Electrophysics Mt90

relative sense of how wet the wood is to start and how fast its drying. Turners and carvers who work with green wood may benefit from a meter with an extended range.

At the low end of the MC scale, pin meters are accurate down to 7 percent and pinless, down to 5 percent. Readings below these levels are unreliable because there is just too little water in the wood.

Displays

Both types of meters come in one of four types of displays (Photo 4): analog, LED (light emitting diode), digital LED and digital LCD (liquid crystal display). We like the digital LED and digital LCD best. Analog displays are inconvenient.

A "hold" feature on the display is nice to have. Sometimes readings have to be taken in an awkward position or in poor light where it's difficult to read the display. Being able to hold the reading until you can actually see the display can be quite handy.

Some of the more expensive meters give MC readings with a resolution of 1/10 percent. The less expensive meters generally read out larger increments. But, that may be all you need for a go/no-go decision on your wood.

Built-in Species and Temperature Correction We think that built-in species correction is a feature you can live without unless you typically need to take readings on a large quantity of wood. A chart can be a bit of a hassle, but it's no big deal if you're dealing with just a few boards. Even with built-in correction, you may have to use a chart to find the right setting.

Carrying Cases

Sensor pads and pins need protection when they're being carried around. That's why we liked Delmhorst's toolbox type of carrying case best. It also gives you a place to store charts and manuals that need to travel with your meter. Second best are the ballistic nylon pouches on the Wagner MMC210 and 220. Electrophysics and Moisture Register do not come with carrying cases.

Recommendations

The good news is that all of these meters will do a great job for you. But for most of us, there's no need to spend more than $90 for a pin meter or $140 for a pinless. Meters in this price range can tell you all you need to know about the moisture content of wood that's been kiln or air-dried. That's why all of our picks are Best Buys.

Our Best Buys are simply the least expensive pin and pinless meters. If you want built-in convenience features that the low-cost meters don't offer, check the chart for features and prices that best suit your needs. If you dry your own wood, you may want to spend a little more for a meter that reads above 30-percent MC.

Best Buy, Pin Meters

Electrophysics MT90; $69

This no-nonsense meter is simplicity itself. Insert the pins and turn the dial until the LED turns from red to green. At that point the dial points to the moisture content of your wood. This meter is not limited to 1-percent increments but is capable of fractional readings like 6-1/2 percent. The meter comes with complete, full-size charts and a pair of alligator-clip leads to use with external nail probes. Our only complaint is the lack of a carrying case that can hold the meter, manual and charts.

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