Ideas for weighting stickered lumber

Options for applying weight to stickered, drying lumber are offered. August 10, 2000

I just cast eight weights for my lumber stacks by sandwiching 48-inch-long 1-by-8s between 8-by-8-by-16 building blocks. I put a 10-inch foundation bolt and 1/2-inch rebar in each weight. I am wondering how other people make weights for their stacks?

Forum Responses
I just use 10- and 12-inch cement building blocks on my lumber piles. I stack a single layer of them over each row of stickers after I have built my pile. I don't get the ideal weight of 300 lbs./sf as Gene has recommended, but they seem to keep warping to a minimum, and are easy to handle.

I use 4-by-4 oak timbers on the top and bottom of the stacks every two feet, and secure them with 1/8-inch steel cable and turnbuckles. I tighten the turnbuckles every month or so.

You only need five turnbuckles per stack (for 8-foot lumber). Secure one end of the cable to a bottom timber, thread it through slanted holes in either end of the top timber, and put the turnbuckle on the bottom of the other side. I also cover the stacks with waterproof canvas. Don't use plastic.

You can make a cheap turnbuckle by welding a large washer on the end of a 12-inch piece of 5/8 diameter all-thread, then welding a short piece of 3/4-inch black pipe to the side of another piece of all-thread. If you put the bottom timbers on top of concrete blocks, then just use a long eyebolt through the bottom timber and tighten from the bottom.

The only problem with using turnbuckles or straps for weight is that the wood shrinks quite a bit until it gets down to around 20 percent moisture content (MC).

To keep the wood from warping, you have to check the straps regularly and keep adjusting the tension. If you check it often enough, then I'll agree that it does provide a lot of tension without having to lift a lot of weights.

Have you seen the web straps that 18-wheelers use as load binders? These work great on lumber piles too. Tighten them daily.

You need quite a few to get enough force on wide piles; we are looking for at least 300 lbs./sf to do a real good job. Of course, even less helps some.
Gene Wengert, forum moderator

I use plastic, gallon milk jugs filled with sand or gravel as weights. They can be easily moved by one person, have built-in handles, and are basically free. They work great.

Another question: It sounds like Gene is talking about using a lot of weight on the stacks to keep the lumber flat. Though more weight will not allow the lumber to move as much during drying, is this the best approach for making stable lumber as well as flat lumber? The wood will move when drying because that is where it wants to be. It seems like keeping it from going there will only create more stress. Will allowing the wood to move during drying make for a more stable board when the drying process is complete?

When you bend a piece of wood for a chair back or other item, does it gradually straighten? No. So, the same thing here. If we dry the lumber flat and straight, it will not bend later in use due to holding it flat in the dryer. (Though it might warp for other reasons.)

Good discussion on weights. But how do you guys handle the rust problem of any metal parts? Turnbuckles, or buckles for the straps?

I use the plastic-coated steel cable found at WalMart and many other places. The turnbuckles or eyebolts are at the side of the stack and do not touch the wood.

I don't think uncoated steel cable would hurt though. The way I did it, the cable was on top of the 4-by-4 oak timber. I also had the whole thing covered with canvas.

Another advantage in securing the stack with cable or straps is the kiln guy might be able to bring his forklift and load the whole "package" directly onto his truck.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor A:
The post above mentions a forklift. If you have one, or access to one in conjunction with your drying operation, consider thinking big:

Build yourself a couple of pallets, with the runners or stringer spaced the same as your stickers. You can put (clean) old engine blocks, 5 gallon plastic buckets filled with concrete, sand, etc., on the pallets and then just lift them on top of your pile to be dried.

For the small loads, my money would be the turnbuckles idea.