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The most common problems caused by moisture in wood are finishes that don’t stick, joinery that breaks apart, and boards that take on new and unwanted shapes after milling. The solution to all these problems is to use wood that has been dried to the right moisture content, between 8% and 12%. And the easiest way to determine moisture content is to use a moisture meter.
Moisture meters use either pins or an electromagnetic plate (pinless) to measure moisture. Some pin-style meters take deep readings with hammer probes; others take readings from 5/8 in. or less. Both styles leave marks. Pinless meters leave no marks but require the wood surface to be smooth; they detect moisture down to about 5/8 in. I looked at a dozen meters priced from $60 to $350 and was surprised to find that their overall accuracy is quite good.
The J-Lite is a meter anyone could learn to use in five minutes. It provides a simple LED readout in whole numbers, and charts correct for temperature and species. The instructions are easy to follow. A hammer probe comes as an accessory.
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