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I was just recently given a nice size stack of 1" thick hackberry that's been cut 3 years. I also received some cherry and red cedar. I believe to all the wood had been store inside up until 3 months ago when it was moved outside then covered in plastic. I checked the moisture content of all and the cherry was 0%-6%. The cedar was 6%, and the hackberry was 50% to 99%. I wonder why the hackberry moisture is so high. I want to use it for kitchen cabinets. I'm starting to research building my own kiln dryer. Anyone have a good solution / ideas for getting it dry. Presently it is stacked and stickered under a side shed.
There is nothing about the hackberry itself that would cause it to have such a high MC. If it was "dead stacked" (no stickers between layers to allow air flow), or if it was covered with a tarp, it is possible that it would be that high in MC. You say it was "cut" three years ago. Does that mean milled three years ago, or the tree was cut down three years ago, and it was possibly milled more recently.
Either way, the fact remains that you've got to dry it. How good is the air movement through the stack where it is? A few fans to circulate the air would help. Depending on your location, you can have it down to around 12% to 14% in a 8 months to a year. If you can store it in a drier place, like the house or shop (again with fans), you can get it drier more quickly. The biggest mistake I see people make is using the stickers too far apart-- nor more than 20" for 1" stock, or it will sag.
Most of the hackberry I've milled has been pretty lacking in character, but I've seen a few nice pieces. It is in the elm family, and has similar properties.
I just can't believed the readings you are receiving on your lumber. Something is wrong with your moisture meter. Unless you live in Death Valley, I have never seen cherry at 0-6% moisture content. The hackberry, if stored in the same place, time and under the same conditions as the cherry should have the same readings as the cherry. If those hackberry boards are at 99% moisture content, you better have boots on when standing by the ends of the boards or you are going to get your feet wet.
Good point, MinnWorker. Might check the batteries. Any way to get a second opinion with another meter? An oven test may be in order. To do that, cut a 6" long piece (give or take a couple of inches) from the center of a piece of wood and weigh it. Then oven dry it 250 deg for a day and a half should do it (a little longer if you have to take it out of the oven while your wife cooks dinner) so that all the moisture is out of the wood, then weigh it again. Moisture content is the change in weight divided by the final (dry) weight.