Tossing your wood in a pile and letting it air dry may be the easiest way to cure wood, but it can take months to make it happen. If you want to speed things up without using expensive, specialized equipment, like a wood kiln, you’ve probably wondered how to dry wood in an oven.
After all, an oven and a kiln aren’t so different fundamentally. While it can be done, there are several things you need to do to ensure your safety and that you’ll accomplish your goal.
So how to dry wood in an oven? It’s all about finding the right temperature for the amount and size of the wood you intend to dry. Typically, you’ll aim for a temperature between 250-400°F. Larger and greener wood will be on the higher end of the scale, while kindling and seasoned wood will be on the lower end.
From there, it’s a matter of keeping an eye on the oven and making sure the wood doesn’t combust by lining the base of your oven with a fire-proof material like tinfoil or some sheet pans. After about an hour, it’s time to check the wood. If it isn’t dry enough, continue to heat it, checking every 15 minutes or so for doneness.
Of course, drying wood in the oven sounds pretty straightforward, but there are several things you need to consider. Extremely wet wood requires different handling from partially seasoned wood. Wood intended for the fireplace should be dried at a different temperature than wood you want to use for a craft project. And what happens if you start to get a ton of steam pouring out of your oven?
How to Dry Wood in an Oven
The first thing to know is that you can certainly dry a handful of wood in an oven, but this isn’t the way to go if you want to dry an entire cord of wood. If you have some wet kindling you want to prep for an evening fire, or if you have a few logs that are close but not quite ready, the oven is a good option.
1. Set the right temperature
To get started, determine the proper temperature and heat your wood for the appropriate amount of time. It’s a delicate balance because you don’t want to start the wood on fire, but you still want it to get warm enough to dry.
The temperature you choose will vary depending on the size of the wood you’re drying. Wood will ignite at about 500°F, so I aim for 300°F for several standard-sized pieces of firewood. For kindling, shoot for something closer to 250°F. If you’re drying green wood, you can go a bit higher, but keep a close eye on things. For green wood, heat the oven to about 400°F. No matter the temperature, if you have a convection fan, turn it on.
2. Place the wood
Once you’ve gotten the temperature sorted, it’s important to figure out where to put the wood. You don’t want it too close to the heating elements, so place a rack in the very bottom position of the oven and another right above that.
Line the bottom rack of the oven with something that won’t catch on fire, like tinfoil or a few sheet pans. This helps you make sure that debris doesn’t hit the heating elements and cause a fire or that sawdust doesn’t collect at the base of the oven and ignite sometime in the future when you’re cooking. Put the wood on the higher rack and make sure that none of the pieces are touching. If you want to add a second layer of wood, turn it the other way and stack it on top with none of the sides touching.
3. Determine the heating time
Finally, determine how much time you need to dry the wood and make sure you can be around the entire time to keep an eye on things. It’s difficult to provide an exact time because the size, density and moisture content in the wood, as well as your particular oven capabilities, will make the timing vary.
Count on about one-and-a-half hours for kindling and two or more for large pieces of wood. Check the wood frequently after the first hour or so to see how it’s coming along and to watch for any spots that are starting to singe.
4. Remove the wood to cool down
Once you’ve reached the moisture level that you want, carefully remove the wood using tongs or heat-proof gloves and put the wood on a drying rack so it can cool. Check the wood to be sure that it has dried to the level you want after it has completely cooled. If it’s still too moist, repeat the entire process.
How to Dry Craft Wood in an Oven
If you’re drying wood that you intend to work with for a project, rather than firewood, the process is a little different. The higher temperatures that you dry your firewood at can cause warping and cracking.
If you intend to work with the wood, dry it in a similar way but do so at a much lower temperature – anywhere between 150-250°F, depending on how low your particular oven can go.
After an hour or so, check the wood to see if it has reached the dryness level you’re looking for. If not, put it back in the oven and check frequently – every 15 minutes or so.
If you have a particularly irreplaceable piece of wood, like a perfectly-shaped piece that you found in the woods, for instance, do a test run with a similarly-sized piece of wood first.
Safety Notes for Drying Timber in an Oven
No matter how long it takes, you need to be present the entire time. You don’t want a visit from the fire department because you left wood in your oven and it caught fire. Even wet wood can combust. You should also have fire suppression equipment on hand and know how to use it.
One of the keys to making sure you don’t cause a fire is to line the bottom of the oven with foil or something similar. That way, if pieces fall off the wood that you are drying, it won’t end up bursting into flames while drying the wood or when you go to cook something in the oven at a later time.
Once you’re done drying the wood, carefully remove the liner, making sure nothing falls off and into the oven. To be safe, you may want to vacuum or sweep out the base of the oven once it has cooled.
Tips and Advantages of Drying Wood in an Oven
If you notice a lot of steam coming out of the oven, you may want to crack the door for a few minutes to let it escape, and turn on your fan to ventilate your room. Steam isn’t necessarily a bad thing – in fact, it can add some much-needed humidity to a dry home – but it will prolong the amount of time it takes to dry the wood if you don’t let the steam escape.
Using the oven to dry wood has a few advantages over air drying that you may want to utilize at certain times. For instance, if you live somewhere where moisture can be a problem, oven drying prevents molding. It’s also a good way to kill off any pests or insects in infested wood.
When drying, make sure that there is plenty of room between the wood so that the air can circulate around it. That ensures quicker and more even drying.
If you have varying sizes of wood together in the oven, keep a close eye on the smaller pieces and remove them as they reach your preferred dryness.
The best way to check dryness is to look at the ends of the wood. You can also clap two pieces together. They should sound hollow.
If you see smoke or flames, turn off the oven immediately and don’t open the door. Let the fire burn itself out before attempting to open the door. Open the windows or doors in the home to ventilate. If the heat is off and the flames continue to grow, call 911 and evacuate the house.