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Thread: My lumber buying mistake

  1. #16
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    Jun 2014
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    Yeah, i would say a moisture meter is CRITICAL when drying your own wood. Its kind of critical for anything other than kiln dried material from a reputable supplier. I have no idea how you would tell the difference between 15-18% and 10%. Certainly you can feel the difference between 25-30% and 10%, simply by the weight of the board. I have a few hundred dollar pinless meter, and i like how quickly it can check 3/4" depth on boards without leaving marks. I use it on everything now, and its a good business practice. Who is to say the kiln dried sapele didnt sit outside in an open air pole barn for months in the humid summer?

    Good luck with the process. I had fun drying walnut and found it to be pretty rewarding. It would be significantly better/easier with some type of material handler, like a skid steer with forks, and a level concrete pad with a roof over it. As Jim can attest to, manually stickering 500+ bdft in one go is awful work. Especially wet 8/4+. I would do it again. Not for another couple of years, but its worth the effort.

  2. #17
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    Mar 2018
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    Yes, a meter would be good. The advice I saw on WoodWeb back when I started sawing lumber in 2007 was that you had to spend $300-400 to get a quality meter and to have it calibrated regularly if you were using it to sell lumber, so I never pursued it. Since 2008 I've averaged 5-7k board feet of hardwood lumber each year, and have cut down the trees, skidded them with an old tractor to the mill or to a wagon to haul to the mill, milled the logs, pushed each 4/4 board up through the opening in the wall above the mill into the loft, and stickered them up there. Then when customers come I go through the pile with them so they can choose the boards they want. I tell people when the boards were cut, and they can see how they're stickered and decide for themselves how dry they think they are. I kept 8/4 boards on the ground floor on carts, stickered, or leaning against the wall. They were too heavy to push up through the opening into the loft. It's pretty labor intensive, but I have enjoyed it. Once I move next year I won't have the sawmill anymore, nor the woods to cut trees from, but I have had a good time these past years and am now ready to let go of that part of the work and focus on instrument building full time.

  3. #18
    Move to Arizona, wood will dry just fine if parked outside and the packrats have found something else to move into their nest, like coffee cans.

  4. #19
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    There are some decent moisture meters available these days from Wagner and others that are reasonably priced and well spoken about. I've been thinking about getting a new one as I have a really old Wagner (like over 20 years old) that requires consulting an incomplete paper listing to do species adjustments, etc. It's only money...
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  5. #20
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    Somewhere in the Land of Lincoln
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    I recently got this moisture meter and it seems to be decent for the cost. It's a Klein which is a respected name in electrical tools. For $40 it seemed worth a chance.

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

  6. #21
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
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    Central New Jersey
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ronald Blue View Post
    I recently got this moisture meter and it seems to be decent for the cost. It's a Klein which is a respected name in electrical tools. For $40 it seemed worth a chance.

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1
    That does look like a nice one. Might be time to upgrade my old pin-style detector.

  7. #22
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    WNY
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    Moisture meters are great when you are buying wood. The OP's original post points that out. At home they can be handy but aren't necessary. All you need to do is cut a piece of wood out of a board, weigh it, put it into the oven at 220F until the weight remains constant. The difference from wet to oven dry divided by the oven dry weight is the MC. This value will be average MC for that sample. A moisture meter will read some value near the surface or at some distance below the surface but almost never the average.

    John

  8. #23
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    Zach, if you are selling 5,000+ bdft a year, get a moisture meter.

  9. #24
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    I was selling that much for years, but I'm done now. A lot of it was sold pretty much fresh off the mill, or only a little bit air dried. I told customers they would get the best selection buying it green, or if they waited for it to dry someone else might come and buy the nice pieces, and they made up their own minds what they wanted to do. I didn't have room to dry it all before selling. If I claimed my wood was at a certain moisture content and then a customer claimed it wasn't I'd have a problem, but I just said it was fresh cut, or dryish, or as air dried as it gets in the building, or whatever the situation was. Sometimes customers would bring their own meter, and that was fine with me.

