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Author Topic: Pricing my drying services using vacuum kiln  (Read 938 times)

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Offline TCove

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Pricing my drying services using vacuum kiln
« on: May 09, 2020, 07:47:47 PM »
I see a lot of people up here struggling with how to charge for their drying services, when they have a vac kiln.
I see some saying they charge so much per BF, but won't take anything over 20%.
I see others charging by the BF, but need 3/4 of their kiln full.

I think it might be a whole lot simpler, to just charge per day. Period. Done.

I've learned a long time ago, to never say 'no' to a customer.
Never turn them down....just raise your price, and let them decide. All too often, when I 'think' I don't want the business, I just jack my price waaaaaay, and low-behold, they say 'yes'.

So, I don't have my kiln yet. But I live in an area with a high demand for drying, and nobody but the Amish doing it....and their quality just doesn't cut it.

So, my plan is to simply charge $120 / Day for the kiln.

Doing it this way:

I Don't care how thick your wood is
I Don't care how dry it is
I Don't' care the species
I Don't care if you want to put in 10 boards, or fill my kiln

With a full kiln, it works out to about 42 cents/BF. 

If you don't have enough wood to fill my kiln....well, with all due respect, that's your problem, not mine.  The nearest kiln to me, which is 50 miles away, hates drying for others, and charges 40 cents/BF......and, as you know, that's with 5 week turn around, on 4/4, and he won't touch anything thicker.

Now, realize that most will be shocked, but will quickly ask "How long will it take?".  It's a piece of cake to answer that question, after you spend a little time on these forums.  As you give them your answer, hand them a calculator.  


You gotta remember, there's people with money out there, that just want their wood dry.  Don't tell them 'no'. Let them tell you 'no'.....and you'll get a lot of yes's along the way.

Years ago, I sold some bowl blanks to a guy, and then after the online sale, he told me he wanted me to ship them to Norway.  These were several walnut blanks that were over 20" in diameter, and over 6" thick.  When I told him the shipping was going to cost more than the wood, he said "I didn't ask what the shipping would cost. Just tell me when they will arrive, and send me a bill".

I then did some digging, and realized I was selling to the president of Oracle.  Bottom line, never say 'no'.

Offline nativewolf

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Re: Pricing my drying services using vacuum kiln
« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2020, 08:10:04 PM »
First welcome, not sure if you just have been here before or not but that is a heckuva good first post if you are a new poster.  

Others have proposed by the day for a vac kiln as well.  I assume you've bought an idry?  

Where are you located?  Ohio or PA or ?
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Offline TCove

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Re: Pricing my drying services using vacuum kiln
« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2020, 08:24:54 PM »
Yep....first post.
I'm in North Central Wisconsin.

Offline Tom the Sawyer

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Re: Pricing my drying services using vacuum kiln
« Reply #3 on: May 09, 2020, 09:34:59 PM »
I have had a couple of my clients take lumber to a vacuum kiln (iDry) service.  They said they were charged $1 per board foot, per inch of thickness.  12/4, LE planks (3" thick) were $3 per b/f.
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Offline boonesyard

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Re: Pricing my drying services using vacuum kiln
« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2020, 10:02:22 AM »
Welcome to the Forum.

I've been running an iDry since Last November. We charge $.10/BF/day. It's an easy formula for the customer, and easy for us to keep track of a load that has mixed customers. Our minimum load is 500 BF and that depends on the species and thickness. We will not run a 500 BF load of 12/4 white oak (that would need to be at least 1,000 BF), but would run 500 BF of 4/4 black walnut as an example. We will run a smaller load for a customer that really needs it, but the price increases. We also have a regular customer that keeps us in full loads that we give a substantial break on price, but his stuff only runs when we don't have other regular priced customer loads to run. 

The $120/day for the kiln would not be a bad way to go, you'll just need to keep track of proportional load sizes with mixed customer loads. Good luck and enjoy
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Offline TCove

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Re: Pricing my drying services using vacuum kiln
« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2020, 11:42:51 AM »
I have had a couple of my clients take lumber to a vacuum kiln (iDry) service.  They said they were charged $1 per board foot, per inch of thickness.  12/4, LE planks (3" thick) were $3 per b/f.
That pricing model fails as soon as a wealthy customer wants 300 ft. dried of quilted maple.
And, if 12/4 has a different price, I'd imagine 6/4, 8/4, and everything in between, would also.
And why would the vac service charge more for 12/4 vs 4/4?  Cuz 12/4 ties up the kiln longer.
Therefore I'll bet that service charges more per bf to dry white oak vs soft maple.

Too messy.

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Re: Pricing my drying services using vacuum kiln
« Reply #6 on: May 10, 2020, 11:57:47 AM »
Sounds interesting. The only way to know for sure is to try it. 
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Offline TCove

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Re: Pricing my drying services using vacuum kiln
« Reply #7 on: May 10, 2020, 12:06:23 PM »
It's an easy formula for the customer,


But it's not so easy for the customer, when you have to start throwing in all the exceptions.....

Our minimum load is 500 BF and that depends on the species and thickness. We will not run a 500 BF load of 12/4 white oak (that would need to be at least 1,000 BF), but would run 500 BF of 4/4 black walnut as an example. We will run a smaller load for a customer that really needs it, but the price increases.


