Lets talk moisture tester

C Craft

Well-Known Member
I have came across some wood I am thinking about using for handles. My problem is it has been air drying for not to long, I am told!! So I am thinking I need a moisture tester for wood!!

I know very little about moisture testers.

So is something like this any good??

https://www.homedepot.com/p/General...isture-Meter-with-LCD-Display-MMD4E/100651808

Or is this one of those cases you get what you pay for??


What is considered a good reading for acceptable moisture???

Here in Florida we have a very high humidity level. So is that a problem with acceptable moisture in a piece of wood??

Anyone want to educate me in this subject, I am all ears!!
 

Sean Jones

Well-Known Member
I have no knowledge of moisture testers either. However I have a lot of wood that I'd like to test so I'm tagging along for answers too :)

One comment I will make though. Some one here (Ed Caffrey?) on a post that I can't find now, noted that the allowable moisture content in wood will vary depending on where it is being used. Thus a high moisture content might be OK in Florida where as here in Utah we have very little moisture in the air. In fact during the summer the humidity can dip below 10%. So wood here needs to be very low in moisture to match the climate.

I don't recall the particulars other than that. Hopefully someone who knows which thread I'm talking about will chip in.
 

C. Killgore

Well-Known Member
I have one of those. It does okay. I also have a more expensive pinless lignomat meter. There are advantages and disadvantages to the 2 styles. Obviously the ones with pins have to penetrate the wood and just give a reading at the depth the pins penetrate. This leaves little holes in your wood. But also you aren't going to be getting a very deep reading with it. With the pinless, usually there is a setting to set it to measure 3/4" deep, which seems to give a little more accurate reading for me. But you really need a flat surface for the pinless. And it's easier to scan over larger areas very quickly with a pinless meter. Another thing about the pins is they can be nearly impossible to push into some of the denser woods we use. It's certainly a useful meter to have and can get you started just keep in mind those few things.

Also keep in mind the smaller you saw down the wood initially, the faster it will dry. If you leave it in large log form it will likely take several years whereas if you cut it down to knife block sizes, it may reduce it down to less than 1 year. In either case, I'd be sure to coat it with something to slow the process down. I always use Anchorseal 2 and have had pretty good luck with it.

I shoot for around 10% moisture before I'd use it for a knife.
 

Gene Kimmi

KNIFE MAKER
Wood sold commercially for cabinets has to be dried to 6-8% moisture content. We dried 65,000 board feet at a time in the kiln at the sawmill, so a good moisture meter was a must. Delmhorst was the trusted brand that we used. When I got into drying wood for knife handles, I bought this one.

https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B0000224D4/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

I also bought this remote electrode for testing thicker pieces.

https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B0000224D6/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

I would dry the wood to around 8%, then let it acclimate to your shop's climate for a month or 2 before using it. Dried wood is like a sponge, it will soak up or release moisture very easily. My grandpa always said that a tree never dies, meaning that even when made into furniture, it will always move.

My cabinet shop is heated and air conditioned and is always 68 - 70 degrees. I try to get lumber in 2 -3 weeks before I need it and still can run into problems with it moving. I have glued panels up and had them shrink almost an 1/8" in a 14" -16" wide panel.
 

Chris Railey

KNIFE MAKER
When I was making longbows we would shoot for around 10%. That is for wood that will be repetedly flexed and shocked. Our goal was to keep the bows from “taking set” which simply means staying bent toward the string when it was not braced (strung). I think 10% is more than good for a static knife handle. Just my OPINION. For that purpose I used a pinned moisture meter like the one you posted.
 

C Craft

Well-Known Member
OK thanks to all for the replies!

So Gene that one is listed at $185.00. The one I referenced, is listed for $23.40. Does that mean you get what you pay for??
https://www.homedepot.com/p/General...isture-Meter-with-LCD-Display-MMD4E/100651808

I want to buy a decent moisture detector but does the higher price equate to a better moisture meter!!
 

Gene Kimmi

KNIFE MAKER
The only experiences I've had with the cheaper testers were years ago when they first came out. We had customers bring them to the mill to test against ours so they would know if they were working right. It was usually a 50/50 chance with them. I'm sure they have gotten better by now, I have just been leery of them since then.

