Timber moisture meter used to assess the moisture content of kiln dried timber, manufactured between 1950-1969, and used at the Foresta Timber Mills Pty Ltd from approximately 1950 to 1971.

This device was used to test the moisture in timber milled by Foresta Timber Mills Pty Ltd (FTM). Foresta Timber Mills was established on 3 August 1940 by Oscar Leshnitzer, who arrived in Australia in 1939 as a refugee from Germany. The kiln drying of timber in the 1950s and 1960s required the use of these devices to ensure the correct moisture content for timber milled for construction and ensure that there was no shrinkage of the timber.

Oscar Leschnitzer (who later changed his name to Lesh) previously lived in Gliewitz, a town in the Upper Silesia region of Germany. The town is close to Kracow in present day Poland. Oscar operated a substantial timber and coal enterprise in the region but was forced to make an exchange with the Nazis: his business for his freedom. Oscar's son Gunter joined the family business after he migrated from Switzerland in 1945 where he had been studying a PhD in Economics at Zurich University.

FTM was the natural continuation of Oscar's previous activities in Germany. It was established mostly with capital he brought to Australia. Oscar and Gunter negotiated contracts with the Victorian Government for logging rights in the Central (Nudgee) and Western (Cann River) Victoria. The company also purchased timber from elsewhere in Victoria and interstate. A mill was set up at the North Fitzroy railway siding behind the old Brunswick Oval. Most of the timber was processed where it was logged, then transported to Fitzroy and cut to length for customer orders. FTM sold many types of timber that were mainly used for housing. This included pine and other softwoods and hardwoods.

FTM was sold to Alstergren Holdings Limited in 1971. Alstergren was acquired by Timber Holdings Limited in 1977, who were subsequently acquired by Pyneboard Pty Ltd (1988), who finally were acquired by CSR.

The Timber Tester was found under a desk at Gunter's home in Caulfield. Gunter passed away in 2008.

Physical Description

Timber box with leather carrying strap, 2 swivel locks and 8 rubber feet. Corners are constructed with fine box joints. 2 hinged doors. Main section has Operating Instructions printed on buff coloured paper with provision for readings to be recorded held inside the cover by six pins. The main compartment has a black enamelled panel with Techtron Pty. Ltd., Melbourne, Australia in silver and type DCR 2 and Serial 1546 stamped into panel. There is a circular window with an arched dial and arm marked Above and Below the centre zero point. A square plate, fixed to the panel by screws, has three 3/4 circle lines labelled A, B & C and a central knob to manually set the location of the marker line (set into clear plastic). This plate is printed at the top with 'MOISTURE %' and 'DOUGLAS FIR'. At the bottom 'Techtron Timber Moisture Meter'. At the lower left of the panel is a manually operated dial knob to be at Off, A, B & C. To the lower right a similar knob to be at Zero or Set. At the centre bottom of the panel there are two holes labelled Electrode. Box can be stood upright or on its back. At the back of the case a small flap opens to store the Needle ectrode assembly and a cast metal mallet branded Techtron.


These meters were developed to measure the moisture content of timber during the kiln drying process. Since the late 20th century new and more sophisticated methods were developed where this close monitoring was not required and the kiln process could season timber to a specific moisture content.

An important part of the historical significance of this item is its provenance. Oscar Leshnitzer fled Germany as a refugee in 1939. This moisture meter was an essential tool of trade for his Melbourne timber mill, and therefore an interesting symbol of the development of his successful business as a European migrant and refugee to Australia. This item is part of the migration history of Australia and is also very closely associated with the post World War II housing boom that put major pressure on timber supplies in the 1950s.

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