Drying of Gunstock Blanks
This is an important question to importars, exporters, manufacturers, and importers. At the same time there is an extreme disagreement in this area . This article will try to explain to show why there is a disagreement among the parties. The important areas of conflict are how long it takes to properly dry and stabilize wood.
One of the general area of agreement is that when a blank is cut out for curing, the butt sections are somehow closed to slow the rate of moisture loss (drying). As a result, the first damage prevention is to stop the unheeded drying by coating the open end grain of the blank with an appropriate material. The most common is wax or paraffin. Having a close look at these higher class blanks would be very wise. Nobody want to lose an expensive blank.
Second, the stock blanks must be placed where air can circulate around them. There is another good idea; turn the blanks over to t help the wood dry without warpage. And the drying must be done without any sunlight hitting the blanks.
How long to dry ; This is the main dispute. British say that it must be about 10-12 years. Maybe they are right. They have a moist island and air-drying is dependant upon temperatures and humidity. Absulatelly, there will be a difference in drying time between a hot and dry area and a moist environment. Some Turkish experts says that Turkish walnut takes a year to dry , sure in their environment. It should be noted that dryness is only one part of the equation. The blanks must also be steable. If a blank does not have an additional time of stabilization , the finished stock can still expand and shrink . We need an extra year is required in Turkey for stability.
Generally, "dry" in Turkey means about 12 % moisture . We know that in some area of the world, dry means 7-10% . It also depends upon the type of moisture meter used.
Along with "dry" and "stable" , an another term is important too, "temper". If a blank is kept in an area that can go through natural changes in humidity and heat, the blank hardens over time and becomes "tempered". This makes the blank harder and more stable and affects the tone of the blank.
If a blank which has been "forced" dry then you should stay away from it. For example kiln drying. Kiln drying is enough to ruin a good gunstock wood. The other way to ruin wood is to remove the natural internal oils by steaming or boiling the blank. Unfortunately some of our colleagues practice it in Turkey to shorten the drying process. This quick drying technique results in high internal stresses in the blank and this causes damage. Moreover, without the natural oils, the wood never truly stabilizes. There is no better way to dry a blank than natural air drying.