I've been toying with the idea of replacing part of our stair railing and the newel post and replacing the newel post with a natural limb.

I recently had to take down a limb from our Madrona tree. It was about 12' long, of which I'd like to use about 6' of it. It is about 5" in diameter and appears to have been dead for a while. There was a bit of rot on the ends and where a few of the knots were from old branches.

The question: If I decide to use this, how long to I have to let it air dry? Or, rather, what are the concerns if I don't let it fully air dry before installing and sealing?

I'm not installing it tomorrow, but I'd like to have it done by spring. But if I go with the 'rule of thumb' of 1 year per 1" of wood, I can't finish this project until 2018. Can I give it a few months, sand, install and then just assume I may lose a bit of height over time that I'd need to fill in with some trim and then maybe give it a year before sealing (a year assuming it will then dry a lot faster being in a conditioned space).

1 Answer 1


Don't try to seal wet wood because the wood needs to be dry to soak up the sealer. Make your own small kiln with a dehumidifier.

  • Exactly. But if it's been dead for a while it may not take too much additional drying until it's ready. It also partly depends on the local climatic conditions. Whether it's air dried or "kiln" dried, it's impossible to say how long it'll take. Is there any way to assess dryness besides cutting it open and applying a moisture meter?
    – bcworkz
    Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 20:55

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