Turning Archive 2007

Why Weyerhaeuser doesn't soak lumber in alcohol

Russ Fairfield
>Someone related a comment the Weyerhaeuser Company doesn't soak lumber in alcohol and that rang a bell in my memory.

I was associated with a lumber drying research team at the Weyerhaeuser Research faciility in the mid-60's when it was still in Longview, WA. Being a bunch of research folks, we did everything possible to increase the drying rate and reduce the degrade (cracking, warping and over-dry) of the lumber in the process. Yes, it was even soaked it in surfactants (Liquid Detergent) and alcohol, along with many other things. We even tried freeze drying and drying with Microwaves.

All of these things appeared to work on individual pieces of wood, but our biggest problem was monitoring and measuring the process of drying the lumber in a big enough sample to remove the effects of the variability in wood. So we built a kiln with a capacity of about 2000 bf of dimension lumber per load. It was insulated and instrumented to measure and control humidity throughout the encosure and within the lumber load. Another instrumentation that had to be developed was a moisture meter probe that would measure the moisture inside of a piece of wood without having to penetrate the wood with pins. This instrumentation was developed, and placed at various places around and throughout the stack of lumber.

We made an amazing discovery. With all of this instrumentation and control, we were able to accomplish the same increase in drying rate and the same reduction in drying defects without soaking the wood in anything.

We then went on to full-sized lumber kilns and the results were essentially the same with the installation of new instrumentation and control.

And, that is why Weyerhaeuser doesn't soak the lumber in anything.

I will leave it to all of you to determine whether any of this can be related to drying a rough turned bowl and whether you think soaking them in either alcohol or dishwater is an improvement over carefully monitoring and controlling your air drying.

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