Woods tend to age at different rates. They can also dry at different rates. If you’ve managed to get your hands on some green wood that you want to use for woodworking, then you’ll need to know if it has seasoned enough to be useful. Unlike other components of woodworking, there are no visual aids that can help you know if your wood is dry enough.
The best way to tell if your wood is seasoned enough for woodworking is to use a moisture meter.
How Does a Moisture Meter Work?
If you need to measure the moisture of your wood directly, then a moisture meter will give you an accurate rating of dryness. There are two general types of moisture meters that are available today: pin-type meters and pinless meters.
Pin-type meters are not always suitable for woodworking. This is because they require you to drive a set of pins into the wood itself, which can alter the integrity of your working pieces. Yet if you have a moisture pocket in your green wood that you need to measure, a pin-type moisture meter will be your best friend.
Pinless meters can scan large areas of wood very quickly. You don’t have to worry about the pins damaging your wood. You just press the scanning plate flat, activate the meter, and you get a reading in a couple of seconds. You can then repeat this process all over that piece of wood without damaging.
Pinless meters won’t work on a surface that isn’t flat, so if your wood is rounded, it isn’t going to give you a reading. Pinless moisture meters also have an affixed depth assigned to them, so if you try to measure a thicker piece of wood, you may not receive an accurate reading.
Delmhorst Instrument Company has a fantastic article that lets you know which kind of moisture meter is right for you.
Knowing Your Oven Dry Weight for Comparison
Once you have the right tool, you’re ready to figure out what the right seasoning level for your wood happens to be. You can do this by using your oven and following these steps.
- Weigh a sample of your wood. Record this as your initial weight.
- Set your oven to 217 degrees. Set it at 215 degrees if you are unable to set singular degrees on your oven.
- Dry out your sample of wood for 4 hours. Weigh the wood again and record the weight.
- Repeat the process. You need to keep drying out the wood until you receive the same weight repetitively over multiple drying sessions.
- Then calculate the ideal moisture content with this formula provided by StackExchange: (initial weight – oven dry weight) / oven dry weight * 100
You don’t necessarily need to have your wood completely seasoned in order to get your woodworking project completed. You’re not throwing this wood into a cast iron stove to heat your home, after all. In taking these steps, you’ll be able to know if your wood is ready to be worked.