Kasters Kustom Cutting Case Study

How does moisture measurement make a difference in the sawmill industry?

That’s what we wanted to know from Kasters Kustom Cutting, Inc., a family-owned business that uses Wagner’s moisture meters.

Based out of Mulino, Oregon, they started in 1995 as a portable business that cut logs on other people’s properties. Now, they have their own in-house equipment to mill logs—redwood, black walnut, maple, oak, cedar, and more—for custom lumber products, live edge slabs, and beams. What makes them unique is their ability to work with oversized logs, up to 72 inches wide and 20 feet long.

Owner Kevin Kaster and his two sons, Daniel and Stephen, took some time to share with us about their work—and how they’re using Wagner’s moisture meters and stack probe to produce high-quality wood products for their customers.

Here’s what they had to say.

How Kasters Kustom Cutting Measures Wood Moisture

Moisture measurement is an integral part of Kasters Kustom Cutting’s drying process.

The process begins when they purchase logs—whether from arborists or homeowners. They bring those logs back and use one of their mills to break them down into 2- or 3-inch slabs. After cutting the logs into slabs, they sticker them and allow them to air dry about a year per inch of thickness.

As the drying period comes to an end, they use a wood moisture meter to check the wood. “We go in with our Wagner meters and check our moisture before they go in the kiln. We want them to be 25% or less,” explains Kevin.

Then, they put them in drying kilns to get them down to the needed moisture content for selling them. And here’s where using a moisture meter becomes especially important.

The team at Kasters Kustom Cutting uses an L622 Wagner meter with a stack probe to check wood drying in the kiln.

The reason for this?

“Especially with slabs, we need to make sure the centers are as dry as the outside,” explains Daniel Kaster.

The stack probe allows them to get between the stacks of wood in the kiln and understand the wood moisture content of the wood throughout the stack. As a result, they’re getting “truer readings than if you just get a piece sticking out from the end.”

Here’s why that accuracy matters.

Why Sawmills Need Accurate Moisture Readings

Wood isn’t useful if it’s not dry. By checking the moisture content of their wood, Kasters Kustom Cutting ensures that their customers receive the best quality. But at the same time, they also save their business time and money and protect their reputation. A win-win!

More on those points next.

Providing high-quality products

Accurate moisture testing during kiln drying is key for protecting the wood’s quality. If you dry the wood too fast, it could become damaged—and useless.

Stephen Kaster points out that wood drying “is based on relative humidity, temperature, and air velocity,” with humidity being one of the biggest factors. Lowering the humidity and raising the temperature too quickly can cause issues, such as uneven drying or too quick of drying.

Case hardening is one of the most common issues.

Stephen describes what happens with case hardening:

“The cells on the outside of the wood will dry out. They’ll quit moving moisture once they get to a certain dry point, and your inside…will still be wet. If you take that same piece of wood and you rip it into strips, you’re going to have moisture that’s cased into the hard outside shell.”

With the outside dry and the core wet, the wood can experience significant movement or twisting when it’s ripped.

But with proper moisture testing, the kiln operator can adjust conditions that allow for even drying, resulting in high-quality wood at the right moisture content.

Before selling wood to a customer, Kevin will often use his Orion 930 moisture meter to show them the slab’s moisture content. “They know they can take it home and work on it today if they want to.”

Kasters Kustom Cutting is indeed known for its quality. Some of the wood they milled was used for work in the Portland airport and for building a suite in the Seahawks stadium in Seattle, Washington. Moisture measurement is an important factor in this success.

Saving time and money

Preventing damage to their wood is no doubt a savings of time and money for Kasters Kustom Cutting.

They also check that their wood is under 25% moisture content before putting it in the kiln. This precaution prevents them from wasting resources. If they put wood into the kiln while it’s still at 40 or 50% moisture content, the wood will have to stay in the kiln for several months.

In the words of Kevin, it’s “a waste of kiln space and electricity,” not to mention other quality problems that may arise.

Much better, then, to know exactly what moisture content the wood is at so that it doesn’t end up in the kiln any sooner.

Protecting reputation

Kasters Kustom Cutting doesn’t sell any of its wood green, so moisture measurement is a way to help assure their customers that they’re getting what they’ve paid for.

Here’s where the Orion 930 comes in handy.

When a customer comes to pick up a slab, they can quickly and easily slide the Orion 930 across the surface, showing that the wood is at the right moisture content.

Kevin says, “It’s nice to be able to show our customers as the wood leaves here, so if they take it and they store it improperly or they install it improperly or they have a moisture problem at their house or job site, we can come back and say, ‘Hey, it was 10% when it left here.’”

This has been a protection for the company.

For example, some wood flooring they milled began to buckle in someone’s home in Seattle, Washington. Rather than being an issue with the company’s product, it turned out to be an issue with groundwater running underneath the house.

In another case, a customer bought tongue-and-groove paneling for an outside patio cover. During the winter, the panel absorbed water and buckled.

Thankfully, with accurate moisture measurements, Kasters Kustom Cutting could prove the moisture content of the wood was acceptable when it left their site, protecting their reputation.

What Kasters Kustom Cutting Looks for in a Moisture Meter

High accuracy, ease of use, and durability are all factors that the team at Kasters Kustom Cutting looks for in a wood moisture meter.

Accuracy assures them that the reading they’re seeing is the true condition of the wood. And the stack probe has helped them to be able to get a better picture of all the wood within a stack.

They also appreciate having a meter with a species setting so they can switch back and forth when needed.

And finally, durability is essential in a sawmill environment. The team needed something that wasn’t going to corrode or quit working with a little moisture exposure.

Kevin says it this way,

“At the mill, things get beat up…. You want something that’s going to last you if you’re buying a unit like this that’s a little bit of money. You want a unit you’re going to be able to keep for a few years and not be replacing every so often.”

For his business, Wagner’s meters have fit the bill.

An Indispensable Tool for a Sawmill

Kasters Kustom Cutting is just one example of the way investing in an industrial moisture meter and stack probe can make a difference for sawmills.

As we’ve seen, these tools…

  • Help prevent damage to high-quality products
  • Save time, labor, and money
  • Give customers confidence in the sawmill’s diligence
  • Protect the business’s reputation

What could they do for your sawmill business? Call us at (844) 755-3460 and talk with us about the best solution for you.

Last updated on April 15th, 2024

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