Woodworkers Use Technology to Work Smarter, Faster, More Productively

Wood Planer and Computer
Every woodworker–professional and hobbyist alike–comes equipped with a box of tools enabling him or her to cut, plane, drill, shape, and sand.

But thanks to advances in Internet technology, many of today’s woodworkers also pack a few more “tools” in their toolbox–smartphones, tablet computers, and laptops. With these devices, woodworkers are now working smarter, faster, and more productively.

One device flooding the market and affecting the woodworking industry is the smartphone. And it’s no wonder–processing power and functionality continue to expand with each new model. In fact, today’s smartphones are 40 times more powerful than the first version.

The latest smartphones function as phones, compact digital cameras, pocket video cameras, GPS navigation units, high-resolution touchscreens and Web browsers that display standard Web pages as well as mobile-optimized sites.

Smart-Phone-AppsSome woodworkers may have resisted getting smartphones at first, but now many find it indispensable.

They use their smartphones to quickly access woodworking calculators, view project plans and designs, and locate a new hardware store on a map.

Some woodworkers may even confess to becoming smartphone junkies–and they’re not alone. A full 65% of iPhone users claim “they cannot live without their iPhones.”

40% said they’d give up coffee before giving up their phones. Another 18% said they’d give up bathing. And 15% said they’d even give up…well, let’s not go there.

Mobile Devices Improve Life and Work

It’s amazing how far we’ve come in the seven years since smartphones were introduced. In many ways, smartphones and all the other mobile devices that extend our connectivity to the world around us ARE changing so many aspects of life and work for the better.

Here are just a few examples of how smartphones and tablet devices benefit professional woodworkers today (and in some cases, the hobbyist as well):

  • Take “before and after” pictures for their customers–excellent for showing compelling proof of the value of their work.
  • Take pictures of broken parts or unusual repair conditions, and instantly email them back to the shop for a consultation or for someone to verify a part number and order it, saving an extra trip.
  • Make impressive customer presentations that are interactive, visually appealing, and shareable.
  • Use Web-based project management tools to stay on top of projects, track time, and meet deadlines. These tools also enable them to share data with others and collaborate on documents. Customers can even log in or receive email updates on the progress of a project.

One valuable feature of smartphones and tablet computers is the app, short for application. Apps provide useful utilities, such as calculators and reference tools.

There are also apps that provide project plans, design tools, and video libraries. Other apps focus on conversions, math and reference material, nail size/screw size guides, joint types, decimal to fraction guides, basic angle finders, wood comparisons, and much, much more.

There’s even an app that lets woodworkers use their smartphones as a level–literally turning them into woodworking tools.

There are more than half a million apps available today for the iPhone alone, with many available for DIYers and contractors. Many apps are free, while others vary in cost from $0.99 to $9.99 and up.

Smartphone App with Equilibrium Moisture Content (EMC) Calculator

One app that captures the imagination, which is interesting for its novel idea and professional execution, is the Wagner Meters WoodH2O mobile app. This new app is free and works on both the iPhone and Android.

Wagner Meters H20 Wood AppThe Wagner WoodH2O app offers a variety of tools and resources for woodworkers, wood flooring installers, and wood hobbyists in a simple-to-use format, including the EMC calculator. With no on-screen tables or complicated interface to deal with, the EMC calculator provides a quick and simple calculation of temperature and relative humidity–necessary conditions to determine EMC. EMC is the level at which wood neither takes on nor loses moisture when exposed to air.

Knowing the EMC is critical before working on wood. Why?

It’s critical because wood fibers take on and give off moisture in order to come to equilibrium with the ambient relative humidity. When they take on enough moisture to add water to the cells, the wood fibers swell. When they lose all or most of their moisture, the fibers shrink, joints open, or cracks develop. The damage that very high humidity (above 80%) and very low humidity (below 20%) do to fine woodwork is often permanent.

When a wood’s EMC is at the correct level, it’s safe to work on it.

The WoodH2O app also provides solutions for common wood moisture-related problems, including buckling, gaps, adhesive failure, cupping, and more, with both cause and possible remedies simply explained. In addition, it offers links to manuals, specific gravity settings, and other online resources for effective wood moisture management.

It’s Never Too Late

Many changes in Internet technology have occurred in just the past five years. Given the speed at which technology is traveling, woodworkers not using these electronic devices would be well advised to take a second look at how this technology can help them do their work better, faster, and more productively.

It’s never too late!

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Tony Morgan

Tony Morgan is a senior technician for Wagner Meters, where he serves on a team for product testing, development, and also customer service and training for moisture measurement products. Along with 19 years field experience for a number of electronics companies, Tony holds a B.A. in Management and his AAS in Electronics Technology.

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