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Curing and Grading Lutherie Lumber

Curing and Grading Lutherie Lumber

by Bruce Creps

previously published in American Lutherie #92, 2007

See also,
“Resawing Lutherie Wood” by Bruce Creps
“Sharpening the Stellite Teeth on the 3" Hitachi Blade” by Bruce Creps

At a GAL Convention several years back a well-known luthier and lecturer stated that the best way to be assured a supply of properly processed tonewood was to harvest and air dry it yourself. He posited that due to turnaround and financial considerations most tonewood suppliers rush their kiln schedule and compromise the quality of the wood. For me, the wisdom of his statements was in stressing the importance of proper drying.

I don’t know if the percentage of kiln-dried instrument-grade wood damaged or compromised due to improper drying is higher than the corresponding air-dried percentage. I do know that it is very easy to damage wood when air drying it. You don’t have to do anything. Neglect it and you can expect degrade: end checks, surface checks, warping, case-hardening, rot pockets, fungal stain and decay, and/or insect infestation.

Improperly kiln-dried wood can exhibit checking, warping, and case-hardening. However, with kiln drying the fungi and pests in the wood will be killed, and colors can be clearer. The obvious disadvantages of kiln drying are that you need space and funds for a kiln, and you use lots of energy (unless you have a solar kiln).

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