During a strong summer storm last summer, we had a very large tree fall down due to high winds. We hadn't realized that the hardwood tree had partially been hollowed out by carpenter ants. Just narrowly missing the house, the 40 plus-foot tree was an inconvenience to clean up, but manageable with chain saws and workers who knew what they were doing. We retained all of the wood but the small to medium-sized branches. Some of the large branch pieces and the trunk weighed as much as 800 pounds. We found this out only after a neighbor with a tractor and lift bucket came over to help us move what remained to our woodpile. He weighs about 180-pounds, had about 500 pounds of weights in a bucket on the back of the vehicle, plus the vehicle weight, and I still had to jump on the back in order to keep the tractor from tipping on a small decline in our yard.
We would have loved using the wood this cold winter to warm ourselves, but green firewood was never going to burn properly, and it never does. Even with us using a chainsaw to cut the large wood into more manageable pieces, the wood would still need to season. Especially since it was all hardwood. Buying seasoned firewood during the winter months can be expensive. The usual time to season such wood is between five and eight months. With a tree like that coming down in July, it still would have taken us well past the coldest months to be able to burn it without an incredible amount of smoke and creosote and at the temperature we would need to completely warm ourselves.
While the wood sat in the woodpile, seasoning naturally, we could have built and set up our very own solar dryer that would have cut the drying time nearly in half. I have since found out how easy it is to make one, and I would like to share those instructions with you. One person can set the entire project up in an afternoon.
Before I show you what materials you'll need and how to build a solar dryer, I would be remiss if I didn't tell you how important it is to split the logs into pieces that will fit into a fireplace or wood burning stove before you place them into the dryer. This will ensure that your wood is ready to be stacked neatly in the dryer for even seasoning. Stacking the wood in a criss-cross pattern will also allow maximum air exchange and circulation.
This sample dryer will hold around a cord of firewood (4 feet by 4 feet by 8 feet). Using recycled lumber can also help keep your costs down. The approximate cost for this item is around $45 US, but can depend on the region and your favorite hardware location – so shop around before you buy your materials.
(See the list for full instructions and material list)
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