Drying Black Walnut

Thoughts on drying the lumber from some Black Walnut yard trees. December 6, 2009

I have several black walnut trees in my yard. They are going to be cut down and I want to use the wood to make something. The trees are about 24" in diameter. I would like to know how to air dry this wood and what to expect as far as useable wood. I am planning to have it slabbed onsite. Also, I would like to turn some bowls from some of this wood. I have been told to turn it while it is green and allow the finished product to dry. This sounds backwards to me.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor S:
Walnut won't give you any trouble in the drying process. Just put your slabs on sticks, cover with some sheet metal and check it now and then to see if rain is getting in. Cut away any wood that shows signs of bugs. If you can store it in a shed or barn, so much the better, just keep it out of the direct sun and don't dry too fast. Air drying around here, (mountains of PA) takes about one year per inch of thickness for hardwood. There's plenty more in WOODWEB’s Knowledge Base on drying lumber.

From contributor W:
There are also books on green turning. Educate yourself before you waste some beautiful wood. If you dry large pieces of walnut with the thought of turning them later, the pieces will develop cracks which will render them useless.

From contributor Y:
I'm among many who turn green wood all the time. What I do is work the piece up to the point of rough sanding, which I will do on the lathe. Then, take it off and submerge for 24 hours in denatured alcohol. This somehow binds the water with the alcohol and when you take it out makes the drying go a lot faster. The piece may still warp but they seldom crack when processed this way. I still need to let it dry for a couple of months after the alcohol.

From contributor D:
To contributor S: I can't agree with you on this one. Drying has everything to do with various factors such as temperature, humidity, and most importantly air velocity through a stack, along with sticker thickness, width of stack, orientation to any prevailing winds, inside, outside.

To the original questioner: without knowing how thick you're slabbing and the conditions under which your planning on AD this lumber, along with what you want to see as far as far as your final MC - it's going to be hard to give you much helpful advice.

From contributor R:
I am not sure how thick or anything. It is just a bunch of wood I hate to see go to waste. I love the appearance of black walnut. I was thinking of slabbing it to about 2" thickness but I am afraid the drying will be too difficult. I could cut it in 1" slabs and laminate the dried lumber together. It looks like thinner slabs dry faster and check less. Is this true? Also, I have heard of people slabbing it and sealing it green. I don't think this is a good idea. It seems that it would warp and crack horribly. I guess I should slab it as soon as it is cut down.

From contributor S:
2" walnut will air dry without problems, just don't dry it too fast. Sure there are a lot of variables, but it’s not like grey elm that warps or hard maple that will stain or white oak that will check. So I'll stand by my statement that walnut is relatively easy to dry.

From contributor G:
Yard trees are notorious for containing metal. It wouldn't hurt to sweep the log with a metal detector before each cut.

From contributor O:
I have sawn walnut 2 to 2-1/2" thick and air dried it slowly with no problem. Walnut is very forgiving, provided you seal the ends of the pieces.

From contributor E:
Whatever thickness you cut allows for shrinkage. If you want two inch dried then cut 2 1/8 or thicker - even slightly thicker if considering re-sawing.