Rules for storing wood

Rules for storing wood
Your success in your wood carving projects depends on your professional skills, the quality of your carving tools and your wood. And in this blog we want to share with you about rules for storing wood.

Rules for storing wood

Spoon carving is most enjoyable with green wood. Wood that has a high moisture content. The moment wood is cut down it starts to lose moisture. You want to slow down the drying process, but not have the wood rot. This means you need to be strategic about how you store wood.

Moisture in wood

Inside the wood there are two kinds of moisture. Free water and bound water. Free water is sloshing about between the plant cells and in cell cavities. It moves easily and is the first to go. Once it's all gone, the wood has reached its fiber saturation point.

As wood continues to dry, it loses bound water that's locked in the cell walls. It takes energy for the bound water to exit the cell walls. Once water is gone, the cells shrink. Enough cells shrink than the wood shrinks and moves.

Wood loses moisture fastest from the end grain, but also along the grain. Wood dries from the outside in. Which means the outer wood is shrinking faster than the inside.

The water will always move towards a drier environment. A dripping wet log is going to lose water to the much drier air. This also means that very dry wood will gain water from a humid environment.

Wood storage

1. Don't cut the logs

Maximise the volume to surface area ratio. Give your log as much inside (volume) as possible compared to outside (surface area). Don't cut your logs any shorter than they have to be. You might need to cut them in order to be able to move them. No worries. Just don't cut them to spoon length until you're ready to start carving.

2. Seal the end grain

Wood is a bundle of tubes. In life a mature tree can move 70 gallons (265 liters) of water through those tubes each day. Plug up those tubes! Seal the end grain with something. Elmers glue, paint, wax, proprietary grain sealers. Anything to slow down the movement of water. That includes keeping the bark on.

3. Cover your logs

Pop a tarp over your logs. Make sure it's securely in place. This will help create a more humid environment around the logs by keeping the wind off. Keeping smaller sections in a plastic bag will do the same job.

4. Store in a shady spot

It takes energy to move bound water out of the cell walls. That energy is usually heat. Keeping your wood shady and cool will help keep the wood at its fiber saturation point for longer. Which equals less splitting

5. Store it off the ground

You're doing a good job of keeping moisture in your logs. Now you've got something else to worry about. Rot. Keeping wood off the ground will help prevent wood from rotting. Some species resist rot better than others. If the wood has a colorful heartwood it usually does a good job of resisting rot (the color in heartwood is caused by chemicals known as extractives. They differ between species but are usually there to protect the wood). Put some sacrificial branch wood on the ground and stack your logs on to of them.

Bonus tip

If you're dealing with smaller pieces of wood, or you only have a limited amount of space, this is for you. Process your wood into billets asap. Wrap them in plastic and shove them in your freezer. If you don't have the freezer space you can keep billets in a bucket of water or just wrapped in plastic. The unfrozen billets might develop a bit of surface mold, but that will just carve away.