If you’re thinking of cutting down that old apple tree in your backyard and using the wood, you need to consider that the wood needs to dry out. Curing apple wood would make it suitable for you to use as you please, but how long would you have to wait until then?
Apple wood takes anywhere from 3 months to a few years to cure, depending on its internal moisture, thickness, and the location the curing takes place. To cure apple wood, keep it off the ground and well-ventilated. Alternatively, you can kiln dry apple wood, which would take up to one week.
In the rest of this article, I will explain all the factors that affect the curing of apple wood. Furthermore, I will show you how apple wood should be cured. What to keep in mind, and some potential uses if you’re still unsure what to do once you cure the wood.
How Long It Takes Apple Wood to Cure
There’s no straightforward answer that can tell you exactly how much it takes apple wood to cure completely. The process can take from a few months to a couple of years on average. But you need to keep in mind several factors that can affect the curing process. That will help you estimate the time apple wood will take to cure more accurately,
Apple wood is a type of wood that takes a long time to dry out. As I explained, several factors come into play, but generally, if you want usable wood quickly, you can turn to artificial methods (see kiln drying below).
Factors That Affect the Curing Time of Apple Wood
The time that apple wood will take to cure depends on many factors that make every piece of apple wood different from another. Not only do you need to take into account the characteristics of the tree and where it grew, but you also should keep in mind the conditions of the place you will use for curing.
Naturally, moisture is the main factor you need to consider when curing apple wood. When you cure wood, you aim to reduce the internal moisture by a considerable amount, no matter what you intend to do with the wood.
The percentage of internal moisture content varies from tree to tree. Freshly cut wood can contain up to 130 percent moisture. What you’re looking for after curing is somewhere below 20 percent, but even lower if you intend to build furniture or other household objects. Freshly cut apple wood contains about 60 percent moisture.
Thickness is a crucial aspect that affects how much time apple wood will take to cure. The thicker the piece of wood you’re curing is, the longer it will take for the wood to dry out completely. You need to consider this if you’re cutting the pieces of wood yourself. A 4/4 cut is usually recommended for apple wood to dry quickly.
Woodworkers use a rule of thumb that can help you tell how long the apple wood needs to dry out completely. The rule of thumb goes like this: the number of years that the apple wood needs to dry out should equal the number of inches that indicate how thick the piece of wood is. So, if your piece of apple wood is half an inch thick, it will require around half a year, so six months to air dry completely.
The internal moisture of wood is also affected by the humidity outside, which is why you should carefully consider where the curing will occur. You should ensure that the piece of apple wood you’re trying to cure away doesn’t have contact with the ground and is protected from rain.
However, some humidity aspects are entirely out of your hands. If you live in an area with high relative humidity, the wood won’t be able to dry out as quickly as it would in an area with low relative humidity.
Wood generally can dry out more quickly if it is constantly exposed to airflow, which is why you would typically keep it outdoors. If you expose the stacks of apple wood to wind and breeze, you’ll be speeding up the process considerably. Additionally, allowing air to flow through the apple wood stacks prevents fungi from growing inside the wood.
Understandably, keeping wood outside is not always possible. You can use a shed or your garage to protect it from the weather. However, you should make sure the shed is well-ventilated.
The way you stack and position wood to dry out is also important. Depending on the size and shape of the apple wood stacks, you need to position them in a way that allows them to dry out quickly.
You should take care to place the stacks of wood in a crisscross pattern for optimal airflow. If the shape and size of the pieces of apple wood don’t allow you to place them in this pattern, you can put small pieces of wood between the stacks to make sure the air flows through them.
Purpose of Use
Before you start curing apple wood, you need to know what you want to do with it. If you’re going to use it as firewood, it will need to dry out enough to get to 20% internal moisture. However, if you want to use it for woodworking, the apple wood needs to get to a moisture level of six or seven percent, so it will take longer.
How To Cure Apple Wood
The process of curing apple wood is pretty straightforward. It’s made quite simple using certain devices that can tell you exactly when the wood is completely cured. You can follow a few simple steps:
- Choose the curing location. As I explained, you need a place that will be dry and sheltered and, at the same time, will allow air to flow through the wood stacks.
- Make sure the wood has no contact with the ground. Place wooden logs on the ground to serve as a barrier between the green wood and the ground.
- Place the green wood on top of the logs. Stack the pieces of apple wood in a pattern or place wooden sticks between them to allow airflow. Make sure not to stack them too high so that you’re not uncomfortable when unstacking them.
- Leave the wood to dry. If you leave it in the open, make sure to have a tarp ready for when it rains. Otherwise, make sure the shed or garage has plenty of airflow continuously. Calculate how long it may take using the rule of thumb.
- Measure the percentage of moisture. Even if you don’t use the rule of thumb, you have an idea of the level of moisture that the apple wood should have to be ready for use. Thanks to moisture meters like the General Tools MMD4E Digital Moisture Meter (available on Amazon), you can easily measure this level. When it reaches the desired level, you know the wood has dried out.
Kiln Drying Apple Wood
If you haven’t found a suitable place for air drying your apple wood. Or if you want to be able to use it much sooner than it would take naturally to dry out, you have a solution. You can find the nearest place that will artificially dry your stack of wood using heat.
The method of artificially curing wood is called kiln-drying, and it involves using gradual heat to dry the wood out more quickly. The controlled heat ensures the wood releases moisture gradually without burning, and you can choose the level of moisture loss you want.
It may take a few days to one week to completely kiln dry any type of wood. As you can see, this process is much quicker. Additionally, kiln drying makes sure that all the insects and fungi living in the wood are killed. This is excellent news if you want to use your apple wood for woodworking.
On the other hand, kiln-dried wood may be a bit more fragile than air-dried wood. No matter how low the heat is and how gradual the drying process is, it’s still far from natural air drying. As a result, the wood may not be as flexible. This is also important if you want to use wood to build something.
What are Some Apple Wood Uses
Once the apple wood is completely cured, you have plenty of ways in which you can use it. Apple wood is considered valuable and unique for woodworking, especially for highly intricate objects or small furniture. Its density and beautiful patterns make it a very sought-after material by woodworkers. Generally, apple wood is perfect for turning or inlay work. [Is Apple Wood Good for Turning? What You Need to Know]
Apple also makes excellent firewood. The fact that it’s dense and sturdy is once again a significant advantage because it means the wood generates a lot of heat. Additionally, apple wood has a sweet apple aroma that permeates the room when burning. This is why it’s very popular for smoking wood as well.
Applewood can take anywhere from 3 months to a few years to completely cure by air drying. Alternatively, it may take up to a week to dry out artificially. In any case, the internal moisture and thickness of the stacks will affect the process, as will the external factors such as humidity and airflow.
To air-dry apple wood, keep it off the ground and protect it from rain. Moreover, measure the moisture content using a moisture meter to ensure the wood reaches the level of curing you want.