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Drying Timber: An Insight Into The Kilning Process

An Introduction To Drying Timber

Over the years we’ve seen our fair share of kilns: the ‘ovens’ at the heart of every brilliant sawmill for drying timber. There is an art and science to the successful running of these hangar sized ovens to ensure prized timber, and nothing less, is achieved each and every time. Live edge tables, featuring natural and rustic beauty, have become an obsession of ours here at L’Atelier Mata. To create these stunning pieces, hardwood slabs must undergo a meticulous kiln drying process. In this blog post, we will delve into the science behind kiln drying timber, exploring the principles and techniques that ensure their stability, durability, and suitability for live edge table production. By understanding the science behind kiln drying, you can make informed decisions, optimize the quality of your slabs, and deliver exceptional products to your customers.

The Science Of Drying Timber

Once cut timber slabs undergo two to three summers stacked outside to gradually season the timber and bring down moisture levels prior to the kilning process. Kiln drying is a crucial next step in the processing of hardwood slabs, as it eliminates excess moisture, kills off insect activity, stabilizes the wood, and minimizes the risk of warping, splitting, or other defects. By reducing the moisture content, kiln drying enhances the strength, density, and dimensional stability of the wood, allowing it to withstand changes in humidity and temperature more effectively. For this very reason only the most exerienced operative, often with decades of exerience, is chosen by the sawmill to undertake the work – in most situations it is the sawmill owner her/himself!

The Science Behind Kiln Drying: The kiln drying process involves a careful balance of heat, humidity, and airflow to achieve optimal results. Several scientific principles come into play during this process.

Moisture Content and Equilibrium Moisture Content (EMC): Moisture content (MC) refers to the amount of water present in wood, typically expressed as a percentage of the wood’s weight. Kiln drying aims to reduce the moisture content to a desired level. Equilibrium moisture content (EMC) refers to the moisture content at which wood reaches a balance with the surrounding environment. The target moisture content for hardwood slabs used in live edge tables is usually around 6-8%.

Drying Schedule: A drying schedule outlines the specific temperature, humidity, and time parameters required for optimal drying. It is essential to follow a carefully designed drying schedule to ensure uniform drying and minimize the risk of defects. The schedule typically involves three stages: the initial heating phase, the main drying phase, and the conditioning phase.

Heat and Moisture Transfer: Heat and moisture transfer occur simultaneously during kiln drying. The heat energy raises the temperature inside the kiln, increasing the vapor pressure of the moisture in the wood. This pressure gradient drives moisture movement from the wood’s interior towards the surface. Proper airflow and ventilation ensure the removal of evaporated moisture from the kiln, preventing reabsorption and promoting efficient drying.

Wood Structure and Stress Relief: The structure of wood consists of long cellulose fibers embedded in a matrix of lignin. During the kiln drying process, as moisture is removed, the shrinking and rearrangement of wood fibers can create internal stresses. These stresses, if not relieved properly, can lead to warping or cracking. Conditioning, the final phase of kiln drying, allows the wood to rest and equilibrate, minimizing residual stress.

Monitoring and Control Of Drying Timber: To ensure successful kiln drying, precise monitoring and control of temperature, humidity, and airflow are paramount. Modern kilns are equipped with sensors and controllers that continuously measure and adjust these parameters, providing a controlled drying environment. In the careful introduction of heat, moisture and airflow the operator expertly creates premium quality slabs over 4 to 6 weeks of careful work!

What Can Go Wrong When Drying Wood?

There are several things that can go wrong during the kiln drying process, leading to potential issues with the wood. Here are some problems that can occur:

  1. Uneven drying: If the drying process is not carefully controlled, there is a risk of uneven drying within the wood. This can result in stress build-up, warping, or cracking. Proper air circulation and temperature control are crucial to ensure uniform drying.
  2. Overdrying: Excessive heat or prolonged drying can cause the wood to become overly dry, leading to brittleness, increased susceptibility to cracking, and potential damage to its structural integrity. It’s essential to monitor the drying process closely to avoid over-drying.
  3. Case hardening: Case hardening occurs when the outer layer of wood dries too quickly, forming a hard shell while the interior remains moist. This creates tension within the wood, which can lead to warping, splitting, or checking. Proper drying schedules and moisture content monitoring can help prevent case hardening.
  4. Internal stresses: Wood contains internal stresses that can be released or exacerbated during the drying process. Improper drying conditions or rapid moisture removal can cause these stresses to manifest as warping, twisting, or cupping in the wood.
  5. Mould and fungal growth: If the kiln is not properly ventilated or if the drying conditions are not adequately controlled, there is a risk of mould and fungal growth on the wood. This can degrade the quality of the wood, affect its appearance, and potentially lead to health hazards.
  6. Insect infestation: If the drying timber already contains insect larvae or eggs, inadequate temperature control or insufficient drying time can result in the survival of these pests. This can lead to insect infestation and subsequent damage to the wood.


Kiln drying timber is a scientifically driven process that optimizes hardwood slabs for live edge table production. By carefully managing heat, humidity, and airflow, kiln drying eliminates excess moisture, enhances wood properties, and reduces the risk of defects. Understanding the science behind kiln drying enables the sawmill to produce high-quality slabs, achieve dimensional stability, and deliver exceptional products to their customers (us in this case). Embracing the principles of kiln drying ensures that the natural beauty of live edge tables is combined with durability and longevity so that each table truly will last a lifetime..

Different table leg finishes: how do we finish our metal table legs?

