Lignomat, Electrophysics and Wagner seem to be three highly regarded brands in the US, but all seem to be up around $200 plus. There's lots of professional users, and lots of good info on the topic on Woodweb: http://www.woodweb.com/
As ever you can buy an eastern made meter for $30 - $50 depending on the deal you get, and people speak of getting good results with these too.
I can't make a recommendation as i've no experience yet of it in use, but i recently bought a Mini Ligno DX/C by Lignomat at just under $200 from Highland Woodworking - i paid the extra because it's the kind of thing i wanted to buy once and forget about, and i've had very mixed experience with buying cheap stuff over the years. It's certainly a very nicely made unit, it's German, and it has a well designed, strong and compact looking external housing.
I looked mostly at pin type meters. The Mini Ligno DX/C has a socket for an accessory accessory hammer in remote probe on a cable, and reads up to around 60% - both may be useful factors if you were ever thinking of going kiln drying - most of the cheaper units as far as i can remember read up only to around 20%. Ligno have a Mini Ligno with no probe socket and a narrower reading range which is cheaper.
As best i could bottom the issue the non contact type meters are (a) typically more expensive, and (b) good for scanning larger areas in a hurry; but they have limits such as depth of penetration and the possibility of being thrown out by surface contamination.
I more or less concluded that they were not strictly speaking alternatives, more that their abilities overlap but both types have unique abilities too. Lignomat i seem to remember had a deal going a few months ago where you could buy both together for a discount, but i don't know if this is still on.
Don't take this as gospel, it's just my take on what seemed to be coming out when i read around…
Like most things in woodworking, it depends on what you intend to use it for. It's been years since I've purchased wood in person at a mill but, if your intent is to check their lumber, you may avoid being sent down the road by showing up with a Delmhorst or something equivalent. Good ones aren't cheap but, if you take care of them, they're a once in a life-time purchase.
glad to hear, i know guys that spent 2-3 hundred.
some tech things drop in price and incr. in acuracy.
but ive had this in three wood shops now and every board we checked
was within 2%. usually most tools that are cheap arent worth owning unless
its a one time thing. ie you have to take 1/16 to 1/4 off 2 door bottoms
you can buy $25 elec. planner and toss it when done. but any tool that will
be used more than a few times should go quality.
and if its a circ. saw. drill, etc that will be used everyday i would always buy the best
you can afford. this is an expensive hoby and a hundred here and there helps.
I've been using the $20 moisture meter for a couple weeks now and it works perfectly. I had a buddy come over with a nice one and mine was just as accurate. I would recommend these if you want an affordable moisture meter.
I've got the Wagner L609. I wanted one that didn't have pins and I like it the only thing is it's calibrated for Douglas Fir. So when you measure other species you have to take the reading and look up that wood in a table. Which in and of itself is not hard but you really have to know what the wood is, there's 4 types of birch, 8 hickory, 8 red oak, 7 white oak, 16 pine (not including fir), etc. So which red oak is that? I doeknow…
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