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'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 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.
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.
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 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).