Testing wood strength with your phone!

The Smart Thumper app for iPhones can use the phone’s motion sensing to test the strength of wood by recording how much the wood vibrates. It was developed by the Mississippi State University Department of Sustainable Bioproducts.

According to Woodworking Network, it is intended to be a serious tool to make it easier to measure the strength of wood using the built-in capabilities of a smartphone.

“Smart Thumber uses the built-in microphone or accelerometer to detect vibration and estimates the dMOE of lumber and other wood sizes,” according to the instructions that can be downloaded with the app.

There are two basic testing strategies. One uses the motion-sensing capabilities of the phone to tap test the wood. The other method uses the phone’s microphone to measure the sound generated when you tap the end of the wood with a hammer.

The capabilities of the app are both sophisticated and limited at the same time. They are sophisticated in the level of data you can record, save and share by email. But they are limited in that the tool is obviously designed more with construction lumber in mind.

How it works

To test a board, you set it up on a couple of sawhorses according to the instructions provided. Then you measure the board as to width and depth (cross-section) and length and enter that data. You can also enter the board weight.

Because it is set up for lumber, it has built-in parameters starting with 8-foot lengths, but you can select “other” to manually type in any length. You also are supposed to type in a wood species, but the available menu includes only common construction species such as Southern yellow Pine, Douglas-Fir and Spruce-Pine-Fir (SPF).

For vibration tests, you lay the phone in the centre of the board and tap the board with your hand to make it vibrate. For tap tests, you hold the phone off the end of the board and strike the board with a hammer.

Results are both numerical, identifying the frequency and stiffness data, and in colour-coded levels of 1-3. You can save and email all of your testing records, so you can more easily compare samples.

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