We all know how
expensive good quality blades are to buy these days. Imagine a new $100
circular saw blade or a nice set of 15" planer blades being destroyed by a
stray nail or piece of metal buried deep in a piece of recycled
hardwood you picked up from a demolition yard or second hand at a garage
sale. Such foreign objects hiding in your lumber can easily be missed by
the eye, or not seen at all. Search the net and you can find countless
stories of such tragedy on forums that will soon change the way you
protect your woodworking blades.
Of course, the
answer to the problem is to own and use a metal detector. They come in all
shapes and sizes from security guard types, to your floor stand or fixed
models to the long pole seated models you see people on beaches with.
Some of these are a little overkill, and rather expensive for most home or
enthusiast woodworker's needs.
Today we are
going to take a look at a light, portable hand held unit from Wizard
Detectors called the "Lumber Wizard" and see how well it performs in the
common woodworkers workshop!
Before We Begin
Let me just say that I have owned the "little brother" of the Lumber
Wizard for about 12 months now. This smaller unit is called the "Little
Wizard" and is shown to the left. It is a much smaller unit with a
decreased scanning field area, however it did work well in lumber up to 2
inches thick. So why did I buy the larger Lumber Wizard? Primarily because
of its larger scan field and ability to scan deeper into wooden stock.
The Lumber Wizard is basically just a metal detector. It is produced
by Wizard Detectors in the USA, and in comparison with other metal
detectors its size, it is well priced at US$99.95 recommended retail
(although you can often get it cheaper if you shop around online) which
also makes it affordable for the general woodworker. It's a small
investment if it saves you even just 1 or 2 good quality blades from being
destroyed in your lifetime.
There have been
revisions to the initial model, and hence, if you buy new today, the model
number you should receive is the Lumber Wizard III, which offers
improvements over the older designs.
Features and User Opinions
As a metal detector, the Lumber Wizard III will detect
basically all those metallic items you might find buried in your lumber.
You might be saying... well I only ever use new lumber from a quality
lumber yard or supplier. Let me say that I have once before damaged a
blade on lumber bought from a reputable supplier that was supposedly free
of such objects, so don't take anything for granted when it comes to
protecting your blades! Naturally, for recycled lumber users, such a
device is almost a necessity!
So what will
the Lumber Wizard detect?
According to the manufacturer, the Lumber Wizard III
"responds equally well to all types of metal, steel, stainless steel,
zinc, magnesium, and aluminum. Helps locate guns, knives, blades, and any
This is pretty much the spectrum of coverage we would expect for our
woodworking needs. Most commonly you will find screws, nails or staples in
your recycled wood and this is generally what I have found in stock I have
bought for peanuts from garage sales and auctions. While some high quality
woodworking blades will be able to slice through the odd small nail or
staple without too much damage, it is the bigger objects that pose a
problem, and the bigger they are, the more damage they are going to cause
if you happen to run your blade through them, not to mention the risks
involved with flying carbide teeth, sudden blade jams or kickbacks caused as a result! In use, I have managed to clear all my
recycled lumber of foreign metallic objects and have protected my blades
with no incidence of damage since using this item.
Lumber Wizard Dimensions: Length 18”, Width 21/2”, Height 1 1/8” at
sensor, 2” at handle - just imagine an airport security type-wand and you
can envisage the rough size of the Lumber Wizard III, perhaps slightly
smaller. It looks quite similar in shape as well.
It weighs 13 ounces, which is roughly 368 grams, so it is extremely
light and didn't cause any fatigue in the hand, arm or wrist when
scanning over extended periods of time. It's lightweight is especially
handy if you need to use it overhead, for detecting metal in structure
work if you were renovating, as an example... or scanning the kids as they
walk through the door for items they shouldn't be carrying! Just joking...
The unit runs off a single 9 volt square battery, and the manufacturers
claim a quality 9V battery will last 40 hours of operating time. I don't
think I have used it for 40 hours as yet, probably only 7 or 8 in total
(40 hours of usage time is a lot of time scanning!) so I cannot verify
that but I am still on my first 9V battery and they don't cost a lot. I
actually have a rechargeable 9V so its even more cost effective to operate
the Lumber Wizard III. When your battery does start to run out however,
the unit does feature some indicators and warnings (changes to light
flashes and audible sounds in use) to let you know you might soon need to
throw in a new, or freshly charged battery. I'll certainly verify this
when my rechargeable battery runs low at a later date and amend this
review. Let it be known that the vibration function will consume more
battery power and hence decrease battery life when this function is used
Before first use, you need to calibrate the wand, and you may need to
check calibration every month or so to ensure the machine is working well,
particularly if you live in areas that experience large swings in
temperature or humidity as these can affect the LW III's performance. This
takes about 10 seconds and involves making sure the unit is well away from
any metal. You simply turn on the unit and turn the adjustment screw
slowly until the continuous sound just stops. Out of the box, I found my
unit was adjusted very precisely and worked well with no tweaking,
although you should check yours before you use it to make sure it is
operating optimally. The unit uses an automatic tuning transmit/receive
circuit. It is designed to provide a precision detection pattern that
helps eliminate errors or false alarms in use.
