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Accurate moisture measurement is essential in fine carpentry.

Published 2022-08-17

Accurate moisture measurement is essential in fine carpentry.

Alexander Wikström

For cabinetmaker Alexander Wikström, the right moisture content in wood is crucial. Before Alexander starts processing wood material, he checks that it has reached its target moisture content. To do this, the carpenter uses the handy and easy-to-use testo 616 moisture meter.

In his own company Wikström Interiör & Snickeri, Alexander builds furniture and other products not only in MDF and chipboard but also in solid wood. Wood is not just a job but a great passion for Alexander. According to him, you are never really fully educated. There are always new techniques to learn, new exotic woods to get acquainted with and thus challenge yourself to make a truly advanced piece of furniture.

Who are your customers?
– It’s mostly private individuals who turn to me, but a few companies also get in touch and want, for example, conference tables and customized interior design details,” says Alexander.

Why is it important to measure moisture content?
– It is extremely important that the wood has reached its target moisture content before further processing. This is because wood is a living material that strives to reach equilibrium with the prevailing humidity every day. At about 40 % relative humidity, the wood normally reaches the desired equilibrium sought in furniture wood, which is between 7-8 %.

– If you start processing the material too early, it can twist or cup and crack as it shrinks. It would be a shame to spend so many hours on a product that after a few weeks cracks or drops in a joint. It is better to know from the start that the material is completely dry. Wood rarely moves above 30% but as soon as it goes down in moisture content, things start to happen, especially from 13-17%, when it changes the most.

Alexander Wikström

It is extremely important that the wood has reached its target moisture content.

Alexander Wikström

Cabinet makers and sawmill owners

How do you dry wood?
– I use a drying method called steam drying. This means that you are basically bashing the wood and allowing the steam to penetrate the wood and push out water that is deep in the wood. This is a relatively cheap drying method. It would be desirable to be able to vacuum dry, which gives a perfect drying result. But it is an incredibly expensive installation for a small-scale wood processor like me.

In which phase do you take out the moisture meter?
– I measure my material before I put it in my crochet dryer. This is particularly important in the case of oak, which is high in tannic acid. I don’t want to introduce that around the equipment in the dryer, so normally I air dry oak planks for 1.5 years outdoors. Then much of the tannic acid and moisture in the wood has disappeared and I can dry them further in my kiln.

– Even during the drying process, I regularly measure the wood so that it doesn’t dry too quickly. Drying too quickly can cause cracks and the wood can start to behave inappropriately.

How does a measurement work?
– With the testo 616, the measurement is very simple as you only choose to measure hardwood and press the device along the fibers of the wood. testo 616 directly displays the measurement result on the LCD screen.

What moisture levels are appropriate?
– Normally in furniture carpentry, the aim is to have a moisture content of 7-8% in the wood.

What happens if the moisture content is too high or too low?
– If the moisture content is too high, the material is allowed to dry further. It is also not good if it dries too much, you can get a lot of internal cracks in the wood and fibers coming loose.

Wooden board
Alexander Wikström builds furniture and other wood products in MDF, chipboard – and even solid wood. To check the moisture content of wood, he uses a testo 616 which can measure the moisture content of 30-50 mm in the material using a dielectric field.

You measure the moisture content with a testo 616 – are you happy with it?
– I am very happy with the testo 616. It’s reliable and matches well with the equilibrium ratio that the wood should be at when compared to the humidity in my workshop.

– Since I saw very thick planks, it is very nice to be able to measure so deeply (50 mm) without having to make destructive interventions on the material. Often you need to measure far into the wood to find the “worst value” and you definitely don’t want to have to drill or drive measuring pins deep into the wood.

Any feature you miss in the instrument?
– It would be good to be able to set the measurement for specific types of wood.

How does the testo 616 compare to other measuring instruments you have tested?
– Some devices have settings for specific types of wood that all have different densities, otherwise I think it’s perfectly fine at a very good price. I am particularly pleased that I don’t have to make holes in the wood. An instrument for both hobby and professional use!

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Mats Landin


Mats Landin

Area of responsibility: Construction, HVAC, Indoor climate control
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