TurningBlanks.Net Store Newsletter, February 2013
Sunday , 30 November 2014 , 10 : 19 AM
TurningBlanks.Net Store Newsletter
February 2013 Edition
Focus on Wood - Box Elder

Flat Sawn

Quarter Sawn

End Grain

General Information:

Box elder is very similar in appearance to maple.  Sapwood and heartwood are both typically a bright white to slight tan color, and commonly display areas of light curly figure.  This wood is famous for producing vivid red colors on occasion as well.  When attacked by box elder beetles, ambrosia beetles, or fungal infections, the tree produces this color.  This wood is commonly sold under the name of "flame box elder" when available.

Common Name(s):

Box elder, boxelder maple, Manitoba maple, ash-leafed maple, flame box elder, swamp ash


34 lb/ft3  - Somewhat dense


720 lbft - Moderately soft

Specific Gravity:


Turning Properties:

As this wood is somewhat soft, it has a tendency to tear out when turning across end grain and in areas with figured wood.

Drying Properties:

Dries easily, with little tendency to warp or crack during drying.

Sanding Properties:

Sands very well. For removing tool marks, 120 grit sandpaper is recommended. Will sand to a medium-high luster, usually requiring grits no higher than 600 to achieve satisfactory results. Remember to check the surface of the wood carefully for scratches and defects when switching to a higher grit sandpaper. Any finely-grained wood such as cucumbertree will yield a smoother surface in the end if care is taken to remove all scratches left from prior stages of sanding. It is very important to wipe any sanding dust from the wood's surface before changing grits of sandpaper.

Finishing Properties:

Readily accepts nearly any type of finish or stain.


Box elder is known to cause skin, sinus and respiratory irritations in certain persons.  Effects are typically light to moderate in persons who are affected.

Turning Tutorials - Understanding Moisture Content in Wood, Part 2

Understanding Moisture Content in Wood, Part 2

In last month's newsletter, we reviewed the importance of understanding moisture content in wood and how that moisture content affects woodworkers.  This month, we are following up to this initial tutorial to describe to you the methods which can be used for determining the moisture content in a piece of wood.

There are a few things to keep in mind before we begin.  Wood will only become as dry as the environment in which it is placed will allow.  In covered areas outdoors, or in a non-climate controlled shop, the wood will usually only dry to about 14% - 18% moisture content.  In a climate controlled home or shop, the wood will dry to a lower moisture content, perhaps 6% to 8%.  In order to properly dry a piece of wood, it needs to be placed within an environment which will be similar to the one in which it will eventually be placed after finishing.  This will reduce the likelihood that the piece will deform or check later down the road.

Determining Approximate Moisture Content by Weight -

As a piece of wood dries, it will slowly lose weight as water is removed.  Once a wood is no longer able to dry further, it will stop losing weight, or the weight will fluctuate up and down slightly.  This fact is useful in determining if a piece of wood has completed the drying process and is ready for use.  To check the dryness of a piece, use an accurate scale capable of measurements in ounces or grams (we prefer digital scales).  Check the weight of the piece of wood every 2-3 days.  Once the weight stabilizes for a period of at least 2 weeks, the wood should be sufficiently dry for final use.  You may also notice the weight increasing or decreasing slightly over this time period, as humidity and temperature levels fluctuate and cause the moisture content in the wood to increase or decrease.

Determining Exact Moisture Content by Weight -

In order to be more precise when determining moisture content by weight, you will need to use an oven-dried sample block cut from the same piece of lumber for comparison.  Here's a step-by-step breakdown of the entire process:

  1. Cut a small sample block (perhaps a 1" cube") from the same piece of wood for which the moisture content will be determined, and measure its weight.  Be as accurate as possible (to within at least 1/10th ounce or gram), as this weight is critical for use in determining the correct moisture content.
  2. In an oven, dry this sample block at approximately 210-220 degrees Fahrenheit.  Remove and weigh the block periodically, until it no longer loses any weight.  Record this final weight, which is called "oven dry" weight.
  3. Now, use these two recorded weights to determine the moisture content of the wood using the following equation:
     Moisture Content (MC) = ((Initial Weight - Oven Dry Weight) x 100)  /  Oven Dry Weight

And there you have it...an accurate moisture content measurement.  This measurement can also be used in order to determine what weight your larger block should weigh at any given moisture content.  This will allow you to pre-determine the moisture content you wish to have, then know how much the wood will weigh when it reaches the needed degree of dryness.  To determine the final necessary weight after dry, use the following equation:
Final Weight =  (Initial Weight x (100 + Final Moisture Content)) / (100 + Initial Moisture Content)


Determining Moisture Content Using Moisture Meters -

Moisture meters make determining moisture content a fairly simple process, using electrical current to calculate moisture content.  As the meter applies an electrical current to the wood, it reads the electrical resistance or the dielectric properties that the wood provides.  This value is then converted by the meter and shown as a readable moisture content number. Let's take a look at the process, step-by-step:

  1. Insert probes of meter into wood, making sure that probes reach into the center of the lumber's thickness.
  2. Use meter to check moisture content of lumber.
  3. Adjust this reading to compensate for the temperature and species of the wood being checked.  This is typically done using charts provided by the meter's manufacturer.

And that's it!  Moisture meters make measuring moisture content much easier.  The process of choosing and buying a moisture meter, however, is much more complex.  Originally, we had planned to include more detailed information concerning meters in this month's tutorials, but felt that the amount of information was a bit too much to include with what we had for you so far this month.  We'll go into full detail next month, explaining the types of moisture meters available, and what options to look for or avoid when making your decision to purchase.


All archived monthly newsletters do not include the following:

  • Business updates
  • Recently added woods and schedule of upcoming woods
  • Photo of the month contest results
  • Discounts and upcoming sales information

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