For professional woodworkers, there's rarely a bigger concern than unmanaged moisture levels. Wood that is too wet or too dry, even by a small percentage, is prone to movement and shrinking.
No matter how high-grade the lumber you use or how good your woodworking equipment is, moisture alone can determine whether lumber is usable or not.
That's why the pros know that moisture meters are an essential tool to have. Using these devices, woodworkers can determine whether the wood they're working with is suitable at each step of a woodworking project. Without the use of a quality moisture meter, a woodworker can only estimate moisture level — an inadequate method when you need to guarantee a quality final product. The problems that incorrect moisture levels introduce into your workflow mean that you can't depend on "eyeballing it."
Problems Caused by Unacceptable Moisture Levels in Wood
Failing to monitor the moisture content in lumber leads to a wide variety of issues that negatively impact the final product. If wood is too wet, it may be prone to:
- Shrinking after it's been processed.
- Warping, which is what happens when the wood dries out and causes the finished product to change shape.
- Developing mold or other microorganisms that damage wood and potentially cause health and safety issues.
On the other hand, wood that is too dry can also cause a host of issues. Some things to consider here include:
- Wood that is too dry may swell when installed in an area with higher relative humidity.
- Doors made out of wood that is too dry may swell and stick within their frame.
- Wood that suddenly dries out can split, which, in addition to being aesthetically displeasing, may cause safety issues.
- Over-drying wood can make it brittle and cause it to lose structural integrity.
The pros know they need reliable moisture meters to do the job right and avoid these problems with the final product. Choosing the right one for your industry and applications is an important consideration. Is a pin-type meter right for your job, or would a pinless one be better? This article is the first in a series highlighting some new moisture meters from Delmhorst Instrument Co. and their use cases.
How Moisture Meters Check Moisture Content
Before you learn about some of those models, here's a quick rundown of how the two types of moisture meters work. Whichever type you choose, they both let you know whether a given piece of lumber is too wet or too dry.
Moisture meters use either a small electrical current or an electromagnetic sensor to get a reliable reading of the moisture content in lumber. As mentioned above, there are two primary types of moisture meters: pin-type meters (conductivity) and pinless meters (capacitance). Regardless of which model you choose, both effectively measure moisture content at every step of a woodworking project.
The pins in a pin-type moisture meter are inserted directly into the wood. An electrical current then runs between the pins, and the resistance to that current allows the meter to calculate the moisture content of the wood.
Pinless meters have a sensor that's placed on the wood's surface. An electromagnetic wave is then used to assess the moisture level.
What is considered an acceptable or target moisture level depends on a range of factors, including how the final product will be used and in which type of climate. Professional woodworkers will know the equilibrium moisture content (EMC) for where they are working and where the final product will end up.
Introducing the Delmhorst Navigator™ JX-20 and JX-30 Moisture Meters
At the IWF (International Woodworking Fair) in August 2022, Delmhorst introduced two exciting moisture meters in the new Navigator™ family, the JX-20 and JX-30. These models bring lumber, woodworking, and flooring professionals and inspectors two more professional-grade, accurate, and versatile tools to combat moisture issues.
Thanks to their new designs, both the JX-20 and JX-30 are incredibly intuitive and simple to use. Their large, dashboard-like display is backlit, which helps in the uneven lighting conditions that woodworkers often face. Contrast and brightness can be adjusted to suit your needs.
While previous models required more of a learning curve, the JX-20 and JX-30 are easier to navigate. They both group together all the features you need as you test wood moisture content, making everything easy to find and use.
With the JX-20 and JX-30, you can use the probes and electrodes you already have from previous Delmhorst meters. As each industry utilizes specific electrodes, the appropriate ones for your application still need to be used. But if you're upgrading from an older meter and still have electrodes or probes in good working order, the JX-20 and JX-30 can use them.
Both the JX-20 and JX-30 have essential features for accuracy and convenience, including:
- Seventy-four wood species included.
- Wood temperature correction (°F/°C).
- Alarm set point that alerts the user to a pre-selected moisture content level.
- Internal calibration check.
- "Low battery" warning with audio.
- An auto-off timer that can be set to 1 minute, 4 minutes, or 10 minutes.
The JX-30 is compatible with the Delmhorst EDGE™ app with access to 123 additional wood species on top of the standard 74, as well as customizable settings. One of the great features of the EDGE™ app is the ability to share information from any location. Statistical data collected with the meter can be sent to an email or spreadsheet for easy recordkeeping.
Up Next: The Navigator™ BDX-20 and BDX-30
In the next article in this series, you'll be introduced to the Delmhorst Navigator™ BDX-20 and BDX-30 models. We'll go over their unique features and some use cases for both of these reliable and high-quality models. In the meantime, feel free to check out the detailed specs on the Navigator™ JX-20 and JX-30 models. And any time you have questions about moisture meters, reach out to Delmhorst Instrument Co. Our team of experts is always ready to help you find the right moisture meter for your industry and application.