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PMsawandmachine
PMsawandmachine's picture
Low cost lumber kilns and marketing lumber products

Hello fellow sawyers.

I'd be very interested in your methods of drying/storing lumber, and also on what types of sales and how you market your products. When I first started out, the lumber was for my ailing woodworking father, my own projects and for friends. Now I get some enjoyment for finding out that sawmilling can actually pay bills and put food on the table too.

I worked for years air drying my nicer loads under the machine shed, in my barn, then upstairs in my barn (hand loaded all those,) in my workshop, my metal shop (Yes, I went to pure foolishness,) then into two garages before I realized how bad things had gotten.

I went on a massive selling/using spree just to clean out. There were some really nice boards and slabs that I had simply forgotten about. Sadly, there were a few thousand board feet that were degraded to uselessness.

I now strive for a 4 month turn around, but am actually around 6 months.

The main delay in selling a fresh cut piece of lumber is it's moisture content, so my bottle neck is drying.

Two methods that have worked the best for me are the solar firewood shed and the converted semi-trailer.

The solar firewood shed is ridiculously simple, if you don't mind clear plastic for walls/roofs. I hate the look of it, but I can dry 4-5000 bdft in 3 months with only running 2 box fans during the day.

A semi-trailer is nice, but I find that I do not utilize the space well, as I double the trailer as a sales room too often. If only I had a fairly local buyer for semi-trailer loads at a time of dried and unsorted hardwoods. heh

The trailer has so many possibilities. When I first set it up I built a masonry stove below it and pumped heat in, but i didn't  get so much enjoyment from tending to the fire so switched to simple air transfer and solar heat collectors.

 

Warm regards,

Mike

Post Oakie
Post Oakie's picture

Mike,

Thanks for the input on the dryers.  Got any photos to post?  Is the semi trailer insulated-- I've seen some old reefer trailers converted to kilns.  What temperatures do you get?  What is your target moisture content?  Do you load your kilns by hand-- that would be a lot of lifting, especially for the semi trailer?  I started to convert a shipping container, but just after I cut the vents, I needed it for storage, and it hasn't seen a stick of lumber yet.

My main market is to area woodworkers who buy the lumber green, then dry it themselves.  Goal is to produce T&G flooring and trim, though.  Good supply of oak here in the Missouri Ozarks!

What sawmill are you running?  Keep us posted on your sawmill operation!

Bill
Bill's picture

Thank for the in put  on the dryers Mike. I don't have any experience there and probably the worlds worse marketer. Buy high sell low or give away is more my speed. Good thing I have a business where people call me for my services. My mill just threw word of mouth has paid for it's self and a lumber yd. bought lifts of air dried birch off me and will buy all the cedar I mill. Looking forward to seeing your set up Mike have a great day.

Bill

Greenthumb
Greenthumb's picture

Hi guys Greenthumb here new to the Forum it's a pleasure to have you here I do not own a mill yet but still looking for that good advise . I was told by a fella that air drying was the best way to go do to all the checks , warping and splitting that happens when trying to dry to fast .I know that the kilns run at a moderate heat but is that for all types of wood .plus just to let you know I live in upstate NY and the 4 seasons is something to deal with any suggestions  ? Thanks guys looking foward to here all comments . 

Greenthumb
Greenthumb's picture

To all sawers if you are interested in drying lumber by way of solar heat I found a great site called Virgina Tech Solar Kiln found in google give it a look and tell me what you think plus it looks like it would be easy enough to build and not hard on your wallet 

r.garrison1
r.garrison1's picture

The solar kiln looks interesting, but the site only provides information on hardwoods for drying. Does anyone have any experience with pine, tamarac, and fir? Where I am, the only hardwood is a little alder by the creek, and a small grove of Aspen which I want to leave.

Greenthumb
Greenthumb's picture

r.garrison 1 the site does explain how to dry pine I  and you can always call them for best advise . Thanks  Greenthumb 

Greenthumb
Greenthumb's picture

Garrison   Will be drying pine myself and to my knolwage I think this would work great 

kolive
kolive's picture

Hello,

I recently purchased plans for a kiln that uses a dehumidifier to dry the wood.i am in process of building my first kiln and the email support has been great. I have no economic investment in this except the 25.00 of the plans. The link is posted below.

nelsonwoodworks.biz

Keith in Cowiche

Post Oakie
Post Oakie's picture

The Virginia Tech design has been around or at least 25 years. It is slower than a conventional or dehumidification kiln, but scales to different sizes easily (500 to 2,000 board feet are typical sizes). It takes about 4 months to get the wood to 7% moisture content, depending on climate. The advantage is that the moisture in the wood equalizes during the night, so stresses are very low. I have a friend in Spring Green, Wisconsin that has several. If they'll work there, they should work about anywhere. Lots of info on them on the Woodweb forum. Gene Wengert is a regular on the forum, and is one of the designers of the VA Tech kiln. Good guy.

Greenthumb
Greenthumb's picture

Thanks for that info and looking forward to speaking to him

Greenthumb
Greenthumb's picture

Okie 4 to 6 months is much better than 1 year air drying .Another thought was to use the solar for the first 20 percent of moister then pass it off to the larger kiln keeping the cost down also . A good way to keep the stock rotating . Thanks

Post Oakie
Post Oakie's picture

As you work around the sawmill more, you'll like moving boards less. Even if you have equipment to move the wood without unloading and restacking it by hand, you may find that all that extra handling is too much hassle. I'm thinking more in terms of having three or four air dry/ solar kilns, and a portable dehumidification unit that can be moved from one kiln to another.

Greenthumb
Greenthumb's picture

Thanks okie always a pleasure to here your thoughts that just might work do to how many different species I deal with . I herd it's not good to mix up to many in one kiln do to different drying times . Okie one question do you mill your boards a little thicker then plane them down after drying ? Thanks

Post Oakie
Post Oakie's picture

Greenthumb, the idea of not mixing species comes from high production kilns that push the wood through as fast as possible (green to kiln dry in a week). If you use a slow schedule dehumidification kiln or a solar kiln, you'll be fine. Monitor the moisture content of the slowest drying species (like white oak). When it is where it needs to be, the others will be ready.

I don't offer planing service yet, but do take it into account when cutting. I determine the final thickness desired, say a 3/4" thick surfaced board, and work backwards-- 8% loss of thickness due to shrinkage in the kiln, and 1/8" planing from both sides of the board. .75 * 1.08 + (1/8 * 2) = 1.06". I generally mill 1-1/8" for customers who want 3/4" or 7/8" thick boards to give them a little extra, in case the board cups a bit while drying (remembering to add 1/8" for the kerf of the band saw blade). I generally explain this to customers to make sure they wind up with the wood they want. That keeps them coming back!

r.garrison1
r.garrison1's picture

I'm starting to remember some things about planining rough lumber; when you do start planing something that cupped, it can make a difference what side you start planing. I worked with some red oak some years back that were plenty thick, but when I started planing the hump in the middle, it kept trying to cup. When I trimmed the ends on the inside of the cup, it relaxed a bit more. I had forgotten about that for a number of years. The wood got to thickness a bit more easily, even though it was harder to trim the ends first.

Roland