How to Preserve Wood Slices From Drying Out
Wood slices are wide pieces of wood usually the entire diameter of a tree. Most wood slices are used as natural tables or as outdoor furniture because of its intricate design and interesting appearance. There are special ways to dry wood slices and this guide will show you how.
Wood slices preservation techniques
Slabs are cut perpendicular to the trunk of very large species of trees. There are no man-made sections found in wood slices, therefore, the slice relies entirely on the diameter of the tree for size. You can find wood slabs in a variety of thickness but most woodworkers prefer about 3 to 6 inches. Most of the time, tree slices are cut when the tree is still wet therefore the slabs need to be cured and dried properly to prevent cracking.
Things you will need
- Wood Slab
- Moisture meter
- Extra wood for bracing
Select a location for curing
Select an area outdoors where the slab of wood can remain for a long period of time. Use the formula: 1-inch of thickness per year for the curing time. Place the wood slice in a shaded area in your yard. It must be out of direct sunlight, rain and weather.
Maintain good air circulation
The slab should be placed upright and should be off the ground. Maintain a leaning position at a 30-degree angle to let air move behind it. Lay the wood slices flat across two sticks or braces to prevent covering the bottom. The slab should have a minimum of 4 inches of airflow underneath it. Rotate the slab often every three to four months at least so that each side will face away from anything that can affect air flow.
Learning about the Equilibrium Moisture Content or MC
Wood is composed of moisture. It starts to shrink at 30 percent moisture content. At this rate, the slabs will shrink considerably according to the wood species and the existing moisture levels. When wood reaches Equilibrium Moisture Content or EMC, it equalizes with the moisture in the air which can vary depending on the climate where you are located.
Using a moisture meter
A moisture meter is a handy device that can measure the moisture content of any surface or piece such as any wooden piece. This device can determine if the wood has reached EMC and is ready to be used for woodworking and for firewood. When EMC is reached the slab won’t shrink, crack or warp therefore it is ready to be used. The rule of 1-inch per year is a good one to follow but if you want to be specific, use a moisture meter.
Preserving wood slices need time and patience
Curing times vary depending on the species, initial moisture in the tree, thickness, density, temperature, and the ambient humidity when the wood is being dried. Generally, a slab should be cured at least a year for each inch of thickness. And that’s a lot of time to wait!
Some important things to consider when preserving the wood
Depending on the temperature, humidity and the process used to dry the slab, there are different issues that can affect the way you dry wood slices. You must also consider that trees could also be full of pupae or larva and these need time to hatch, usually a year or so.
Possible cracks and splits
Aside from insects, you might need to deal with cracking and splitting of the wood slices while curing. This is usually due to the wood’s natural grain orientation in the slab, like the grain lines that radiate out from the center. When the slab dries, it pulls the grain apart especially when wood dries too fast.
Problems with cupping of the wood
Cupping is all about the curvature of the slab. This is caused by uneven drying or one side of the slice dries faster than the other side. When this happens, the wood shrinks and pulls the outer perimeter upward. You must carefully monitor your wood slab and be sure to turn it on a regular basis. You can also avoid cupping by placing a significant amount of weight to the slab to keep it flat. At the same time, you are improving airflow around the wood slice.
Wood slices may be preserved by naturally drying wood outdoors. The wooden slab should be placed in an area in your yard where it is away from direct sunlight and rain. It should not be placed on the ground and air should be allowed to move around the slab to improve preservation.