Lumber Rack Storage System

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Storing lumber is a problem in all small woodworking shops. Many of us resort to keeping only a couple boards on hand, but at some point this is ineffective, and creates higher costs in materials because improper storage ruins at least some lumber. There is probably no perfect way to store wood outdoors, but most of us can't stack any appreciable amounts of good wood indoors. Our shops are simply not large enough.

Indoor lumber racks are the answer. But finding one that is easy to install, reasonable in cost, and that holds enough wood to be useful is difficult. Wall mount systems seem to work best for most woodworkers--the amount of floor space lost can be minimized, for one thing. And lumber becomes easier to reach and sort through than ever before, not a small feature for those of us who have often had to move 150 board feet of one type of wood to reach 10-20 board feet of another.

Most rack systems are shop-made, of wood, and work reasonably well, within specific limits. One, they may be very difficult to install on finished walls, because most are based on 2x lumber. They are, of course, easy to install on open studs. The practical limit for weight is relatively low, unless extreme bracing is used. Extra heavy bracing reduces capacity in the layer below the arms it braces.

Our rack system doesn't need that kind of extra bracing, so that it really is easy to install, in the pattern you need. Simply locate the studs in closed walls, or mount directly to the studs in open walls. The 3/16" thick steel wall straps attach to the studs, using heavy lag bolts, or to concrete walls with concrete anchors and bolts, and the 24" straps can be stacked on the 55" straps for taller system use. Adjustment holes for the brackets are 1-1/2" apart, almost overkill in adaptability. The 18" long bracket can support 300 pounds--at its tip!--so this system is able to hold a lot of lumber. Shorter brackets support even heavier loads, of course. Simply placing the strap in contact with the floor creates a situation that removes a lot of the weight from the wall. 

Flexible Wood Handling[b1]

Once the system is installed, you have great flexibility in handling your wood storage needs. This rack system holds enough material to allow for its use as a tempering device for even large projects, so you can acclimate lots of wood to your shop, while long term storing a lot more. You might even choose this method of finishing off air dried wood: bring the air dried wood (in most areas of the U.S. and Canada it will be around 12-15% humidity level) into the shop and stack for several more weeks, possibly even a couple months, on the system. Your wood will then reach equilibrium with the shop's relative humidity, making it easy to work up properly.

If you wish, you could place the brackets 2' on center (3' is the maximum recommended distance), or closer, and use the system to air dry wood indoors. If you do, use stickers (and make sure your stickers are dry--wet stickers seem to stay that way longer than the wood stays wet, which usually means black stains across the face of the boards). 

Keeping Track of Wood Moisture[b1]

A moisture meter is the preferable way to keeping track of wood moisture levels. Stick the pins in, or hold the meter over the wood (for the pinless type) to check the results.

Timing is important. Wood in a heated and cooled building loses moisture at a slightly faster clip than does wood in the great outdoors, so it is possible that the one year rule of thumb for 4/4 (1" thick) lumber can be shortened by a few months. The only way to tell for sure is to use a moisture meter. Moisture meters are available from about $35 on up past $250. Select one for the type of use you intend now and in the near future. Pinless meters are excellent, and the newest are among the easiest to use of the moisture meters on the market. They also eliminate pin damage to wood. Pin meters are the old standard, and work exceptionally well (lots of years of research and refinement has gone into them). They're also slightly less costly than similar pinless meters. Any good meter needs some method of compensating for the varying densities of wood, and the varying values that result in some woods showing different moisture contents at the same readings as others. Many have built in settings, some have dial-in adjustments, some have slide rules built-in to help you do the changeovers. 

As with much else in woodworking, finding a better way to do one job tends to lead you into more complete ways to do several jobs. Wood storage is definitely one of those jobs that needs to be done a better way, and it's also one that leads you into several other related areas (when you start drying your own wood, you're working with green, rough cut lumber: that means you'll be jointing it and planing it in the near future, which leads to all sorts of added possibilities for your woodworking).

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