Sentry Page Protection

The Solar Wood Drying Kiln


This spring we realised a long held ambition to build a functional and efficient Solar Kiln. Following much research, a trip to Wisconsin to see Jim Birkemeier’s great kilns, and interminable (it seemed) wrangling with planners we finally did it.

A huge thank you to all those who helped, with encouragement, labour, knowledge and financially, including Jim Birkemeier, Working Woodlands, Woodland Heritage, SW Forest, SWARD, Cornwall County Council and Duchy of Cornwall Woodlands.

The Pencarrow Beech butt on the Wood-Mizer saw

The Pencarrow Beech butt on the Wood-Mizer saw

Over the winter, with the stalwart help of a trusty band of volunteers and the invaluable assistance of ace shipwright Fran Browne, who kept the figures and measurements clear in his head, we made a start, while I ran around like a headless chicken organising materials and equipment.

We cleared the ground and laid the concrete base in late November and apart from a couple of hairy nights wrestling polystyrene insulation in a full gale (the site is pretty exposed) the build went swiftly. The solar collector was covered and we were ready to load our first charge by mid February, a mixed bag of species, Ash, Oak, Beech, Sycamore and Cherry. The Spring was dry and sunny and by mid May we were able to open up the chamber and we were delighted to find that we had an average moisture content of less than 10% (starting out at 22%mc +).

Much of the Ash from this load was used for a large staircase by local joiner David Hutchins. David was very happy with the wood and is usually first to check out what’s in the kiln loads we have had since then.

Our next load again had a mix of species including some 1/4 sawn Turkey Oak, which although notorious for moving as it dries, has stayed flat and stable. We also dried Holly, Ash, Poplar and plenty of Beech, much of it from a magnificent tree from the Pencarrow Estate. This yielded board after board of splendid coloured wood, streaked with rich tans and chocolate flames.

So come and have a look before it all gets snapped up.

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