Moisture meters

Thinking that with all of the lumber I've acquired over the years from individuals, I have no real way of knowing how dry the wood is. So, this weekend coming, Woodcraft is having a sale. I think it's time for me to get a moisture meter.
Any recommendations? Pinless, or not? What works for those who have one?
MJ Wallace
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wrote:

I have never bought a moisture meter, but I think a really high quality model would be nice in some instances. I have fellow woodworkers that bought inexpensive meters and didn't have great success with them. We have had problems with our hardwood suppliers selling us "case hardened wood" for a while now, and it creates more problems on all levels than one should ever have with the materials.
So I researched what a good moisture meter should do, and how much it should cost.
I thought I would save up some dough and buy a good one, but the only ones that seem to be 100% reliable are the Lignomats and a German made model or two. You need a meter that will accurately read more than immediately below the surface of the contact material.
Oddly, in a trade magazine I read, the pins didn't provide and advantage over the surface contacts when testing a smooth surface. So for planed goods, either type of contact would work well. But for rough surfaces, the pins excelled as you didn't get false readings based on a dried bit or saw kerf under the contact.
My furniture making buddy at Woodcraft has used their meter and rated it a "fair".
When I am ready to drop $300 or so on the Lignomat, I will buy with confidence.
But.... here's the rub. We have only three or four hardwood suppliers here in town. They are not national chains, so I am sure that they probably buy at least part of their goods from the same distributors. So say I go to a supplier and their wood is too wet; most likely if I go to another supplier, his will be too.
I have done this enough times I am confident that the wood I buy will be improperly dried. So at this stage of my hardwood using career, I don't bother with the moisture meter at all. I buy the wood I need, sticker it for about 6 - 8 months, and then use it. Since I buy almost exclusively 4-5 quarters stock for my own personal use, it works out well.
If I need hardwood for a client project right away though, I am up against it. It is hit and miss. If you are doing this professionally, get the Ligno. If you are doing this for fun, plan your project and purchase your wood (it will only get more expensive the longer you wait anyhow) and allow it to dry a little longer.
Just my 0.02.
Robert
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

<snip>
Case hardening occurs when the wood is dried too rapidly and an "outer shell" forms on the lumber. This "outer shell" does not prevent the interior of the piece from drying but causes internal stresses in the lumber. A moisture meter will not help in determining if the wood is case hardened.
See:
http://books.google.com/books?id=XHA1AAAAMAAJ&pg=PA15&lpg=PA15&dq Êse+hardening+hardwood&source=web&ots=h9zh_YsHmd&sig=YSXQ4ceFH_39jo9_G1FYeJpyYQo&hl=en
--
Jack Novak
Buffalo, NY - USA
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itself if left stickered for an additional 8 or so months.
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I had instruction from a trusted source on this subject as I was ready to burn my walnut in the barbecue pit after I gave up on it.
He is actually the one that suggested leaving it properly stored and stickered until it is needed. As a furniture maker, he keeps stock on hand that is stored in his shop for a year or so as routine. Her in South Texas we do not have the great stands of hardwoods, or anything close to them. There are patches of this and that,. but a trip to Tennessee a few years ago convinced me that what we have for trees is mostly scrub. Hardwood variety of any volume is non existent.
So all our hardwood is trucked in from different states and different mills, and has been as long as I can remember. That has led a great deal of us on the serious side to find out as much as we can about drying, wood movement, and moisture management as possible.
In a cross section of a board, the perimeter dries first as it is the part exposed to air/heat/air movement and all its subtleties. When you have a "case hardened" board (there is a cool name for it the lumber guys use) it is the beginning stages of drying, although it is unevenly so. Resting and drying in a controlled environment will finish the process correctly.
That has been my experience. The wood is still fine, it just isn't ready to use.
Robert
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EXACTLY my point. Thanks for the clarification/amplification.
Also, it should be noted that on a thicker piece of material (average reading depth penetration for different woods should be considered before purchase) case hardening will give an incorrect reading of overall moisture.
Robert
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I know zilch about moisture meters, but since we are in the industrial instrument business, will offer the following from that perspective:
Proper application is at least 90% of the success of an instrument application.
There are two (2) types of instruments:
1) Those that work which is usually reflected in the price.
2) Those that do not work which are also usually reflected in the price.
A word to the wise:
There ain't no free lunch.
Lew
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This is a real lesson in local practices/economics. I can see some real problems if a client needed something NOW and did not want to wait around for months and months for the wood to dry properly.
What do you do when you get an impatient client who needs their product yesterday? Talk sense into them? Build it with wet wood? Refer them to some who has sufficient stock? Go pay big bucks for some of that precious dry stock? Etc, etc??
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I try my best to talk some into them. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. You can only do so much, and since I do this for a living I have to rely on what I can get my hands on.
Sometimes I can get better product at one place than another. Sometimes I pay a premium and then some to get what I want. The price is reflected in what I am building. I have a lot of walnut and maple stashed and ready to go as I have one client that likes display cases made from Black Walnut. Not my favorite wood, but he loves it. So I keep some in the shop in the rafters for his phone calls.

