How to Dry Wood Without Cracking — Wood Slabs, Cookies

If you buy something through our posts, we may get a small commission. Read more here.

Drying wood can be a frustrating process, as improper techniques often lead to unsightly cracks and warping. Here, I will discuss the key principles of how to dry wood without cracking, addressing the common pain points that can hinder your woodworking projects. 

With the right knowledge and techniques, you’ll be able to preserve the beauty and integrity of your lumber for future masterpieces. 

Why Does Wood Crack When It Dries: Basics to Know

Living trees have a high water content, and when the wood dries, uneven shrinkage occurs, causing cracks. The wood’s ends lose moisture faster than the sides, increasing the likelihood of splitting. 

Understanding proper wood-drying techniques is essential to prevent your wood from cracking. Various methods, such as oven or air drying, can be employed indoors or outdoors, each with its advantages to expedite the process.

About Wood Warping

Wood drying can also result in warping due to uneven moisture distribution, causing stress and deformation. To prevent wood warping, consider the following tips. Remember that wood hardness plays a significant role, as some species are more prone to warping than others.

fresh tree logs

Keep Wood Stored Properly

For wood stacks, ensure regular spacing and consistent thickness between the pieces. Avoid placing heavy objects on stored wood, and maintain sufficient ventilation for proper airflow. To prevent warping, store wood in a cool, dry, and clean environment.

Don’t Rush the Drying Process

It is vital to ensure proper drying of the wood after cutting. Rapid drying should be avoided, as it can lead to distortions caused by moisture regain.

 The best way I’ve found? Air drying. Sure, it can take a while – sometimes even months – but it’s the best shot at getting wood dried without any cracks or splits. And here’s a pro-tip: seal the wood ends; it helps keep that drying even, reducing the chance of warping.

Monitor Your Wood’s Moisture Level

Using an electric moisture meter, you can monitor the wood’s moisture content. Tracking this data helps determine for drying wood is properly or if alternative drying techniques are necessary.

Clamping the Wood

When I need to keep wood from moving as it dries, I reach for tension bands. They help make sure different parts of the wood dry at the same rate. But here’s a piece of advice from my own experience: don’t overtighten those bands. I learned the hard way that too much pressure can cause more warping than the drying itself.

clamping wood

How Can You Check Wood for Warping?

Lay the wood on a flat surface and examine the edges for levelness. If any section is elevated, it may indicate warping.

6 Ways to Dry Wood Pieces Without the Risk of Cracks

Method #1: Use Paintable Wax

This method for drying wood without cracking proves especially effective for greenwood and short-term storage, as it targets the high moisture content commonly associated with freshly cut wood. 

Employing this approach enables you to better control the drying time, reducing the risk of wood cracking and ensuring the integrity of the wood during the initial drying phase. 

By proactively addressing the moisture content of greenwood, you can preserve the quality and appearance of the material while preparing it for further use or long-term storage.

drying waxed wood

Required Materials


  1. Measure the wax’s weight.
  2. Break candles and melt them in a heated container.
  3. Add paint thinner to a jar, equal in volume to the wax’s weight.
  4. Mix melted wax with paint thinner.
  5. Ensure no furnace or fireplace is near the paint.
  6. Apply a thin layer of the mixture to the greenwood ends.
  7. Ensure an even coating on all exposed ends.
  8. Allow drying.

Method #2: Use Sealant/Stabilizing Solutions

When utilizing sealants and stabilizers to dry wood without cracking, it is important to recognize that these products often contain commercial chemicals. As a result, it is essential to adhere to proper safety measures during the application process. 


Safety is key here. I make sure to suit up with rubber gloves, goggles, and a mask and always ensure there’s plenty of fresh air circulating in my workspace.

Additionally, be sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for each product carefully to minimize any potential risks and to achieve the best results in safeguarding your wood from cracking and other damage.

Required materials:

Step 1: Clean & Sand Your Wood

Thoroughly clean the wooden surface with rags to remove dust, debris, grime, and residue. Use soapy water for stubborn dirt and stains, and wear rubber gloves. Cleaning before sealing prevents surface blotchiness. 

sanding wood

Sand the wood with 80 and 100 grit sandpaper for a smooth surface, preparing it for even sealant application. Sand along the wood grain to avoid scratches and ensure no spots are missed. Remove sawdust with a rag and wait a few hours before applying the sealant.

Step 2: Pick the Appropriate Container for Wood

Select a container slightly larger than the wood you plan to treat, allowing it to lay flat for effective sealing. 

Place the wood at the container’s bottom, grouping slabs of similar sizes. Consider using weights to stabilize the wood slabs and prevent excessive movement inside the container.

Step 3: Put the Solution into the Container

Different sealants cater to varying wood moisture levels. For green wood, I’d recommend using a wood stabilizer. For partially dried wood, go for a wood sealer. Using a wood sealer or stabilizing solution to prevent splits and cracks. Fill the container halfway to avoid spillage.