RAL colour chart

In this blog, we will discuss the different table leg finishes we use and explain the benefits of each method. There are two popular coating options for metal table legs: polyester powder coating and electroplating brass and copper. Each method has its unique advantages and can produce stunning furniture pieces that are both aesthetically pleasing and practical. By the end of this article, you’ll have a better understanding of these coating options and be able to choose the one that best suits your next project.

Black Walnut Live Edge

Polyester Powder Coatings

Polyester powder coating, known for its durability and versatility, is a popular option for metal furniture. This coating process involves applying a fine powder that is cured under heat to create a hard, protective finish. The finish is scratch, chip, fade, and chemical-resistant, making it ideal for pieces exposed to heavy use or outdoor environments.

Polyester powder coating offers complete customization and personalization of furniture with its ability to be applied in a wide range of colors and finishes. This makes it an excellent choice for those seeking to add a touch of individuality to their space, whether it’s a sleek modern look or a more traditional and classic style.

Another advantage of this coating method is its long-lasting and low-maintenance nature. Once a piece is powder-coated, it requires minimal upkeep, making it a cost-effective solution in the long run. Whether you’re looking to create a one-of-a-kind furniture piece or add elegance to your existing decor, polyester powder coating is an excellent choice.


Electroplating is a process that involves the application of a thin layer of metal to the surface of another metal. In the case of brass and copper table legs, this process results in a bright and shiny finish that is perfect for adding a touch of elegance to any piece of furniture.

One of the biggest benefits of electroplating is its ability to create a range of finishes, including antique, satin, or bright. This allows for even greater customization and personalization of furniture pieces, and can help to further enhance the aesthetic appeal of the piece. Whether you’re looking to create a timeless and classic look or a more modern and contemporary style, electroplating can help you achieve your desired result.

walnut and brass dining table leg
Reclaimed dining table on distressed copper legs


Choosing the right coating for metal table legs involves key considerations. Opt for polyester powder coating for durability, scratch resistance, and protection against fading and chemicals. Choose electroplating for added elegance and various finishes that enhance the furniture’s appeal.

At L’Atelier Mata, we value beauty and functionality in metal table leg coatings. That’s why we offer both polyester powder coating and electroplating options. Upgrade your furniture or add sophistication to your décor with help from our expert team. Contact us now for personalized advice.

For all of our tables, just take a browse around our shop – there are finished pieces to check out, or simply get in touch to ask for a bespoke quotation. If you have any questions at all, take a look at our FAQS, or feel free to contact us.

How to choose the right dining table for your home

live edge dining table

If you’re freaking out about how to choose the right dining table, we understand. This is, after all, the place your family will gather every evening to go over their days or do their homework. It’s the spot you’ll choose to complete an epic crafting project with your kids; or simply sit with a cup of coffee and a magazine when the house is empty. It’ll be privy to gossip with your friends, or discussions with your other half.

The dining table, whether we realise it or not, so often tends to be the anchor point of the home, and following this easy guide will make sure you get it just perfect.

Step 1: Measure the dimensions of your room

Before you even start thinking about the design of your dining table, you’re going to need to know how much space you have to play with. Measure the available floor space (make sure you don’t include sideboards or any other furniture), and minus 90cm from each side to enable people to push their chairs back comfortably – now you have your maximum table size. Each person will need about 60cm of space down the sides, plus an extra 30cm if you’re planning on seating someone at each end, so you can also figure out how many people you’re able to host.

Step 2: Decide on the tones and colours you want to see

It’s not your job to know exactly what wood variety you want; that’s down to us. However, you will need to give us a little guiding light in terms of colour. Would you prefer something more golden (Oak / Ash), or milk chocolatey (English Walnut)? How about a deep, rich, purple-brown (American Black Walnut)? Do you have other wooden furniture you’d like it to complement? The more information you can provide, the quicker we can find the timber that’s right for you.

internal opening in live edge table
Unique burl hornbeam live edge dining table Handmade live edge dining table with hornbeam burl top

Step 3: Pinpoint the shape and style you prefer

If you think straight cut edges would work better for your young family; no problem! If you like a gentle, undulating live edge then we’ll find a slab that fits the mould – or we can source a piece of wood with a more exaggerated shape. If beaten up, reclaimed wood is your jam, we’ll build you something with real character – or we can find an almost-perfect piece of wood to work on. The finer details are often strongly led by the wood itself, but we can make sure you get the style of table you want.

Step 4: Consider your leg options

It may seem like an impossible task, but choosing the right legs is just as important as choosing the right table top. We offer a wide range of individual legs and table frame styles to choose from, in a multitude of different finishes, but we also have the ability to fabricate something bespoke. As before, it’s best to consider all of the functional aspect first, like how many chairs you’ll need to fit around the table – and even access into your house – before you move on to colours and shapes. The fun part comes later!

Bespoke Ten Seater Table legs
Walnut Bench | Stainless Steel

Step 5: Choose the right chairs for your dining table

Thanks to Step 1, you know exactly how many people are going to be seated at your new dining table, and how much space you can allocate per person – so you know the maximum width of chairs you can buy. We craft all of our tables – unless instructed otherwise – to the standard height of 75cm. You want a 30cm difference between the seat height and the table height, so your dining chairs should be about 45cm from floor to seat. Consider the table legs you’ve chosen: do you want to match the finish, or do you need to be aware of bars running vertically, or across the floor?

Once we’ve nailed down all of that – you just have to sit back and wait for delivery day. Or, even better, take a look at our finished pieces and check if one of them fits your criteria. Remember – leg design is step 4 for a reason, and we can always swap the base out for something different. And, just like that, the question of how to choose the right dining table becomes a little easier to deal with!

If you have any questions at all, take a look at our FAQS, or feel free to contact us.