if there is a large difference between the amount of moisture in the wood and your home) but the air in the bag is quickly saturated and, as it reaches the moisture content of the wood, it slows down and finally stops. At this point, the wood has reached its Equilibrium Moisture Content (EMC) and parts of the wood that gave up their moisture quicker will be forced to wait for the rest of the wood to catch up; and thus the wood is able to stabilize and stresses, that would have cracked the wood, are relieved. After about a week, repeat the procedure by removing the wood from the bag, turning the bag inside out, replacing the wood and resealing the bag.
Do this over a three week period and you should have reduced the moisture content of the wood to within a close range of the humidity level in you home! Congratulations! You are the owner of your own wood drying company without even knowing it!
After the three week period has passed, set the piece out where it will live for the rest of its days (not too far from where you did the drying procedure). Keep an eye on it over the next two or three days. If you notice tiny hairline cracks (called checks) quickly put it back in the bag for another round of drying. If you catch the hairline checks quick enough, they will go away. If you don't, your wooden product may crack even more, develop character, and who knows, maybe it will be worth more! For the products that are made at Caesar's Place and or kiln dried there, you can skip the bag part and just put it out where it's going to live. However, keep an eye on it and bag it if you see any checks occurring.
For questions, contact me at: 501-824-2341 or email email@example.comCheers, Julian Sherrard