Step 4: Cover the Container and Soak the Wood for 24 Hours

Add the solution to the container and cover it with plastic wrap, preventing evaporation and ensuring adequate wood absorption. Submerging most of the wood is sufficient. 

applying sealant

Let the wood soak for 24 hours undisturbed, allowing even penetration. Afterward, remove the wood and store it on its side to dry. Wait another week for the solution to evaporate and the wood to feel dry to the touch.

Step 5: Let the Wood Dry

After applying a wood sealer or stabilizer, let the wood dry for 3-4 days, allowing the product to create a protective waterproof barrier. Thinner wood slices dry faster than thicker ones. 

Check for dampness, and if needed, allow more drying time. Once fully dried, air drying is recommended to prevent cracks, splits, and warping, which may take a couple of days.

Method #3: Apply Linseed Oil

Let me share one of my favorite techniques with you: applying linseed oil. This not only protects wood from cracking during drying by repelling water and preventing moisture evaporation. Its inherent elasticity also allows it to expand and contract with the natural movements of the wood. 

As a result, boiled linseed oil helps maintain the structural integrity of the material and reduces the risk of damage. 

Sunnyside Linseed Oil

Sourced from flaxseed [1], linseed oil presents an eco-friendly and sustainable option for those seeking an effective yet environmentally responsible method to preserve their wooden projects, while ensuring longevity and a polished finish.

Supplies Needed

Step #1: Clean & Prepare the Wood

Clean the wooden surface with rags to remove dust, debris, and grime before treating. Use soapy water for stubborn stains. Ensure the wood is fully dry before sanding. Work in a well-ventilated area during the sanding and application processes.

Step #2: Sand the Wood

Smooth the wooden surface using 80 and 100-grit sandpapers. Sanding prepares the surface for even linseed oil application, eliminating surface irregularities. After sanding, clean off sawdust with rags, leaving the surface ready for linseed oil coating.

sanding wooden board

Step #3: Apply the Linseed Oil

Pour linseed oil onto a lint-free rag and soak it. Wipe the entire surface, following the wood grain for optimal absorption. Ensure complete coverage, as missed spots may allow moisture to cause wood cracking. 

Linseed oil saturates wood fibers, preventing cracks and enhancing elasticity and flexibility. So, allow the first coat to absorb moisture well and wipe off excess oil for a better finish.

Step #4: Dry the Wood Completely

Once the wood dries for 24 hours, check if the smooth linseed oil coating has blotches or streaks. Afterward, lightly sand the surface with 400-grit sandpaper for an ultra-smooth finish. 

For optimal moisture protection, apply a second coat of linseed oil, ensuring that moisture evaporates at a controlled rate. 

linseed oil

This reduces the risk of cracking and provides the wood with enhanced durability. Once the wood is treated with linseed oil, dry the wood slices without worrying about cracking.

Method #4: Salt Paste

Now, here’s a nifty little trick I often recommend: using a salt paste. It offers an effective and eco-friendly approach to drying wood while preventing the wood from splitting and cracking. 

This straightforward method allows for wood preservation without resorting to harsh chemicals, making it a safer alternative for both the user and the environment. 

Additionally, the salt paste can be easily prepared with readily available household ingredients, ensuring a cost-effective and convenient solution for woodworkers, DIY enthusiasts, and hobbyists seeking to protect their wooden projects from potential damage during the drying.

holding a beaker of cornstarch

Supplies Needed

Step #1: Mix Salt & Water

Mix table salt and fresh water in a bucket, stirring thoroughly. Determine the appropriate salt and water ratio for the salt paste based on the type of wood being treated.

Step #2: Leave the Solution

After letting the solution settle for about four hours, add cornstarch to form the salt paste. Adjust with water if the salt paste mixture becomes too stiff due to excess cornstarch.

Step #3: Add Eggs

Add three egg whites to the mixture and blend thoroughly. Ensure the egg whites are well incorporated to prevent visible flakes on the wood after the application of the salt paste.

Step #4: Apply the Paste onto the Wood

Apply the salt paste to the wood using a clean brush, ensuring smooth strokes. Cover both the surface and sides of the wood. The salt paste will eventually harden and become difficult to remove.

Step #5: Place Your Wood in a Warm Area

Place the wood in a warm area to dry until fully covered. The salt paste inhibits drying-induced shrinkage, wood from splitting, or breaking. Check the wood after a week, but note that thicker wood slices may require more time to dry.

drying stacks of lumber

Method #5: Let the Wood Dry As Boards

An alternative method to dry wood without cracking involves positioning fresh-cut wood logs or wood slices as boards and letting them air dry naturally. 

The air drying process, which takes several days, gradually removes moisture from the wood, minimizing the chances of immediate cracks and splits. 

What I love about this method is its gentleness. It prevents cracking during the drying time and helps to maintain the wood’s shape, reducing the risk of warping or distortion. As a result, this method ensures the preservation of the wood’s structural integrity and overall appearance.

