Winter Drying PDF Print E-mail
Written by Randy   
Sunday, 10 January 2010 20:22

Does a solar kiln dry lumber during the winter?  That's a pretty common question.  Yes, solar kilns can dry during the winter, just not quite as fast as the summer.  Sure the temperatures are lower, and the sun isn't out as much, but when it is sunny your lumber can dry.  The weather has been pretty cold around here recently so I decided to swing by the kiln to see how it was doing.  Let me preface all of this by stating I have very little lumber in the kiln right now.  Maybe about 150 bd ft of red oak that is well on its way to being dry.  So there isn't much moisture being released in the kiln.  All of the vents are completely closed.  Pretty much any heat generated is just being blown around inside.  But the cool news is that at 3:00 on a sunny afternoon when outdoor temperatures were around 27F, the temperature on top of the collector plate was 103.3F !!  Not bad at all.  With kiln temps like that, there is definitely an opportunity to remove moisture from your boards.  Clearly not as nice as the 140F kiln temps in the middle of summer, but nothing to sneeze at either.

If you have any winter drying stories or information please pass it on in the forums.

Big Red Oak in the Kiln PDF Print E-mail
Written by Randy   
Thursday, 01 January 2009 18:00

The new year has just begun and I figured I'm way overdue for an update, so here's some info on the load that currently fills my kiln.  It's some red oak (all rift sawn/quarter sawn) from a great big 'ol log that came down from a friend's yard.

My friend Tim called to ask if I would be interested in a red oak in his yard.  It was leaning completely over his house and was big enough that it would take out most of the house if it fell.  To avoid the worry, they had decided to have the tree taken down.  Well, of course I was interested.  After some discussions with the tree service we agreed that I would pay him a delivery fee and they would drop the logs at my sawmill lot.

The big red oak logs show up in a dump truck Just moments before the logs crashed to the ground A big pile of lumber - to be
The largest of the logs For comparison this is a 40 inch red oak log next to a respectable 16 inch cherry

Rolling the logs into position was more than me and my logrite peavey could handle so some careful rolling with my winch and I was able to get the first butt log under the mill.  With a 40" diameter log and the mill carriage up above it, it was tough to swing the blade from vertical to horizontal (mostly because I'm a tad bit vertically challenged).  The log was milled into a bunch of rift sawn and quarter sawn defect-free boards.  Beautiful. The kiln was loaded back in September at 81% moisture content!  After two months it was down to around 9%.  The boards are still in the kiln because the winter temperatures have kept the drying to a minimum, but the main reason is that I don't have anywhere to store it yet.

Rolling the log into place with my truck winch In position and ready for milling Lots of boards waiting to be released
Half way through the milling The loaded kiln 

Sadly, the second butt log is still sitting half milled. I was able to get a full kiln load but then the gearbox on my Lucas decided to take a vacation. I opened up the gearbox and located the faulty bearing and seal, ordered replacements and had the bearing press fit onto the shaft. Unfortunately, my work load, woodworking projects, and another website project have kept me from returning to the mill. I hope to get some time before the spring gets here to finish the gearbox repair and mill up another couple kiln loads.

Sawmill Demo PDF Print E-mail
Written by Randy   
Friday, 18 July 2008 08:36

It's not exactly information related to my solar kiln, but all that lumber has to come from somewhere.  I was recently invited to give a demo of my sawmill at the Central Virginia Woodworkers Guild annual picnic.

The First Load is Complete PDF Print E-mail
Written by Randy   
Monday, 30 June 2008 00:00
The first test load of lumber is now complete and some good lessons were learned. Total time to dry the 500 bdft of oak and cherry was 59 days.
The First Load is Drying PDF Print E-mail
Written by Randy   
Monday, 19 May 2008 00:00
The first test load of lumber went into the solar kiln on April 29th. This first charge is about 2/3 red oak and 1/3 cherry - all of it 4/4. When this first charge is complete, I'll update the "Running a Kiln" page with some of the kiln performance data. This News section will be an informal blog of any observations that I make along the way.

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