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Electromagnetic Wave Technology Use in Moisture Meters

How Does a Moisture Meter Work?

Wagner Meters uses an advanced electromagnetic wave technology in their hand-held moisture meters. This proven technology allows the user to quickly and accurately measure the moisture content (MC) of wood without the time-consuming effort of driving pins into the wood. The meters from Wagner Meters provide instant readings, scanning many board feet in seconds. Electromagnetic radio waves are sent into the wood without leaving any holes.

What Is IntelliSense™ Technology?

Wagner moisture meters, featuring IntelliSense™ technology, go beyond the surface conditions for accurate measurements of moisture conditions IN the wood. Most pinless meters are unable to distinguish between the surface or ambient conditions on the surface of the wood, and the real moisture picture in the wood. Pin-type meters may be able to bypass the surface conditions, but they also damage the surface of the wood each time you take a reading. Air humidity, condensation, or other ambient conditions can impact many moisture meters and give inaccurate readings that cost you money.

Pin-Type Meters vs. Electromagnetic Wave – Why Do They Read Different?

Pin-type moisture meters work on a resistance principle that basically measures the flow of electricity through a substance. This method is subject to many environmental variables that can dramatically affect moisture meter readings such as chemicals in the water trapped within the wood and the temperature of the wood. Most pin-type meter readings must be corrected for any difference in temperature above or below 70 degrees F.

Wagner Meters’ hand-held moisture meters are virtually unaffected by surface moisture and temperature.

Safe to Use

Moisture meters by Wagner Meters produce less electromagnetic radiation than standard house wiring. In addition, Wagner Meters have tested and certified their meters to comply with FCC and CE regulations.



ASTM 4442-92 Oven Dry – this is the standard to which all wood moisture meters are compared for accuracy.

A moisture meter from Wagner Meters is as accurate, or more accurate than any moisture meter that is on the market.

This can be verified by several university meter studies which are available upon request.

Studies which may refer to another model, relate to all of our wood moisture meters because they have the same circuitry, technology, and accuracy.

Wagner Meters Usage Tips

Be sure to press down firmly on the center of the moisture meter with approximately 3 pounds of pressure to ensure good sensor plate contact with the wood surface. This is especially important on rough-sawn lumber. Do not take readings with the meter where there is a noticeable defect or knot in the lumber.

If there is visible surface moisture or water, wipe off any excess, and let the surface of the wood dry-out for a couple of minutes. Next, use the moisture meter to take the reading. If possible, turn the board over and use the meter to measure the other side. If the thickness of the piece is greater than 1 1/2 inches, it is a good idea to use the meter to take measurements on both sides.

Ensure that there is nothing (especially your hand or metal) under the material you are measuring. In order to take a valid measurement, the meter’s sensing area must be completely covered with the wood you are measuring. If the meter’s sensing area is not completely covered, your MC reading may be lower.

Wood Temperature or Surface Moisture

Moisture meters by Wagner Meters are virtually unaffected by surface moisture or temperature.

Standing water or visible water on the board can affect the reading. Visible water should be wiped off.

NOTE: If water is allowed to soak into the wood, it will naturally show higher MC. If a piece of wood is quite rough, it will soak up the water quite readily, affecting the readings for all moisture meters.


Wagner Meters’ hand-held moisture meters are designed for compact convenience. They are not easily damaged, but they can be damaged by being dropped or slammed down on hard surfaces, as can any moisture meter. For large volumes of wood, an in-line moisture measurement system should be used.

Verifying Calibration

Wagner Meters calibrates their moisture meters at the factory. With proper care, the meters stay in calibration. In the event that the moisture meter has been dropped, or you suspect for any reason that the meter is out of calibration, perform a calibration verification test. If you have an Orion®moisture meter, it can be calibrated on the spot so long as the included On-Demand Calibrator is available. Anytime that the meter is not reading correctly on the On-Demand Calibrator, simply adjust the calibration according to the Orion meters manual. If you have a legacy meter and cannot do field calibrations, a calibration verification block can be purchased online. If the meter is not reading correctly on the calibration block, it should be sent to the factory for calibration.


Sensing Area

Narrowest Measurement

Orion moisture meters can measure wood that is within their sensor width of 1 1/2 inches.

Depth of Measurement

The Orion 910 only reads from .25 to .50 and the Orion 920 reads from .75 up to 1.5 inches. The Orion 930, 940, and 950 read dual depth for wood thicknesses from .25 (6mm) to .50 (13mm) in ¼” mode and .75 inches (19mm) up to 1.5 inches (38mm) in ¾” mode. If you wish to measure wood pieces with thicknesses less than .75 inches (19mm) in ¾” mode, the meter will underestimate the actual moisture content. Thicknesses that are slightly thinner (example: .625 inches (15.9mm)) will not be underestimated substantially, but the thinner the piece becomes, the more the measurement will be underestimated. For pieces thinner than .50 inches (12.7mm), it is recommended that you use the ¼” mode.

Correct MC

The correct MC varies from region to region and indoor or outdoor use. Refer to local builders or associations for the appropriate range in your area. If the wood is to be glued and is too dry, it won’t bond; if too wet, it won’t hold.

Resources for determining the proper MC:

  • University Forestry Departments

  • Industry Associations


Forest Products Research Laboratory in Madison, WI, (608) 231-9200

Frozen Wood

On frozen wood with up to 15% MC, accurate measurements can be obtained. For frozen wood with more than 15% MC, contact technical support for help.

Wet pockets and gradients continually equalize as moisture passes from fiber to fiber and to surrounding humidity levels.

Moisture meters measure the average of the area scanned. Meters can be held in one place or slid along the length of the wood. Most moisture meters from Wagner Meters are unaffected by the grain of the wood.

Specific Gravity References

First refer to the handbook that comes with the moisture meter or the CD that was included with meters purchased after January 15, 2004. If unable to find the specific gravity (SG) in those documents, click here.

Measuring Non-Solid Wood

Wagner Meters has developed meter correction factors for the following non-solid woods. It is available from technical services. This gives a relative reading because of the glues and resins.

  • Plywood – SYP, CDX, Douglas Fir

  • OSB – SYP, CDX, Douglas Fir


  • Engineered – has layers of wood like plywood

  • Laminate – has very fine fibers or dust particles which are held together by glues and resins with a picture on top

Wood Treatment Notes

CCA (1% CCA, 99% water)

  • Copper – Basis for killing insects

  • Chromium – Helps copper travel & permeate wood cells

  • Arsenic – Gels copper into wood so it will not leach out


ACQ Environmentally safer than CCA

  • Copper- Basis for killing insects

  • Ammoniacal – Ammonia/salt based – Helps copper travel and permeate wood cells

  • Quaternary – Gels copper into wood so it will not leach out


Both CCA & ACQ will cause readings on the meter to be higher.

The process for treating wood is: Soak wood in pressure chambers and then use a vacuum to pull out excess fluid. MC is 30 – 40% after treatment. The wood is then put on drip pads for 2 – 3 days and then kiln dried to their MC specification.


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