Sound and Vibration
When the Lumber Wizard has detected the presence of metal, it emits a
continuous tone sound. There is no volume control, but it should certainly
be audible for most woodworkers. More expensive detectors may have a
varying tone that gets louder or more intense as the wands goes over the
top of the metal object. This is useful for pinpointing the location of
the item easier, however, I found I haven't had any major dramas with the
lack of this feature on the Lumber Wizard. In most cases there is going to
be an entry mark where the foreign metal material has penetrated the wood,
so that provides a pretty good clue as to where the metal is located.
There is a simple on/off push button to turn the sound on or off. If
you have hearing problems or are working in a noisy environment, the
Lumber Wizard has a backup feature that solves that problem. The unit can
be set to vibrate when it detects metal. The vibration is well measured
and not too overpowering, but not too soft that it is difficult to feel.
This feature can also be turned on or off as required. You can use the
tool without sound or vibration turned on. In this instance, a red led
light will illuminate when metal is detected. I recommend having at least
the sound or vibration option switched on as well to ensure you do not
miss that tiny bit of metal buried deep down in the lumber just waiting to
attack your blades! I find I use the sound feature almost exclusively,
except late at night when I'm organizing my lumber for the next day and
want to scan over it while the kids and SWMBO are asleep. The vibration
feature works well in that case, particularly if you have light sleepers
in the house. However, there is one more additional feature... a 3/32"
mono submini plug on the lateral face of the handle allows you to plug in
earphones to hear the sound that way as well! A little bit of extra
thought has gone into this design.
The unit also has a flashing green LED light to indicate the tool is
switched on and ready for action.
As well as my normal use of the detector over the last month or two, I
set up some basic tests to see how well the Lumber Wizard performed. This
involved placing small metallic items under thick pieces of stock,
sandwiching metal between stock, and even burying some small nails and
pins deep into stock with a nail punch.
Naturally, the larger the metal object, the easier it will be to
detect. The Lumber Wizard does have some limitation ranges. It was
difficult to detect a small wire staple buried more than 2 inches in
dense hardwood, however, a standard 8 gauge woodscrew was picked up
relatively easily in my tests. It will detect larger metal objects in
material over 4" deep. Considering that
you can flip your material over and scan both faces (effectively providing
twice the normal scan depth), this gives you probably all the scanning
depth you will need for almost all regular pre-sawn stock dimensions and
thicknesses. So for my basic tests, I found the Lumber Wizard worked quite
acceptably for my needs.
I found it was important to make subsequent scans over areas I had just
removed nails or pins from. This ensures all the material was removed and
that there isn't a second or third, of fourth nail in the same close
vicinity that triggered the initial detection alert. I found passing the
Lumber Wizard about a 1/2" over the surface of a board back and forth in a
slightly overlapping manner produced the best scanning results. You can
even wave the Lumber Wizard very rapidly across the piece and it will
still detect very well although you need to slow down your movement speed
to accurately pinpoint the metal source. Just go a little slower on thicker material and
ensure the Lumber Wizard remains close to the surface. It does have a 6"
wide scanning area so only the outer 6 inches of the tool will scan
effectively, although in practice, the scanning area is more like 7
inches. Surprisingly, scanning is effective right out out to the edges and
tips of the tool. I make it a habit
to scan all sides of 4" or thicker pieces as an added safety precaution,
and in doing so, I have not had a single damaged blade since using the
Lumber Wizard III.
I can honestly say that after taking the step from the Little Wizard
to the Lumber Wizard, I have been able to ensure protection of my blades
in thicker stock, and with less time wasted scanning the material. Using
the Lumber Wizard III is quick and easy and for the sub $100 price tag, it
is worth every dollar in my opinion because I know my blades on the
table saw, band saw, jointer, planer and my router bits and even my drill
bits are now well
protected from those hidden metallic dangers...
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Lumber Wizard Photos
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Reproduction in any form without permission prohibited.
The Lumber Wizard III
Runs off a standard 9V battery
Sound and Vibration can be turned on/off, and the unit
can be fine tuned if necessary.
Led lights will show if power is on, and will illuminate
if metal is detected.
I have edited this photo and colored (in green) the section of the
Lumber Wizard that detects metal most effectively.
Note the led lights near my hand.
The Lumber Wizard has detected hidden metal!
A hidden nail was found buried in this corner of the
board. It could have potential destroyed my saw blade's teeth.
Even when "flashing" the Lumber Wizard over the wood
rapidly, it still detects metal successfully.