Solar kiln kits and plans

A discussion of various solar kiln plans and kits. June 20, 2000

Are you aware that Woodmizer sells a package deal to make a solar kiln?

Do you have an opinion on it, or on the value of buying a kit versus just following the plans that can be obtained here at WOODWEB or at VA Tech?

I built one out of materials -- some I sawed and some I purchased -- totaling about $500. The size is 8 x 16 feet.

I've dried three loads in it so far and the results have been excellent. I used the on-line plans as a guide, and modified them to suit my needs. If you have lots of money, maybe the kit would be nice. I wanted a barn-door style loading door (my wife didn't want it to show) so it's on the tall wall on the back side of the unit.

It is easy to walk into to stack and unstack lumber. I did already have a lot of scrap material, like insulation and all the framing. I used corrugated clear fiberglass for the glazing, which works well. I used thermostat-controlled attic fans for air circulation.

My last load of walnut was dried to 4.5 percent moisture content (MC) with very little degrade. Homemade is good!

I could be wrong, but the way I read the information on the Woodmizer solar kiln, they are providing primarily hardware. You still have to pay for your own structure. I didn't see this as being a great deal.

I built my kiln from Dr. Gene's VA Tech plans several years ago, and the only change I would make would be to build the doors in the rear as the previous poster did.

I am planning on building another kiln this summer, possibly out of concrete blocks, with supplementary wood heat provided to raise the temperature enough to kill bugs.

I bought the Woodmizer kit a year and a half ago. What you are really paying a lot of money for is the plans, because the hardware you get with the kit could be purchased inexpensively locally, possibly much cheaper. Even so, for me it was a reasonable deal because (1) I didn't have much time (I just gathered up the material according to the list in the plans, and gave the plans to my hired help, who put it up without much supervision by me) and (2) I plan to add on an additional section using a common endwall and purchasing identical hardware locally for the new addition.

So, I feel as if the price of the plans is spread out somewhat.

I haven't seen Gene's book with all the different designs, but there really can't be anything in the Woodmizer design that isn't in one or more of the designs in his book. So you could build a better kiln by combining features of different designs from that book, if you have some time to spend thinking about it. I know a couple of improvements that I want to make to the Woodmizer design.

I would like the name of Gene`s book please, if anyone knows it.

I wrote a book that reviewed 30 different solar designs for lumber kilns. It is out of print, but I will copy it and mail it to USA addresses for $10.

The Woodmizer design is based on a design that was based on the VA Tech design. The key to any design is that the roof area (actually the shadow that it makes at noon) is no less than 1/10 of the kiln volume -- that is, 1 square foot to 10 board feet.

The solar kiln design here at WOODWEB is the VA Tech design. It is easy to build and works well. For those people that are not able to get the hardware and follow the plans, then get the Woodmizer kiln that includes hardware, but still has plans and requires you to get and cut lumber.

The doors in "my" kiln can be in the front, the side and the rear --whatever seems best for you.
Gene Wengert, forum moderator

I built a kiln based on the VA Tech plans.

I have run two loads of wood through it and both have done well. I am also a home builder, so most of the materials I needed I already had. For the roof, I used six thermopane sliding glass door panels. It works great. Even on cloudy days it is rather warm in there. I ended up having around $100 in mine (well worth it).