Using a Moisture Meter for Woodworking

Posted by Kett Marketing on Wed, Aug 3, 2022

Using a Moisture Meter for WoodworkingWoodworking is an art form that calls for “cutting, shaping, and joining wood” to create objects that we interact with every day of our lives. While the basic skills may be easy to learn, it’s a craft that many spend their lives refining. 

Many find woodworking rewarding, and some even build a career shaping wood. Woodworkers have contributed integral, beautiful pieces to our culture since ancient times, and continue to do so today.

Woodworking also requires a great deal of precision. It calls for exact measurements and careful crafting. The slightest miscalculation in moisture levels or an incorrect measurement can derail an entire project or compromise the integrity of the piece. 

Kett is proud to support the woodworkers with the instruments they need to ensure proper moisture content levels, every time. Discover how moisture can affect woodworkers and how Kett can help. 

About the Moisture Content of Wood

Experienced woodworkers likely already know that wood is hygroscopic. This means the moisture content fluctuates greatly, often based on the relative humidity of the air around it; as humidity levels rise and fall, the moisture content of the wood follows. But it’s not just the moisture content that’s affected. Wood expands as the moisture content rises, and shrinks as the level of moisture falls. This Is Carpentry explains this relationship as wood’s Equilibrium Moisture Content or EMC.

Typically, when wood loses moisture, it shrinks, mostly losing volume from its width, not the length. To counteract any shrinkage, plywood is made from layers of veneer glued together, perpendicularly alternating the grain direction from one layer to the next. For this reason, the shrinkage for the width and length of a single plywood panel is usually less than 1 percent. 

But this is not the case for all pieces of solid wood, like woods used for woodworking. Radial shrinkage in solid pieces of wood varies greatly, ranging from 2 percent to 8 percent, with most woods shrinking somewhere between 3 and 5 percent. However, it’s important to keep in mind that tangential shrinkage can climb as high as 12 or even 15 percent for some wood species.

Another factor to keep in mind? Plywood, which offers low shrink rates, is far more affordable than many other types of wood. In 2022, the price of a 4’x8’ sheet of plywood that’s ½-inch thick will start at price somewhere around $15. But high-quality woods used by many woodworkers can soar far higher than the average sheet of plywood. For example? Sandalwood costs $100 per pound or more, and Brazilian rosewood sells for more than $300 per pound. With such a high cost for materials, there’s no room for error because of shrinking wood.

For this reason, woodworkers need to have a full understanding of the moisture content of each piece of wood before beginning work.

How Kett Can Help

Woodworkers who depend on precision, use Kett's best-in-class instruments to obtain accurate moisture content readings in the field and on-site. 

For example, Kett’s HM530 Non-Destructive Wood Moisture Tester is ideal to gain exact readings of moisture levels in less than 3 seconds without the use of damaging pins. The HM530 uses a high-density coil and high-frequency capacitance, along with two aluminum plates to test samples. With pre-determined gravity settings for a range of wood types, the HM530 provides moisture values by converting dielectric constants into moisture values. 

The HM530 model even adjusts for thickness and temperature. Applications include plywood, particle boards, and fiberboards, but this instrument also works well for hard and soft woods, as well as kiln-dried woods, and even rare and fine woods. Tests are easy to repeat, just lifting the unit and placing it back on the surface of the wood for precise readings every time. 

Your Partner in Woodworking

At Kett, we’re committed to providing exceptional, accurate instruments for those who are at the top of their field, including woodworkers valuing lasting craftsmanship and precise construction above all else. 

For decades, we’ve fine-tuned our offerings to ensure that our customers have the reliable, durable instruments they need in the field. With instruments that are built to last, we’ll be here for your next woodworking project, and for all your projects decades into the future, to ensure each piece you create stands the test of time.

To learn more about how our experts can help, reach out to our team today. 

Topics: Moisture Meter

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