The importance of timber conditioning

Crafting cabinets that stand the test of time

In a world where convenience and disposability often overshadow longevity and craftsmanship, it is unusual to find artisans dedicated to preserving the beauty of the past and crafting pieces that will endure for generations. As listed building specialists and bespoke joinery craftsmen, we are passionate about utilising traditional methods to create cabinets that not only exude timeless elegance but also possess the durability to withstand the test of time.

In our quest to leave a lasting legacy, we are acutely aware of the throwaway mentality that permeates modern life. The rapid turnover of furniture, designed with built-in obsolescence, has led to an alarming disregard for resources, particularly wood. It is a resource that takes hundreds of years to grow, yet we often treat it as expendable, discarding it carelessly and filling municipal dumps with mass-produced, short-lived pieces.

If a tree is felled to build a cabinet, we owe it to that tree to make the finest possible cabinet

Each cabinet we  create is a testament to our meticulous commitment to sustainable practices and the artistry of the past. Drawing upon time-honored techniques, we ensure that every joint, every detail, and every stroke of craftsmanship tells a story of dedication and enduring quality.

So committed is Artichoke to this stage of the process we’ve invested in specialist facilities to condition wood in the perfect environment – ensuring that our finished furniture is prepared as well as it can be for wherever it is destined to be installed.  This blog tells the story of our financial investment to this part of the process – you won’t find this on the high street.

Timber conditioning for cabinet making

Living trees are saturated with water as the moisture is transported through a network of capillaries reaching every part. When a tree is felled for furniture making it is cut into boards of various thicknesses and subjected to timber conditioning, a process of preparing and treating wood before it is used in furniture making. Timber conditioning enhances its quality, durability, and performance, ensuring that it is suitable for furniture making.

Photo of cut timber for wood conditioning

There are different methods of timber conditioning, and the specific technique employed depends on factors such as the type of timber, its moisture content, and the desired outcome. They include drying, steaming, chemical treatment and heat treatment.

Artichoke timber conditioning

Drying is a critical timber conditioning technique for furniture making. It improves the stability, workability, strength, and durability of the wood. Thanks to properly drying the timber, our furniture makers can ensure that their furniture pieces will maintain their shape, withstand regular use, and showcase the desired aesthetic qualities.

Image of quality wooden furniture

Time is our favourite tool. We spend an enormous amount of time at every stage of any project, from the early conversations and product selection to installation. Drying the timber takes time and is a process that can’t be forced to make it quicker as it can result in stresses or “case hardening”, where in effect the outer cells will fight against the inner cells causing a collapse in the cell structure. This is how splits and shapes within the timber are created which is not acceptable for fine furniture making.

The timber conditioning process

The drying process begins at a  timber merchant that specialises in high-quality wood.

The harvested tree is cut into sawn boards of thicknesses often dictated by the tree’s girth and quality before it is put into stick ready to start the initial air drying process. This process takes approximately one year per inch of thickness and ensures the initial drying process is natural and does not shock the timber. Eventually, the timber goes into a kiln for final drying, with the aim to reduce the moisture content to between  7-8%. The length of this process always varies and depends on the thickness and the wood species.

photo of Cut timber ready for drying

From the kiln, the timber boards are typically stored undercover in the yard where the moisture content starts to creep back up as it finds equilibrium with the humidity in the air. It will gradually settle to around 12-18% depending on species and thickness.

Image of timber storage at sykes - Artichoke wood merchant

For furniture making we require the moisture content at 6-10%.

To gently reduce the moisture content below 10% we store the timber in our timber conditioning area where the timber boules and boards are stacked up flat on stick battens to allow airflow across their surfaces. We take a record of the moisture content in each board and set the dehumidifier at 50% humidity and 21 degrees – the optimum humidity and temperature that allow our timber to adjust to an equilibrium MC of between 6-10%.


Once the boards have dried to this level, we then rough cut the timber according to a cutting list for the project and place it back into the conditioning area, which allows the timber to rest at equilibrium before it is moved into the manufacturing stages of the process.

Photo of dried timber cut by artichoke according to cutting list

Photo of timber boards after timber conditioning


By using this conditioning process, we allow the timber to adjust to the dry conditions of internal centrally heated houses which prevents the issues of fast uncontrolled shrinkage that would otherwise occur when the furniture is installed on site.

Why is timber conditioning important?

Timber conditioning is an important step in getting the best out of the timber for our furniture. By properly preparing it, we ensure that it can withstand the demands of its intended use, outlasting generations.


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