March 15, 2021

What humidity level should wood be at for carving

The level of moisture in the wood that you use for carving is vital. It can make or break your project. It will affect the quality of your product. I remember the first time I tried to carve out a piece from basswood. I didn’t know that the moisture content in the wood needed to be below or a certain level. Before I knew it, the wood was swelling and cracking. 

I quickly learned that when humidity levels drop and the wood moisture content decreases, the wood also shrinks. Varying humidity levels in the environment and moisture in the wood will determine how the wood expands or shrinks. It is important that you know and understands what moisture levels are acceptable so that you don’t wind up with a messed-up carving—the recommended levels of moisture range between 6 and 12%.

List of things that you may need to use:

Moisture content meter (either pin-type or pinless)

Step By Step Process.

  1. To use the pin-type of meters, here’s what you will need to do:
  2. Stick the pins of the meter into the wood. 
  3. Align the pins with the grain of the wood. 
  4. Turn the meter on. At this point, the electrical current will course through the wood, resisting wood better than it does water.
  5. Take the reading.

Or you can use the pinless meter. 

  1. Place the scanning face of the meter against the wood. Try to choose a large flat surface of the wood. 
  2. Turn the scanner on
  3. Run it along with the wood.
  4. Take the reading

 How Long it will take

Whether you are using a pin-type or pinless, scanning the wood or taking the reading shouldn’t take more than a few seconds. 

Expected Results

You can measure moisture in wood using a meter. This method is often favored because it is fast and easy. The pin-type meter uses electrodes. These are then inserted into the wood. Here’s how this works. Water conducts electricity, but wood doesn’t. When there is a lot of water or moisture in the wood, the resistance to electrical current isn’t as much as when there is no moisture or low levels. 

This boils down to dry wood producing less resistance. The pinless meter doesn’t have electrodes to be inserted into the wood. However, they use an electromagnetic sensor to detect the amount of water that is in the wood. The work is similar way that a scanner works for documents. All you need to do is run the meter over the wood. Just make sure that you run it over a large surface of the wood. These meters are often more accurate.

The great thing about pinless meters is that they do not leave holes in the wood. As such, it is always better to use pinless meters on wood that you would not want to get any holes in, such as expensive artifacts.  Here are some expected figures that you could work with. 

If the in-use location’s humidity is between 19 and 25%, and the EMC is at 5%, then the corresponding EMC needs to be at 5%. If the humidity is between 47 and 52%, the EMC at 9%, then the MC (moisture content) will also be 9%. 

Things to look out for

If you do not want the wood to have pinholes in it, you must use a pinless moisture meter. This will help you determine how much moisture is in the wood. The moisture content will depend on the humidity of the room and what you intend to use the wood for. 

In order to check on the moisture content of wood, you can use a moisture meter. If the wood moisture content is above normal, you will find that your carving may not hold up for long, hence why the MC levels are something that you will need to be on the lookout for. 

If there is too much moisture in the wood, then the wood may shrink. 

If there isn’t enough moisture in the wood, then the wood will expand and this may cause it to buckle or bow, which will harm the carving you are working on. 

Be careful also, not fall for common myths surrounding the wood. Some myths claim that wood will expand when it is hot and contract or shrink when it is cold. 

This is a myth because the moisture in the wood cannot freeze. After all, the chemicals are stuck to the walls of the wood. The outside temperature will not affect the wood or cause it to shrink or expand. 

Before you use wood, you must allow it to acclimate first. Once this is done, its moisture content will be in tandem with the room humidity level, also known as RH. 

Conclusion

The moisture content in a piece of wood can make or break it. While moisture needs to be between 6 and 12%, the value is not so black and white or cut dry. The amount of moisture in wood is the equilibrium moisture content. This refers to the delicate balance of moisture in the air, balancing out with the wood’s moisture. 

The eventual EMC will be a value derived when the wood’s moisture is balanced with the environment’s moisture. You want the wood to find its stable state with its environment. Most furniture and wood carving does well with wood moisture content that is at 9%. But this is before you factor in the moisture content in the environment. 

If your wood has more moisture than you need it to have, you will need to dry it to reach the right levels. This is to prevent your work from sharing, cracking, or warping. Happy carving!

David D. Hughes

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