Steaming beech and why not

The Wood Doctor cautions against steaming beach for extended periods. 1998.

by Professor Gene Wengert

What do you know of steaming beech for colour? I understand beech is difficult to dry at the best of times...I have heard of some kiln operators putting heavy sheets of steel and cement blocks on top just to try to keep it flat!

Regarding the use of weights to keep lumber flat--they work, although we really need at least 50 pounds per square foot--up to 150 pounds to do a really good job. Avoid iron as it tends to create stains on the wood.

We usually steam only walnut and cherry. But beech has been steamed briefly to develop a pinkish color. Excessive steaming will result in strength loss and then excessive checking. Steaming is probably not acceptable for 8/4 because of this risk. Remember, always steam at 212 F and 100% RH; cooler doesn't work as well and if the RH is under 100% RH, you will get very rapid drying and some checking.

Professor Gene Wengert is Extension Specialist in Wood Processing at the Department of Forestry, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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