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How to Dry Lumber for Quality and Profit

Why Lumber Drying Is Important

Drying is needed to make most lumber suitable for use. Drying results in dimensionally stable wood with increased strength. Properly dried lumber is without warp, splits, mold and insects, and the pitch is set.

The costs associated with drying are significant.

Drying consumes 70% of the energy used to convert a tree to lumber and represents 10-15% of the cost. Value loss due to warp, roller split, and jams at the planer can be significant.

For example, reducing downfall from #2&Better to #3 by 1% can add $250,000 annually to the bottom line of a large sawmill. In short, it's vital to dry properly and efficiently.

How To Dry Lumber Properly and Efficiently

Kiln operators, supervisors, and others associated with industrial lumber drying have benefited from How to Dry Lumber for Quality and Profit since 1949 when it was first offered at Oregon State University.

By the end of this online course, you will gain an understanding of:

  1. wood structure, how water moves through it, and how internal stress is developed and relieved.
  2. controlling the temperature, relative humidity, and air velocity to create drying schedules that remove water quickly while minimizing defects and stress and maintaining color.
  3. the components of kiln heating, humidification, and airflow systems, how they operate, and how they are controlled and maintained.
  4. lumber preparation for drying and protection after drying including sorting, stacking, charge preparation, and dry track management
  5. quality control procedures needed to consistently produce quality lumber in a cost-effective way.
  6. the demands placed on the kiln operator by the sawmill and planer and how to be safe around kilns.

Lumber Drying Course Summary

The course is offered at two levels. Each covers kiln operation but also emphasizes good lumber handling and preparation for drying based on the belief that good drying starts in the sawmill.

Lumber Drying Basics

Lumber Drying Basics is designed for personnel who assist at the kiln or prepare lumber for the kiln from sorting to loading. Supervisors at the sawmill or planer as well as mill QC personnel will find this course more appropriate than Lumber Drying Complete. New personnel and experienced personnel will benefit. Mills will see payback through improved lumber quality, higher kiln throughput, and energy savings. Learners will spend 12 to 15 hours on 31 topics. You can view the course details here.

Lumber Drying Complete

Lumber Drying Complete contains more detail for personnel who directly oversee kiln operation or may be in that role soon. All the concepts from Lumber Drying Basics are included plus more information and discussion on psychrometrics, maintenance, schedules, how kilns work, reducing costs, saving energy, and kiln management strategies. Learners will spend 24 to 36 hours on 57 topics and four discussion assignments. You can view the course details here. The discussion assignments require observation and reporting good and poor practices. Lumber drying complete is offered with four two-hour webinars or self-paced.

Periodic quizzes are given in each class to review material and help learners assess their progress. There is access to the instructor for questions.

Online modules require a Windows or Mac computer or tablet with web access. Full participation in webinars requires a computer with web access, webcam, speaker, and microphone. The minimum webinar requirements are a computer with web access and a phone connection. Discussion topics may require a camera or cellphone for photos.

To learn how to dry lumber for quality and profit, please secure your seat in our next course offering.

Self-paced options always available
price (2)
Lumber Drying Basics: $435
(+ $60 registration fee)
Lumber Drying Complete: $735 (+ $60 registration fee)


Mike Milota

Dr. Mike Milota is the owner of Wood Moisture Solutions, LLC providing training and consulting for the lumber industry. He is Professor Emeritus, Wood Science and Engineering, Oregon State University. He is a registered professional engineer in Oregon, although has now retired the license.

Mike attended Iowa State and Oregon State Universities, then started his career with the Masonite Corporation in Chicago in the wood composites industry. He then worked at the US Forest Products Laboratory in Madison Wisconsin after which he was on the faculty at Oregon State for 29 years. Mike's main research focus was in lumber drying, but he also worked in lifecycle analysis and measuring air emissions from processing wood products.

This is Mike’s 33rd year organizing the lumber drying workshop at Oregon State and he has conducted many on-site workshops for sawmills.

Past Students' Work

Take a look at some recent projects our students have created.