Since I use mine as a business tool, it was easier to justify the cost of it. I don't want to sell blocks to people that aren't dry. If you get the one you linked to, I could send you some test blocks of varying moisture content to test it with if you would like.
 

C. Killgore

Well-Known Member
Yeah, I'd agree with the 50/50 thing with that cheap one. I always chalked it up to not being able to push the pins into the wood. But it may not be just that.

I bent one of the pins on mine pretty bad trying to push it into an exotic wood. That's when I decided to use a pinless meter. Most of the woods I work with are exotics. Very dense and oftentimes burls. You just about can't get the pins inside a lot of it. And a lot of these dense exotic burly woods don't do well trying to dry them. They check like crazy. I resaw them down on a bandsaw to knife block size and completely coat them in AS2. Then give them a year or so. And come back and clean off a side and check it with the meter.

I live in Louisiana and it gets hot and humid here in the summer. I have found that my woods tend to end up about 10% moisture naturally after enough time.
 

Sean Jones

Well-Known Member
Yeah, I'd agree with the 50/50 thing with that cheap one. I always chalked it up to not being able to push the pins into the wood. But it may not be just that.

I bent one of the pins on mine pretty bad trying to push it into an exotic wood. That's when I decided to use a pinless meter. Most of the woods I work with are exotics. Very dense and oftentimes burls. You just about can't get the pins inside a lot of it. And a lot of these dense exotic burly woods don't do well trying to dry them. They check like crazy. I resaw them down on a bandsaw to knife block size and completely coat them in AS2. Then give them a year or so. And come back and clean off a side and check it with the meter.

I live in Louisiana and it gets hot and humid here in the summer. I have found that my woods tend to end up about 10% moisture naturally after enough time.
Excuse my ignorance, but what is AS2?
 

Chris623

Well-Known Member
Does that mean you get what you pay for??

Exactly............just like most everything else. Either one of the meters Gene mentioned would work fine...........they are kind of standard to the industry.

You mentioned the wood handn't bee drying "too" long...............................how long is that? To give you a guide line, the wood needs to dry with all sides exposed to air for one year per inch of thickness. It has to be "STICKERED" during that period to properly season. Just one of those facts we wood workers can't ignore.

www.chrischristenberry.com
 

Chris623

Well-Known Member
I've heard one year per inch of thickness plus one year. Also some woods don't dry as quickly as others.
Well, Doug, it wouldn't hurt anything to wait the additional year, but it's really unnecessary for most woods............................and usually the woods that require more time are your oily woods.
 

C Craft

Well-Known Member
So how does a pin less moisture tester work!! It seems that the humidity of the day might actually influence the readings!!

You mentioned the wood handn't bee drying "too" long...............................how long is that? To give you a guide line, the wood needs to dry with all sides exposed to air for one year per inch of thickness. It has to be "STICKERED" during that period to properly season. Just one of those facts we wood workers can't ignore.
I have been passing this property for over a year! However this is still in tree form. He had them cut but couldn't afford to have them hauled off!! We are talking trees that may be in the 3' diameter range!! So the tree would still have to be cut into board form!! I am just not sure it is even worth it!!
 

Chris623

Well-Known Member
I use a pinless in my work, C Craft. It's sort of like Sonar. It sends a signal down into the wood and reads the resistance it meets..........then displays that resistance on the meter. If you've ever taken a body fat test, it's the same concept. The pinless is only slightly less accurat than the models that use pins.............but I never liked the idea of shoving pins in wood I paid good money for and was planning on using.
 

C. Killgore

Well-Known Member
Yeah, shoving pins into domestic lumber is one thing... shoving them into a very expensive knife block sized piece of burlwood is another. And, like I mentioned...can be a challenging thing. Burl eyes are much harder than the straight-grained wood is. It's sort of like a bunch of "knots".

Anyway, I started with one of those pin meters but quickly realized... for me... it makes more sense to use the pinless. It has an adjustment where you set the specific gravity of the wood you're checking to get a more accurate reading.

This is the one I've used for 8 years.
https://www.amazon.com/Lignomat-Scanner-SD-Moisture-Meter/dp/B003CLQIGY/
 
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