  10. #25
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    For the OP, your maple should be dry in 4 - 6 months if stored in a 70 degree environment. I would suggest stickered with no fans for the first 45 - 60 days in order to allow the surface to slowly dry. After that a few box fans 3-4' away from the stack on low should be ok. You really don't want a high rate of air flow through stacks of green lumber when you have it stacked in a house at 50% RH, give or take.

    For general knowledge, lumber drying rates are related to species and thickness. As several others have stated, the "1 year per inch" rule is an old wives tale. It does apply to slow drying species such as white oak, but is incredibly inaccuract for fast drying species such as pine and poplar, or even intermediate drying rate species such as maple, cherry and walnut.

    Regarding the use of a moisture meter, moisture inside of lumber is stored in two different places. Free water is that which is inside the wood cells, and bound water is that which is inside the actual walls of the cell. Think of an egg - the yolk and egg white represent free water, but any moisture contained within the egg shell is bound water.

    As lumber dries, it loses the free water first, until it has dried from green down to around 31% MC, which is the fiber saturation rate of wood. As the lumber dries below 31% it starts losing both free water as well as bound water, and it is only at this point that moisture meters *may* provide an accurate reading.

    The price (and quality) of moisture meters is directly related to a few factors, including the depth that the meter will read into the lumber, and if it is sophisticated enough to have corrections for species and temperature. Higher quality meters provide more accurate readings.

    One thing to be aware of is that most inexpensive pinless meters will only read 1/8" to 1/4" deep into the lumber. This is not to your advantage when measuring the MC of 8/4 lumber, or lumber that is somewhat freshly sawn. The reason why is that lumber dries from the outside in, and within a few weeks a 4/4 board may measure 15% MC on the shell, but still be 40%MC or higher in the core.

    So, for the OP, with his green material, at this point the use of a moisture meter may provide drastically misleading results.

    Regarding sticker thickness, most kilns use a 3/4" thick sticker. 1" stickers are commonly found in the air drying world because they are frequently made from edgings off of 4/4 lumber. Using 1" stickers in a kiln requires around 30% more fan CFM in order to provide the correct FPM though the stacks on a fully loaded kiln charge.

    For those interested in learning more, this sticky, written by myself and other lumber drying professionals, has a lot of relevant information regarding drying lumber.

    https://sawmillcreek.org/showthread....-drying-lumber
    Last edited by Scott T Smith; 11-19-2021 at 4:18 PM.

  11. #26
    I think you have to be realistic. Buying maple for $1.60 a BF from an auction is cheap, unless it's 1 grade above scrap. Ask how long ago it was cut. Air dried can be 6 days, 6 weeks, or 6 months.

    Put it up for 3 months and re check the moisture. May not take as long as you think to dry. Good ready to use maple is usually $4 + a BF.

  12. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by Robert London View Post
    I think you have to be realistic. Buying maple for $1.60 a BF from an auction is cheap, unless it's 1 grade above scrap. Ask how long ago it was cut. Air dried can be 6 days, 6 weeks, or 6 months.

    Put it up for 3 months and re check the moisture. May not take as long as you think to dry. Good ready to use maple is usually $4 + a BF.

    I pay $1220/MBF for #1 Common white hard maple (all color graded out and KD of course) and another $0.35/BF for S2S to whatever oversize I spec and straight line ripped one edge. Full packs, but none the less, 1.60 a foot for any Maple, green, does not sound cheap to me.

  13. #28
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    Me either. When I have maple I sell it for $1 a board foot green or partially air dried. I have been cutting mainly ash the last few years since they've been dying, but still cutting some maple, elm, bitternut hickory etc, all for $1 a board foot. Oak and cherry were $1.50, and butternut which I only had about 3-4 times in 14 years.

  14. #29
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    You should be able to get good money on butternut right now if you have it....
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  15. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by Zachary Hoyt View Post
    I paid online, and when I drove out to get the wood I found that while the bundle looked good on the outside it was moldy on the inside and about as wet as if it had just come off the mill.
    If the lumber has not been degraded badly by your initial forced drying you will probably end up with useable paint grade material. Maple is not very tolerant of the conditions you describe and will likely have at best some blue or gray sticker stains. Lower your expectations and you won't be disappointed.

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