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Moisture meter

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by Brian Beam, Dec 30, 2011.

  1. Brian Beam

    Brian Beam

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    I am a new turner I have been turning pens for about a year and I now want to get into bowls and other things especially segmented turning. I was wondering if I should be getting a moisture meter and if so which one not trying to break the bank.
    Thanks
     
  2. Greg Keddy

    Greg Keddy

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    Brian,

    You dont NEED a moisture meter, but you may choose one as a the method you use to measure moisture content. Generally speaking though, you may not be so happy with the accuracy from an inexpensive one - I am sure, though, that there are people who may be able to direct you to an inexpensive on that gives satisfactory results.

    I would suggest, instead, to use a digital kitchen scale. You rough out the bowl, weigh it, and then continue weighing it every few weeks or so until the weight stops changing - indicating that the moisture content has stabilized and it is ready for final shaping
     
  3. john lucas

    john lucas AAW Forum Expert

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    I've been turning for 30 years or more and just bought my first moisture meter this year. It's more a matter of wanting a more educated guess at the moisture of wood that I get from dealers.
    For segmented turning I only buy air or kiln dried wood that I know is dry. I let is stabilize in my shop before using it.
    For green wood I either turn it thin and to completion, or rough turn the bowls and let them dry until they stop losing weight, which here in Tenn. takes about 6 months.
    I only bought the moisture meter because Lowes had an incredible sale on them so out of curiosity I purchase it. I still don't use it much but have enjoyed stabbing it into wood and taking a reading. I have no idea how accurate it is. Maybe one of these days I'll do a test and find out.
     
  4. Brian Beam

    Brian Beam

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    What would I have to spend to get a accurate or at least close enough
     
  5. Dick Sowa

    Dick Sowa

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    I agree with John. I do a lot of segmented turning, and occasionally a batch of solid wood vessels. All my successes have been when I let the wood blanks sit in my barn for a year or so. Most of my failures happened when I grabbed a green hunk of log, rough turned it, and discovered some serious cracks the next day.

    Bottom line for me is that measuring moisture is pretty irrelevant. What is important for segmented turning, is that the differing species are acclimatized to the shop, and roughly the same moisture content. Kiln dried dimension lumber and rough sawn boards seem to take at least a few months to do so. But regardless of moisture content, different species have wildly different rates of expansion in different humidity conditions. You need to consider that when you decide on a segmented design.
     
  6. MichaelMouse

    MichaelMouse

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    Lots of misconceptions, even in this thread, about wood and moisture. A meter will give you a frame from a video which continues until the wood joins the ashes in the garden or the other artifacts at the Smithsonian. John says he only buys KD wood. Well, it was once 8 or 9 per cent moisture content, or at least the samples from that run showed an average of 8. In two weeks it's the same as whatever is on the shelf next to it (or the shelf itself), no matter where that may be. Hold it at 44 percent RH, and it'll stay at eight.

    Dick says that different species have "wildly different" rates of expansion. It's a half truth, or maybe a bit less, as the orientation and interval of the annual rings are more important in dimensional change. If you get a meter, you'll find correction factors for various species, but the range is pretty narrow when compared to the basically 100 percent difference between face and quarter grain movement. Along the grain, well that's a really big number.

    Back when we used to calibrate our meters on woods without known factors by cooking them dry and weighing. Greg's method of taking a suspected seasoned piece to the scale, and then a week later, if storage conditions have been stable, lets you know if the wood is at equilibrium. Don't care what the actual number is, because without intervention to dry the air around it or, as we are doing now in our 23 percent house, adding moisture, it's as good as it gets.

    So follow the thousands of years of woodworking and don't build something that relies on stability of a material for its integrity. Store your lumber in nearly the finished dimension, in conditions typical to your region, and allow air access to all sides.

    All of which, and more, is here. http://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/products/publications/several_pubs.php?grouping_id=100&header_id=p Chapter four is excellent.

    On meters, here. http://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/products/publications/specific_pub.php?posting_id=16893&header_id=p
     
  7. Robin Thompson

    Robin Thompson

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    I bought a pin type moisture meter a number of years back and not long afterward went to my local wood supplier. After stabbing a number of boards on their edges, faces and ends I was soon escorted to the door and told simply if I wanted to use a meter, use a pin-less type. Point taken.
     
  8. john lucas

    john lucas AAW Forum Expert

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    Robin Before I bought the pin meter I had done a lot of asking on different forums and talked to several friends who own them. One friend whose opinion I value highly said that he has never seen a pin hole in any of his work due to the moisture meter holes. This guy builds everything from high end cabinets to turnings.
    I probably would not go into a store and poke holes in their wood however. I simply buy it and let it stabilize in my shop. As MM says I orient the wood as best as possible for wood movement. I've had pieces blow up over the years and it was always traced to improper orientation as well as variations in moisture content of the environment.
    A good example was a piece that I had around the house for 2 years. Held up perfectly. It was displayed in a case in a library and blew up after a month. That case I'm sure was a whole lot dryer than my house. A moisture meter would not have solved the problem. Proper wood orientation did solve the problem when I repaired it. The piece is now over 10 years old and has been in lots of areas where the relative humidity changed drastically.
     
