Fresh-cut Nicaraguan cocobolo has a moisture content of about 40-45%. For guitar and ukulele building purposes, ideal wood moisture content is 6%. This level of moisture allows wood to expand or contract moderately without warping and cracking.
The average atmospheric relative humidity in Nicaragua ranges from 45-85%. This means that it would take almost 5 years for a 1-inch thick piece of cocobolo to reach an equilibrium with the atmosphere, and that the estimated moisture content of the cocobolo would be about 12-14%. If we were to 'air dry' our cocobolo to 12%, it would continue to dry when we sent it to the US, which would result in warping and the eventual cracking of the wood.
To ensure that all of our tonewoods are dried to the proper moisture content, we have invested in a low temperature solar dry kiln. This is a great way to dry tonewoods because it works at a low temperature and dries the wood slowly. Also, the kiln only operates during the day when the sun is out, which allows for ‘stress relief’ as the wood ‘relaxes’ at night. This ensures that the wood doesn’t crack or warp from drying out too quickly. Our wood drying process typically takes 1 month for our wood to dry to the ideal moisture content of 6%.
Although we would like quicker access to our wood, this is fine because it allows us to confidently stand behind our product and guarantees that we will not have any problems, even in the driest climates.