How Dry Should Wood Be Before Turning

How Dry Should Wood Be Before Turning: The Importance of Wood Moisture Levels in Woodturning


Woodturning is an art form that requires not only skill and creativity but also a deep understanding of the material you’re working with—wood. One critical factor often overlooked by beginners is the moisture content of the wood. This article aims to shed light on the importance of wood moisture levels in woodturning and how to ensure you’re working with wood that’s dry enough for your project.

Why Moisture Matters

The moisture content in wood can significantly impact the quality of your finished product. Wood that is too wet can warp, crack, or split as it dries, ruining your hard work. On the other hand, wood that is too dry can be challenging to work with and may lack the flexibility needed for more intricate designs.

Ideal Moisture Levels

The ideal moisture content for woodturning varies depending on the type of wood and the specific project.

However, a general guideline is to aim for a moisture content between 6% and 8% for indoor projects and between 9% and 14% for outdoor projects.

How to Measure Moisture Content

Tools Needed:

  • Moisture meter
  • Calipers


  1. Calibrate the Moisture Meter: Before using it, make sure it’s calibrated according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  2. Measure the Wood: Insert the moisture meter’s probes into the wood at various points to get an average reading.
  3. Check the Thickness: Use calipers to measure the wood’s thickness, as moisture content can vary between the surface and the core.


  • Always take multiple readings for accuracy.
  • Consider the wood’s species when interpreting the results, as different woods have different ideal moisture levels.

Preparing Wood for Turning

If your wood’s moisture content is too high, you can air-dry it by storing it in a dry, well-ventilated area. For quicker results, you can also use a kiln. If the wood is too dry, consider rehydrating it by storing it in a more humid environment temporarily.

The Effects of Incorrect Moisture Levels

  • Too Wet: Risk of warping, cracking, and fungal growth.
  • Too Dry: Difficulty in turning, increased brittleness, and reduced workability.


Understanding the moisture content of your wood is crucial for successful woodturning. It affects not only the workability of the wood but also the longevity and quality of your finished piece. By taking the time to measure and adjust the moisture levels of your wood, you can significantly improve your woodturning projects.