So a friend sold me a piece of white ash. He doesn't know how long it's been dead, but he cut it down two weeks ago, and had it milled yesterday. I don't have any fancy tools, but I'd like to know when to expect it to be ready to use for instrument wood.
The general rule of thumb is one year per inch of thickness, granted the ends are sealed
Get a moisture meter, probably Harborgreight, or some places like that. Shouldn't be too costly, wait until the reading shows less than 15% moisture content before using the wood for instrument stuff.
If I remember correctly, Tony Pass[imo] (RIP) told me once that the woods he used for his rims were at 5% moisture content.
A believe moisture reading doesn’t really tell you much in itself. Moisture levels will vary greatly between different wood species and also, more importantly, with the local humidity where you live.
What to do with a moisture reading, according to what I have learned at least, is to take readings over time as the wood is dried. When they stop changing, your wood will be sufficiently stable. But the actual number can vary greatly.
You could also weigh the lumber on scales with the same goal; to see when the weight stops changing over time.
I cut a couple of small blocks of the wood at least an inch from the end of the wood, weigh them accurately with a gram scale, then pop them into a toaster oven set at about 140 to 150 degrees for an hour or more at a time, weighing in between, until the weIght doesn’t change. You can set the temperature higher for one of the pieces, and you will bake the wood to complete dryness, and it is a very different piece of wood than kiln dried wood. That does, however get all the moisture out quickly and allow you to know exactly how much moisture is in the wood. The original moisture content can be calculated using the difference between the beginning and ending weights. If you then let the dry piece (not the baked piece) sit in your house for one to two weeks, it will regain some moisture from the air until it is stable. Weigh it again and you can get an approximation of that particular piece of wood’s stable moisture content. If you also weigh the whole piece of original wood and mark the weight and date on the wood you can monitor it’s moisture content accurately as it dries.
I have dried wood in a freeze dryer until the moisture content is at the stable number for that piece of wood. The Wood usually remains at that weight and moisture content over years, but there is something else I have observed. Many pieces of wood will still change dimensionally over time even though the moisture content remains the same. It seems safest to allow wood to "rest" in your environment for a few years before using it for an instrument. Chuck at OME Banjos lets his wood sit in his shop for 10 years before making an instrument from it. That takes planning and patience, but it appears to pay off in the quality of the instrument.
Edited by - rmcdow on 08/13/2020 03:41:58
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