How to build a kiln dryer for wood

Written by bob haring
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A kiln is an airtight oven used to extract moisture from wood. Kilns can be small enough to fit in a house, garage or basement, or they can be massive outdoor structures capable of handling long planks. Heat sources can be electricity, natural or bottled gas or solar power. A kiln also must have a drainage system to allow moisture pulled out of the raw wood to escape. It may also be a simple structure built just from heavy insulation material or carefully framed wooden buildings. Some kilns can even be built to double as workshop benches.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Construction materials for framing
  • Insulation
  • Heater or other heat source
  • Fan or other means of circulating air

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  1. 1

    Decide on the size and location of your kiln. This will depend on what kind of wood you will be drying and how much, and such considerations as zoning regulations and building rules. The dimensions and location of your kiln will also depend on whether you will be drying wood only for your personal hobby use, for professional furniture-making or similar purposes or for commercial sale. This also will help you establish a budget --- whether you're going to build a solid permanent kiln or one you could easily dismantle or even move.

  2. 2

    Pick a heat source. Many home kilns now use solar heat --- Colorado State University and others have developed detailed plans for using solar heat in kilns. Electricity is feasible, especially for smaller indoor kilns. Natural gas or propane heaters also can be used; these must be properly vented if they're used inside. The heat source will help determine your exterior construction.

  3. 3

    Choose a style. Kilns can be framed in conventional fashion, moulded around metal exterior panels or even built entirely from polystyrene insulation panels. What is most important is that the interior be airtight. Most kilns will have some type of insulated flooring, with a drain to allow excess moisture to exit. The amount of moisture will depend on several factors, including the moisture content of the wood, the outside humidity and the drying temperature in the kiln.

  4. 4

    Install insulation. A kiln must be built to keep heat inside and not allow any to escape through the walls or other exterior surfaces. However, insulation can vary. A kiln can be built entirely of thick polystyrene insulation boards that are fastened together with special screws, or a kiln can be constructed with conventional framing, filled with fibreglass insulation and sealed with kitchen aluminium foil. Other versions can be built to resemble a storage shed, with 2-inch by 4-inch framing boards and paperbacked fibreglass batt insulation.

  5. 5

    Circulate air inside the kiln. This can be done with a complicated furnace-type system or something as simple as a fan that can be turned on and off. Hot air needs to circulate around the wood as it is drying to ensure even drying.

Tips and warnings

  • Use your creativity. One kiln builder says an individual can design and build his own kin, adding, "I did."

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