Method #6: Use Varnish

Varnishes provide an excellent solution to prevent the wood from splitting while also sealing and enhancing its appearance. I’m talking about those hardy protective finishes like lacquer, shellac, and good ol’ polyurethane. These are my go-tos, especially when I want something that’ll stand the test of time.

applying varnish

Varnishes offer a durable finish, making them a popular choice for sailors and shipwrights to protect wooden boat decks. Moreover, they enrich the wood’s color and accentuate its natural grain, resulting in an aesthetically pleasing look.

Step #1: Sand With Fine-Grit Sandpaper

Before applying varnish, it is essential to sand the wood surface, removing imperfections and creating a smooth finish. Ensure the wood is dry, as sanding wet wood will not yield the desired smoothness. 

A smoother surface allows the varnish to penetrate the wood more effectively, offering better protection against splitting and external factors. Use a finer grit of sandpaper, such as 220 grit, to open the wood grain and promote better varnish absorption.

Step #2: Clean the Wood’s Surface

It is crucial to clean the wood thoroughly, especially after sanding. Remove any dust, dirt, or sawdust that may have accumulated on the surface. A quick yet thorough cleaning can be done using an old, damp cloth or rag to wipe away all debris from the wood.

Step #3: Prepare Varnish

Different varnishes have unique preparation requirements and ratios, so ensure you carefully follow the instructions provided. When preparing varnish, which may involve mixing various varnishes and aluminum paints, wear appropriate protective gear, such as gloves and goggles. 

paint brush and Minwax Helmsman Indoor-Outdoor Spar Urethane

If ventilation is inadequate, I’d suggest using a mask or a reliable respirator. The same protective equipment is necessary for both preparing and applying varnish, as you would use when painting your house, to prevent exposure to harmful fumes.

Step #4: Apply the Varnish And Let it Dry

Apply the varnish to the wood surface using a paintbrush, ensuring an even coat across the entire area. Work quickly as varnish can dry rapidly, and apply it in a thin layer. If using multiple layers, allow the varnish to dry completely before adding another one. 

For polyurethane drying times, consult relevant guidelines. Ensure the wood is dry before application. Otherwise, the varnish may result in a blotchy and uneven appearance.

Step #5: Repeat As Needed

Varnish, similar to paint, primer, or topcoat, is typically applied in multiple layers. After applying two or three layers to your wood surface, let the wood dry completely before using it. The required number of layers depends on the wood type and desired protection level. 

Minwax Helmsman Indoor-Outdoor Spar Urethane

Generally, I would recommend applying at least three layers of varnish, which will create a thick, protective barrier to prevent the wood from splitting for an extended period.

How to Keep Your Wood Furniture from Cracking

To prevent your wood from splitting or cracking, follow these concise steps:

old furniture

By following these steps, you can help protect your wood from cracking and ensure its longevity.

How Long Should You Air Dry Wood Slices?

Allow wood slices to air-dry for 24 hours to prevent cracks and splits. Drying time may vary based on the thickness of the slices. 

I’ve noticed that my thinner slices tend to dry faster, while thick slices can take 3-4 days to fully dry. But if I’ve just freshly cut the wood, I swear by air drying.

Does Dry Wood Split Easier?

Dry wood typically splits more easily than wet wood due to its lower moisture content, making it easier to cut through fibers. So, how long does wet wood take to dry? Find out next!

splitting wood

To prevent splitting, apply sealant, salt paste, varnish, or paintable wax, or apply boiled linseed oil to the wood. These treatments help prevent splitting while enhancing the wood’s appearance.

More for you


Understanding how to dry wood without cracking is essential for maintaining the integrity and appearance of your projects. By applying the techniques mentioned above, you can successfully dry your wood while preventing wood cracks and splits. 

Experiment with these methods to find the best solution for your specific needs, and enjoy the improved durability and aesthetic of your woodwork.

robert headshot

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

2 thoughts on “How to Dry Wood Without Cracking — Wood Slabs, Cookies

  1. Thanks for the spirit of excellence! I let my first wood cookies sat in the garage mold and crack. The second set I applied pentacryl, wrapped them in brown paper waiting for them to dry.

    I plan to paint and write on some of them. I am still researching the best for my new adventure.

    Would boiled linseed oil work well if I use acrylic paint or pencil before applying final cover?

    Also, how can I close cracks on wood cookie?

  2. The boiled linseed oil is going to make it hard for the paint or pencil to stick, unless you give it a really long time to dry. You’re better off painting directly onto the wood. Use the linseed oil to cover, after the paint dries.

    The best way I know to fix cracks in wood cookies is to fill them with epoxy. Tinted epoxy gives a nice contrast to the wood, which can become an added design element.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles
Join our community on facebook and get 3 woodworking plans for free!
    Your Cart
    Your cart is empty