Correct Moisture Content: Critical to Your Woodworking Projects

correct wood moisture contentIf you are a woodworker, you’ve invested in a number of woodworking tools such as saws, planers, sanders, measuring tools, to name a few, but an accurate, quality moisture meter should be one of the most important tools in your arsenal.

You have a substantial investment in high-quality wood, as well your time when you do a project, but incorrect moisture content (MC) in your wood can ruin everything.

Understanding Wood Moisture Content

Moisture content (MC) of wood refers to the weight of water contained in the wood, expressed as a percentage of the weight of the oven-dry wood. Most woodworking projects require a moisture content of about 6% to 8% for hardwoods and 9% to 14% for softwoods. The appropriate MC will vary depending on the final use of the wood and the conditions of the storage environment.

Role of Wood Species in Determining Moisture Content

Different wood species absorb and retain moisture differently. Therefore, understanding the wood species you’re working with is essential in determining the appropriate moisture content. Hardwoods, which are typically denser, might require a lower moisture content than softwoods. For tropical species, due to their dense nature, moisture content should be monitored with even greater care.

Impact of Environmental Factors

Environmental conditions, including relative humidity (RH) and temperature, can significantly influence a wood’s moisture content. Wood stored in humid conditions will absorb moisture, while wood stored in dry conditions will lose moisture. Ensuring your storage environment maintains consistent humidity and temperature will contribute significantly to maintaining the correct moisture content.

According to leading woodworking and wood manufacturing experts, 80% to 90% of woodworking and wood products manufacturing defects and problems are related to moisture. Wood scientist R. Bruce Hoadley believes it’s critical to know the MC of the wood you’re using in your fine woodworking projects. He says that 90% of woodworking problems involve moisture.

Woodworking may just be your hobby, but you don’t want to end up disappointed in the result because of a moisture-related issue. For example, just one piece of your cabinet altered by changes due to MC can ruin your project.

Even more importantly, if you are in the business of making and selling high-quality woodworking of any kind, and your customer ends up with a piece of your furniture or cabinetry with joint failures or openings, warped panels, uneven table tops, or even cracked or checked finishes in the product, you possibly end up with a dent in your reputation and maybe your pocketbook. Moisture measurement and control is critical.

Even if you are purchasing your kiln-dried wood from good suppliers, there is still no real guarantee that all of the wood was at the correct moisture when it left the mill, and even if it was, it could have been stored in a relative humidity (RH) environment that caused a change in the wood’s MC; a change that could be detrimental to your project.

Think of investing in a moisture meter as relatively inexpensive insurance. Buy one and you’ll never have to wonder whether that wood you’re using is too wet or too dry.

Major wood products manufacturers don’t leave the moisture quality control program to chance. Handheld moisture meters and sometimes large moisture measurement systems are a critical tool in their operations, and an accurate handheld moisture meter should be a critical tool for you as well.

Orion Moisture Meter Checking Moisture ContentAdvantages of a Pinless Moisture Meter

There are two styles of wood moisture meters: pin and pinless. They come with a variety of features and prices to fit most any hobbyist’s budget.

Many professional woodworkers prefer the pinless wood moisture meter for some key reasons:

    • It won’t leave damaging holes in your wood like the pin meter
    • It takes an accurate moisture reading below the wood’s top surface where moisture and ambient RH may skew the MC reading
    • It’s fast, allowing you to scan many board feet in seconds for instant MC readings without the time-consuming effort of driving pins into the wood
    • For most temperature ranges, it doesn’t require corrections for wood temperatures above or below 70º as do pin meters
    • It’s virtually not affected by the orientation of the grain like pin meters which need to be oriented just the right way for a measurement
    • It’s simple to use

Free Download – 6 Reasons Your Wood Project Failed

Wagner Meters manufactures some of the most reliable and accurate pinless moisture meters on the market. We have a number of meters for hobbyists featuring non-damaging digital meters that can easily ride on your tool belt.

Hobbyists can choose from any model in the Orion® line of wood moisture meters. All of which come with an industry-leading 7-year warranty.

Orion pinless wood moisture meters can be used on the most common temperate softwoods and hardwoods, as well as denser tropical species.

If you want to build your projects like the pros do – and be assured of avoiding many common moisture-related woodworking problems – nothing beats the technology, convenience, and precision of a quality moisture meter.

Understanding and controlling the moisture content in your wood is a critical aspect of successful woodworking. A quality moisture meter is an invaluable tool for measuring and managing moisture content, helping you avoid common moisture-related issues and produce high-quality woodworking projects.

Consider investing in a pinless moisture meter like the Orion® line from Wagner Meters, which offers fast, accurate, non-damaging readings, helping you to deliver woodworking projects of which you can be truly proud.

Last updated on May 23rd, 2023

1 Comment

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