A Homemade Solar Lumber Kiln

If you're into woodworking, take a step toward a more self-reliant living by building a homemade solar lumber kiln, includes construction information, materials and diagram.

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    Diagram: Homemade solar lumber kiln.

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The search for self-sufficiency is, as often as not, a "have to" rather than a "want to" proposition. Consider, if you will, the sequence of events that led to the creation of my homemade solar lumber kiln. 

I have a good life, doing what I want to do where I want to do it . . . that is, crafting handmade furniture from my home/shop in the hills of southeastern Ohio. I like the feel, shape, and texture of natural things . . . living and working in the woods . . . and the independence of being my own boss. In fact, in the past 30 years, there's been only one real problem that's consistently gummed up my otherwise idyllic situation . . . wet wood.

You see, building anything that's supposed to hold its shape—whether it be a log cabin or a piece of fine furniture—requires dry, well-seasoned lumber. And if, like me, you live a considerable distance from the nearest large town, finding that ready-to-use wood can be a real chore. You usually can't buy it at the local lumberyard (here in southeastern Ohio, at least, most such outfits stock only western softwoods, in pre-cut standard sizes) . . . sawmills likely won't have any way to dry the lumber they cut for you ... the nearest commercial kilns (which generally won't be all that near) probably won't handle "exotic" woods (a term meaning anything they're not familiar with) . . . and if they do, they're surely not interested in taking on small jobs (which translates as anything less than a truckload).

However, I've been a self-sufficient country boy for the better part of my life, and I vowed to find a way to properly dry all that walnut, cherry, and native white pine that was available on my own land, even if I had to build a fire under it!

What I'd have to do, I realized, was construct a kiln. But, I wondered, what could I use for heat? Oil is too danged expensive, natural gas isn't available out here in the sticks, and I shuddered to think of the cords I'd have to cut to keep a woodburning kiln operating.

In short, I knew there had to be a better way. And it wasn't long before one of my customers provided the answer. That fellow and I were talking about my desire to build a lumber kiln, and about the problems I'd had trying to figure a way to provide the structure with heat, when he remembered reading about a sun-powered kiln that the U.S. Forest Service was experimenting with.

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