Building a Solar Wood Drying Kiln

It’s cold in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont.  We heat with wood and it’s not uncommon for our wood stove to be used 12 months a year.  That means we burn between 9 to 12 cords of wood.  All of our wood comes from our mountain and is processed by Mountain Man.  He’s perfected his system.  He’s made a special wood cutting station that takes advantage of gravity so he has less lifting to do.  He then stacks the wood into pallets which hold 3/8ths of a cord and can be neatly lifted into our woodshed.

But there’s still one problem. Premium firewood requires 9 months to a year to dry here. And Mountain Man has been thinking about speeding up the process by harnessing solar power. He’s looked at lots of solar kilns for sale but they were very expensive and there were none in existence that fit his needs for holding his pallets.  Hence, his prototype for a solar wood drying kiln was born. He worked on his design and then started building it. 

Parts built and ready to assemble.

Here it is before assembly.

Starting to put it together.

 It’s taking shape.

Here’s the south facing side.

Next up is to install the vents.  These will be used to draw warm, moist air from the kiln so the wood can dry.  He has also left spaces between the floor boards so air can enter through these cracks before it leaves through the vents. 

One side done.

For the back of the kiln, at the moment, Mountain Man is using a tarp which he designed to roll up and down.  He’s going to build actual doors for it.

Here’s a view of the front.  Because this kiln is a prototype and because he didn’t want to spend any money on the idea just yet, Mountain Man used polyethelyne plastic sheeting which he had on hand.  However, there are better sheetings to use which will last longer and allow more sunlight to filter through such as polycarbonate plastic sheeting.

It’s set up in a temporary location at the moment and loaded with three of Mountain Man’s crates.  He’s expecting the wood should be dry and ready for our wood stove within a month.  So there you have a homemade solar wood drying kiln. 

We’ll update you with the results.

[Here’s the update: “Opening the Solar Kiln.” –Ed.]

Mountain Man and Mountain Woman can always be found at

  • Published on Jan 15, 2011
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