Wet wood can take as little as two weeks to dry—or it can take up to six months. These variations in drying time depend on several factors, including humidity, the type of wood, weather conditions, and the mass of the wood.
In this article, you’ll get to know more about the factors affecting how long wet wood takes to dry. You’ll also learn how to speed up the drying process—and how to make use of wood that’s nearly, but not quite fully, dry.
Factors Affecting the Drying Time of Wet Wood
The main factors that determine how quickly wood dries include size, weather, moisture content, location, and the type of wood.
Big pieces of wood with a high moisture content generally dry off after several weeks. Smaller pieces of wood take less time. Big logs take longer to dry because they hold more moisture and the moisture is deeply soaked in, needing to pass through a thicker, denser wall of wood during drying.
Wood can dry faster if the weather is windy. Wind carries away the surface moisture from the wood, helping the moisture inside to dry up more quickly. In this way, wind speeds up the drying process quite significantly.
Like wind, warm weather also helps wood to dry faster. In warm conditions, moisture in the wood evaporates faster—this can help lumber and green wood to dry.
Type of Wood
Notably, softwood species dry faster than hardwoods. The reason is that softer woods have loosened structures and allow for faster evaporation. Hardwoods are the opposite, made up of dense, compact cellular structures.
How to Dry Wet Wood Quickly
If you’re out bushrafting and want to use wood, but it’s all wet, you can’t wait for it to dry naturally. Rather, you’ll need to implement some tricks to get the wood to dry faster so that it’s ready to use.
The easiest and quickest method to draw out moisture from wood is by using heat. For instance, if you have a campfire, you can stack up the wet wood around the fire or you even place it directly on the fire. The heat will eliminate moisture and dry the wood.
Follow these steps to dry wood effectively with a fire:
- First, cut the wood into small pieces—in shapes suitable for stacking around the fire. If you can, use a machete or an ax to split the wood open to expose its inner tissues; this speeds up drying even more.
- Pile your small pieces of wood in several small piles around the fire. Spreading your wood out into separate small piles, rather than one big pile, lets air get to the wood faster and so speeds up drying.
- If you want, you can even place some wood on top of the fire to dry.
- While the fire’s burning, take a fan and fan the fire. Doing so spreads more air around and helps the fire to keep drying up moisture.
Alternatively, if it’s a very warm day, you might even be able to dry wood under the sun! Here are some tips to abide by:
- Simply place your pieces of wood on a surface exposed to the sun, for instance a rock.
- If you can, split the wood with an ax or machete to expose its inner tissues and help it dry faster.
Note that, whether you choose to dry wood using a fire or the sun, there is another final tip to remember. If the ground is wet, don’t place your wood on the ground at all. This will get your wood even wetter and delay drying. Instead, you can use big logs to prop up or hold up your wet pieces of wood.
How to Start a Fire When Wood Is Half Dry
So you know how to dry wood now using a fire or the sun. But, out in the wild, you might try these methods and discover that your wood isn’t drying quickly or thoroughly enough. In this case, you can try to use wood when it’s only half dry. With the right technique, it is possible to even start a fire using wood that’s half dry!
Here are our expert tips for starting a fire with half-dry wood:
- First, split the pieces of wood open with an ax and cut them into smaller pieces. Both of these acts will help the wood dry faster.
- Start your fire with the driest pieces of wood you can find.
- Once your fire is going, it is time to add the wet wood. Don’t add too much at once as it may overwhelm the fire with moisture and put it out.
- Gradually, the dry wood and the flames will heat up the wet wood—and the wet wood will start to catch fire as well.
…And that’s it! You now know that several factors affect how long wet wood takes to dry—but, as you’ve learned, these factors can be mitigated and solved so that you can put wet wood to task in no time. Happy bushcrafting!
I am Bruno. I write and lecture about bushcraft, survival, hiking, and nature experiences in general. I also produce short films on these topics as a director.
My wife Lilith and I try to travel as much as we can to discover the world! We wish to live in harmony with nature and preserve its ecosystems: Eden paradise is here now.
I want to open a door to reconnect with nature through this blog.