I won't work with wet wood. I have had too much movement in glue ups, sanding problems, and have had finsihes discolor from the sap moisture. No more. If I can get good stuff I will. But I have my limits, and so do my clients.
Plan "B" is to dye the wood, and that would put the wood cost down to maple, but boost it back up for the cost of dye. So if I can get good maple and dye it, I will present that as an option.
And believe it or not, some are willing to wait...
Robert
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Only?????? The TWO near me are both 45 miles from me and in opposite directions.
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I've got the Ligno and very pleased with it. Here in Minnesota wood will only go down to about 14% air drying but from that point depending upon what type of wood I can put it in the kiln at 112 degrees for 10 days and take it down to 7% some wood will go faster. ross
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Edwin Pawlowski wrote:

Well, the two closest I'm aware of are 200 miles in not quite opposite directions...
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I dunno. Maybe I expect a bit more from our fair city. With out metropolitan area included, we are knocking on two million folks so I am thinking since we also serve the lower part of the state for many goods that we should have more.
One thing we don't have though, is the abundance and pricing of wood. My BIL is from Ohio, and at last check he was paying $3.50 a bf for good walnut, and $2 - 42.5 for maple. I don't know what species, grade or quality, but anything maple around here starts at $4.50 a bf. And walnut, if it can be found, will start as much as $7 a bf, and that is a spot market price.
It isn't just playing the market down here. It is taking advantage. All this started LONG before they could attack the oil/transportation costs to it as a reason. They get their prices because they can.
My BIL tells me of magical places called "tree dumps" where they take large old trees. I know what they are, but no one else around here does. He has found cherry, oak, maple and walnut a the dump by his house. They mostly cut it up for firewood unless the logs are too big, then they just leave them.
I have heard him talk of cutting permits, where the public can cut fallen trees on public land for a $15 annual permit. He said most just wait for the wood to show up at the dump since they can get the logs with the branches cut off and the logs in manageable sizes.
If you are from my area of the map, you ask yourself "How can any place have that much hardwood? They put the fallen, cut logs in a dump?"
I know it has been that way up there for too many years to count, but never around here. An industrious soul like myself would be glad to go cut my own wood if someone would let me. We just don't have it here. That means that even at exorbitant prices, we still run out!
Robert
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Wood magazine did a trial on these a while back. Maybe it's on their website. A friend of mine has a Lignomat. He says it's one of the best. So I bought a mid-priced one. He has large shelves almost all the way around the edges his heated shop, from about 6 1/2 feet up to 10 feet up. Anything he brings in and stickers up there (up to 9 quarters, anyway, dries to 6-8 % in 6 weeks. This is so predictable for him that he doesn't really have to measure any more. I used mine to measure many samples out in my unheated wood storage buildiing where I have many species of hardwoods that have been air dryimg, some since 1976. It's all 16%, last time I checked! This is west central Wisconsin in Decemeber. I was gonna tell you how I measure moisture content with heat and a scale, but I figured that someone would find something wrong with the way I do it, so you can guess how it might be done.
Pete Stanaitis -----------------------
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com skreiv:

I'm very happy with the Wagner MMC220 model (pinless). It's quiet expensive, but worth it in the long run imo.
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in article snipped-for-privacy@t36g2000prm.googlegroups.com, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com at snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote on 4/7/08 10:16 AM:

Let's start with pin and pinless are you getting rough sawn stuff, surfaced one face or S4S? - if rough sawn or one face - pin works without having to plane a flat smooth are (you do take a block plane with you when getting rough sawn right. Advantage to "pin" meters is that some come with a pin probe that plugs into the meter. Let's you measure with just the pins - no need for space for the meter as well
- if one face is surfaced a pinless is fine - doesn't leave holes - even little ones - in your board and usually comes with an LED display so you don't have to read - and remember - an analog meter
I've go the Wagner 205 Digital Shop Line pinless meter. MC range is good, depth and area for reading is good, user interface is OK and intuitive. I've got to input the specific gravity of the wood I want to measure, which, if it isn't in the provided tables can be real fun. ALL these meters require either adjusting the raw meter reading, or telling the meter the SG of the wood you want to measure.
And there's the rub. Wood sellers seldom use the latin / scientific name of the wood they're selling, and the "common names" they do use may be of little use when trying to identify the SG.
Case in point that I'm STILL trying to find an answer for - "English Sycamore". Now "English Sycamore" is NOT a sycamore at all, but rather, is in the "acer" family, which includes all the true maples. But there are THREE species of maple which have the characteristics of the "English Sycamore" I have. BUT - their range of SG goes from about 0.49 to 0.69. The resulting range of MC using the high and low values is great enough to make the reading almost useless.
If you'll be working with common woods used for furniture making - oak, cherry, walnut and maple (if you KNOW which maple it is) and not the off the wall ones, OR - some of the "exotics - probably any meter over $150 will do the job you have for it.
Would probably be a good idea to get Hoadley's book all about wood - for furniture makers. Will answer most of your questions and give you a pretty good understanding of the material you're playing with
charlie b
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wrote on 4/7/08 10:16 AM:

Charlie, Regarding your troubles with "English sycamore", was wondering if this would work? get a small sample of the wood dry it in an oven until it's truly dry (maybe determined by no further change in reading of the meter?) use the resulting meter reading to determine the SG, and therefore the particular species of maple Kerry
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Tunnel vision is going to be my excuse. THANKS!
charlie b
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I have a pin-type and it really comes in handy when buying wood and drying wood. Mine has a chart to set the meter for two wood categories. I date my lumber and write the moisture percentage on the wood.
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I've got a Ligomat pin type that has 22 or 23 different settings. A chart came with it with all of the common lumbers listed with their corresponding numbers. I mostly use exotic woods from around the world. Few of them were on the chart. I called Ligomat stating my problem and they immediately sent me another chart that had around 75 or 80 exotic woods and a letter telling me that if there were other woods that I used that were not listed to contact them and they would give me their corresponding numbers. Very nice company to deal with.
Dick
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