  9. Robin Thompson

    Robin Thompson

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    Further to my comment on using a pin type moisture meter, I do not use a meter these days and haven't for many years. Though I am a wood turning newbie, I do make my living as a cabinet maker and realize the importance of using stabilized wood while ensuring it is oriented correctly in a project.
     
  10. Brian Beam

    Brian Beam

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    I appreciate all the input. Here is my question I bought a block to turn off ebay is was sold as "Processed green and completely sealed with Anchorseal" so without a meter what should I do with this wood? How will I know when it is ok to turn Thanks
     
  11. Nate Hawkes

    Nate Hawkes

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    pinless meters

    I almost started my own thread before reading this one. I'd love to hear if anyone has experience with the pinless meters, and how reliable they actually are. I mostly turn green wood, and I don't do a lot of returning, but see the merits of both methods. I've gotten into box turning in the last year or so, and have realized that a moisture meter might be a good investment for me.

    I rough my boxes out to a thick wall and let them equalize for a period of time--several months minimum. I ran out of rough-outs from last year and used some that had only been equalizing for a few months. This might sound immediately like a mistake, but the blanks were air-dry for well over a year, some much more than two years. At any rate, some boxes had a perfect fit when finished, but now are a bit loose or tight depending on the box. None are bad enough to not be sell-able but I'd like to make sure of my moisture content of my rough-outs before finish turning.

    I respect that people have used pin-type meters on turnings, but I'm thinking that would be entirely inappropriate on a potentially delicate box, which may be only 1/2 to 3/4" thick at the thickest before finish-turning anyway. The pins could easily cause a split. Who has used the pinless meters, and which ones? They don't seem to come cheaply.
     
  12. Nate Hawkes

    Nate Hawkes

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    That really depends on what you're intending to turn with the blank--if you are going to make a bowl, and you really want it to be perfectly round, rough it out and re-turn it in several months to a year. The species and thickness of your blank really determines how long it would take to get to moisture equalization--if it is a few inches thick it can take many years to reach what furniture makers would consider dry enough.
     
  13. Brian Beam

    Brian Beam

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    it is a spalted maple block 10'' x 5" so that to me is pretty big.
     
  14. MichaelMouse

    MichaelMouse

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    Missing the point. Wood gains and loses moisture and dimension with the change in RH. You can slow, but not stop it with finishes. Doesn't matter how many years you leave a piece of wood sitting, it's the last few days if thin, weeks if thicker, or months if extremely thick, that determine how much moisture it has.

    That said, there is some benefit to superdrying, in my experience. The wood takes a bit of a "set," and responds less to changes if you do. CAREFUL use of the microwave or low oven temps over longer intervals can do the job. Do it before the final lid fit. Shellac is the most effective way of slowing re-uptake, according to tests in FWW, so a shellac seal is a good place to start.

    The bowl that was perfectly circular won't be after a change in moisture, either, but it's nothing most would notice. One or two percent difference won't make a difference visually. So no matter the meter, or the numbers it displays, the ultimate determinant is the hygrometer reading.
     
  15. odie

    odie

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    Brian.......

    I've been using my Mini Ligno E moisture meter since the 1980's, and I can tell you that it's a nice convenience to have, but it's really not absolutely necessary to own a moisture meter. I also picked up one of those cheap moisture meters that John Lucas got when they had that terrific ten dollar sale at Lowe's.......just as a "back up" and method of cross-referencing the accuracy of the Mini Ligno E.

    It's nice to get an initial metered reading, because that gives you a reference point on what to expect for the seasoning process.

    What a turner really needs is a scale with which he can accurately determine when "stabilization" occurs through monthly weighings. When the weight stabilizes, so does the moisture content. Do some searches......you can get a nice digital scale delivered to your door for around twenty bucks.

    ooc

    Just did a quick search and came up with this one, with free shipping:

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Saga-New-22...all_Kitchen_Appliances_US&hash=item256afe3d7b
     

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    Last edited: Jan 1, 2012
  16. Brian Beam

    Brian Beam

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    Thanks odie for the info how accurate did you find the cheap meter from lowes. I will get one of those scales. The pic you showed me of the bowl on the scale what do you have a finish of some sort on the bowl?
     
  17. odie

    odie

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    You are welcome, Brian......

    I have only used the cheapie moisture meter a couple of times, and that was to check to see if the reading was the same as the Mini Ligno E........So far, so good! The readings of both moisture meters are very close to the same.

    The photo of the bowl on the scale is probably about 5 years old. If I remember correctly, the photo showed a bowl that just happened to be sitting there when I wanted to take the picture......really didn't have anything to do with a correct use of the scale in actual use. Normally, I remove the bowl from the waste block prior to applying a finish, but it does look like that one has some finish on it. Only bowls that are roughed and anchorsealed would represent a correct depiction of actual use of the scale during the seasoning process.

    ooc
     

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