6 Reasons Woodworkers Need To Use A Moisture Meter

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The success of any custom wood project depends on more than your woodworking skills; it also depends on keeping the moisture content of the wood under control.

Do you know the reasons why a carpenter should use a moisture meter? If you’re not convinced that moisture measurement is important, you will eventually be.

If you are a professional carpenter or serious hobbyist who creates bespoke handmade furniture, kitchen cabinets, utensils or other wooden items and you do not use a moisture meter, you are putting your reputation in danger.

If you’re not convinced that moisture measurement is that important, you will be by the time you reach the end of this article.

6 reasons why carpenters need to use a moisture meter

1. A moisture meter verifies that the raw building material is properly acclimatized before starting to work with it. Since wood is hygroscopic, it must reach its equilibrium moisture content (EMC) before starting to work with it.

2. A moisture meter helps ensure your projects last. Wood can be damaged by excessive or insufficient moisture. If you work with wood that has not reached its electromagnetic compatibility, your finished project will continue to absorb or release moisture after it is completed causing it to swell or shrink.

3. When using a moisture meter, you will be able to demonstrate that you have followed the correct procedures in case of problems. One unhappy customer is enough to damage your reputation. If a customer comes back and says there is a problem with one of your custom wood pieces, you will be able to show the documentation obtained from your moisture meter. For this, you will need a quality moisture meter that is capable of taking accurate readings and storing them for later retrieval.

4. A moisture meter improves the quality of your projects. The moisture content of the wood must be measured before starting any project. Otherwise, the design can easily be compromised. Fine, hand-made furniture where the wood has been properly acclimatized previously cannot be compared to pieces where attention has not been paid and the wood has changed in size.

5. Using a moisture meter strengthens and maintains your professional reputation. If you make a living creating fine wood furniture or other items, your reputation is based on the satisfaction of your customers. You have to make them happy. Using a moisture meter will give you peace of mind knowing your project will last because the wood has been properly acclimatized and tested. When the moisture content is correct before you assemble and finish the project, you are a huge step forward in avoiding dissatisfied customers.

6. When using a moisture meter, moisture related problems can be prevented. Monitoring and knowing the moisture content of the wood you are using allows you to protect your projects from shrinkage, swelling, cupping, cracking, warping and more.

It is always a good idea to check that the raw wood building material is properly acclimatized before starting to work with it.

Tips on how to best use a pinless moisture meter
Instead of using pins that create unsightly holes, pinless moisture meters use electromagnetic sensors to determine the moisture content of the wood. A pinless meter is designed to measure the moisture content of wood over a particular depth range. For a few meters without pins, this can be less than ½ inch. If the meter is designed for deeper readings, it can range from ¾ inch to 1½ inch. The fact that the nailless meters do not pierce the wood makes them perfect for measuring the moisture content of fine wood furniture or hardwood floors.

As pinless moisture meters are sensitive to wood density (also known as specific gravity) and as this varies by species, the correct species setting must be entered before taking a reading.

Monitoring wood for moisture ensures that your projects will last as wood can be damaged by too much or too little moisture.

Pinless wood moisture meters are also sensitive to moisture on the surface of the wood. Some meters, such as Wagner’s Orion meters, have been designed to minimize this effect. Generally, if you notice moisture on the surface, carefully remove it and wait 30 minutes before taking a moisture reading.

You will also need to make sure you apply a small amount of pressure on the scanner pad. If you don’t apply pressure, there will be a gap under the pad and this will affect the accuracy of the reading.

Finally, all moisture meters, both pin and pinless, must be properly calibrated for accuracy.

Your professional reputation depends on the quality of your work. This is why the best carpenters use moisture meters and why you should use a moisture meter as well.

Just as taking accurate measurements improves the quality of all your woodworking projects, so too does getting accurate moisture readings in the wood.

Choose the meter that’s right for you
There are a number of quality tipless moisture meters on the market today to choose from, including our Orion® line of meters. All Orion meters can be recalibrated on the job site by the user. Orion meters allow the user to reset the meter to factory settings in seconds. Both the Orion 940 and 950 can store and retrieve data. The Orion 950 can also calculate EMC.

We encourage you to call a Wagner representative today at 800-505-1405 to see if an Orion tipless moisture meter is the right choice for you. If not, we will gladly suggest one that is.

A portable moisture meter should be thought of as an indispensable tool in any woodworking shop.

About the author
Mr. Wright has over 30 years of flooring industry experience with a special focus on wood flooring products and installation. Beginning in 1986, with a small distributor in Medford, Oregon, Jason has risen through positions in regional sales, product development, business development, and marketing programs within several flooring companies.

Jason brings extensive experience from starting new businesses to supporting the flooring industry in the wholesale and retail sectors. Over the course of many years, the flooring industry has relied on Jason’s vast experience. Contact them by email at jwright@wagnermeters.com.

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