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Moisture Content


Kev
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Seem's I've been have a lot of conversations on this topic lately so, wanted to take a minute and make sure that information was here.

Typically, the question is "what moisture content should I be looking for before using lumber in my shop?"  It's an awesome question!  There is no "magic" answer as it completely depends on the relative humidity where you live and your meter.  In my shop in Washington, I was looking for 11% on my meter.  In my shop in Montana, I'm looking for 8% on my meter.  If you look at all the internet experts, they'll say you're looking for 5% to 7% to which I say BS!  You just can't put that blanket number on the subject for everyone across the planet using hundreds of different meter options on the market.  The only time you should be locked into a specific number is when you know what the number should be on your meter for your shop/area.

For starters, you'll need a moisture meter.  There are numerous types on the market and they're all over the map on the price range.  Ultimately, it doesn't matter what you spend on the meter provided it gives consistent results.  Usually, the less expensive models are the ones with the pins that you have to push into the wood.  This is fine provided those pin holes don't interfere with your final product.  Additionally, it's best to check lumber with these someplace in the middle if possible.  Remember that most moisture escapes out of the ends so, there should be a higher reading in this area.

So, why doesn't the price point of the meter matter?  Because they'll all read just a little differently.  The key is to pick a piece of hard wood lumber that's been in your shop for a while and check the MC (Moisture Content) on that piece.  Then, using the same meter, check the lumber you just brought into the shop (in a similar location) to see where it's at.  If there's a bit of difference, let your new lumber acclimate before milling.  Then, when milling, try to do a rough milling first removing equal amounts from both sides and leave to sit over night ensuring that it's properly sticker'd and stacked.

Is the wood still going to move?  Yep..  But, you've stacked all the cards in your favor and reduced the amount of milling as best you can and ensured that the project you are building will have the least amount of issues down the road.  It's all about doing your due diligence to ensure future owners of your projects aren't coming back to you to fix wood movement issues.  There's lots more that goes into wood movement on projects but, that's a subject for a different post..

Sorry for the long post!

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Long post but well explained! So consistently in the environment and consistency with the tool? 

Most of us are not as fortunate as some, to has an environmentally controlled shop. Can we reasonably expect that a piece assembled in our unconditioned shop to remain stable once inside the a/c controlled home? Probably an unfair question to ask? 

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11 minutes ago, Coop said:

Long post but well explained! So consistently in the environment and consistency with the tool? 

Most of us are not as fortunate as some, to has an environmentally controlled shop. Can we reasonably expect that a piece assembled in our unconditioned shop to remain stable once inside the a/c controlled home? Probably an unfair question to ask? 

Not at all, it's completely fair and appropriate!

The honest answer is no.  In a perfect world, your shop and the final destination of the piece would be the same or similar humidity level.  We all have to work with what we have though and do the best we can do stack those odds in our favor.  It's just not a valid expectation to move a project in the house each day after working it in the shop.

I'd be very curious to see what the MC difference is from those that live in very humid areas.  Take a known chunk of hardwood from your shop and put it in your climate controlled house for a few weeks and recheck the moisture content.  

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5 minutes ago, Coop said:

Darn good idea. I’ll report back in a couple of weeks. Maybe others will do the same? 

I would think that a good finish on a piece would mitigate some of the difference? 

Absolutely but, it only slows the process down.  Regardless, I think that's still a factor when talking with prospective owners of our work.  

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