That's a ton of exceptions....especially the 500bf minimum, depending on species and thickness.

You do point out one thing I didn't think of, and that's the possibility of a single kiln charge with wood from more than one customer.
But like you said, it's easy to calculate what percentage each customer is using.

Does that occur often?

I dunno....I'm really liking the sound of $120 / day. Boom. Done.

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Re: Pricing my drying services using vacuum kiln
« Reply #8 on: May 10, 2020, 02:04:31 PM »
120 per day sounds nice. Especially if you double or triple stack customers. 240 or 360 a day sounds better :)

If ppl are willing to pay for it then you can't go wrong.

Offline longtime lurker

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Re: Pricing my drying services using vacuum kiln
« Reply #9 on: May 11, 2020, 04:33:49 PM »
I'm curious as to how you come up with $120 a day. Can you break that out a bit for me please.



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Offline Walnut Beast

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Re: Pricing my drying services using vacuum kiln
« Reply #10 on: May 11, 2020, 04:43:25 PM »
I see a lot of people up here struggling with how to charge for their drying services, when they have a vac kiln.
I see some saying they charge so much per BF, but won't take anything over 20%.
I see others charging by the BF, but need 3/4 of their kiln full.

I think it might be a whole lot simpler, to just charge per day. Period. Done.

I've learned a long time ago, to never say 'no' to a customer.
Never turn them down....just raise your price, and let them decide. All too often, when I 'think' I don't want the business, I just jack my price waaaaaay, and low-behold, they say 'yes'.

So, I don't have my kiln yet. But I live in an area with a high demand for drying, and nobody but the Amish doing it....and their quality just doesn't cut it.

So, my plan is to simply charge $120 / Day for the kiln.

Doing it this way:

I Don't care how thick your wood is
I Don't care how dry it is
I Don't' care the species
I Don't care if you want to put in 10 boards, or fill my kiln

With a full kiln, it works out to about 42 cents/BF.

If you don't have enough wood to fill my kiln....well, with all due respect, that's your problem, not mine.  The nearest kiln to me, which is 50 miles away, hates drying for others, and charges 40 cents/BF......and, as you know, that's with 5 week turn around, on 4/4, and he won't touch anything thicker.

Now, realize that most will be shocked, but will quickly ask "How long will it take?".  It's a piece of cake to answer that question, after you spend a little time on these forums.  As you give them your answer, hand them a calculator.  


You gotta remember, there's people with money out there, that just want their wood dry.  Don't tell them 'no'. Let them tell you 'no'.....and you'll get a lot of yes's along the way.

Years ago, I sold some bowl blanks to a guy, and then after the online sale, he told me he wanted me to ship them to Norway.  These were several walnut blanks that were over 20" in diameter, and over 6" thick.  When I told him the shipping was going to cost more than the wood, he said "I didn't ask what the shipping would cost. Just tell me when they will arrive, and send me a bill".

I then did some digging, and realized I was selling to the president of Oracle.  Bottom line, never say 'no'.
How is your plan working out? Do you have a IDry? How long have you had it?

Offline boonesyard

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Re: Pricing my drying services using vacuum kiln
« Reply #11 on: May 12, 2020, 01:32:51 PM »
It's an easy formula for the customer,


But it's not so easy for the customer, when you have to start throwing in all the exceptions.....

Our minimum load is 500 BF and that depends on the species and thickness. We will not run a 500 BF load of 12/4 white oak (that would need to be at least 1,000 BF), but would run 500 BF of 4/4 black walnut as an example. We will run a smaller load for a customer that really needs it, but the price increases.


That's a ton of exceptions....especially the 500bf minimum, depending on species and thickness.

You do point out one thing I didn't think of, and that's the possibility of a single kiln charge with wood from more than one customer.
But like you said, it's easy to calculate what percentage each customer is using.

Does that occur often?

I dunno....I'm really liking the sound of $120 / day. Boom. Done.
It occurs frequently. We try to keep as full a charge as we can, and many times that means multiple orders. Our situation here is probably vastly different than others in that we don't get a lot of large (full) customer loads. In your application, if you have full loads and $120/day works for everyone, sounds perfect. The elegance is in the simplicity.  :)
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lots of support equipment and not enough time

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Offline longtime lurker

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Re: Pricing my drying services using vacuum kiln
« Reply #12 on: May 12, 2020, 09:18:56 PM »
(now I've got time for a longer response)

I'm curious about how you come up with a figure of $120 a day because...

If you've got the base model $50k kiln + freight + installation cost sufficient so it can run at 60 ambient (that's going to need a good shed + maybe heat in winter in a lot of places) you'd have to be pushing around $70k installed (just guessing)

$70k divided by 200 days a year run time for 3 years comes to $116 per working day just in amortisation cost without interest. And you haven't got the power bill yet...

I've done the sums on Vac Kilns a couple times: They're a winner if you've got the throughput to keep them full I'm sure of it. I'm also equally sure that KD is KD.... there is no premium for faster drying of lumber up to 8/4 thickness, and the market for lumber at 12/4 and 16/4 where Vac kilns really pull away from the pack is limited in both demand and supply. (It's there, but don't think you're going to crack it overnight).

Me I want a Vac Kiln but... I know I'm not big enough to justify one yet.  I just think you maybe need to redo your sums with a set of numbers that are a little more realistic about throughput, based around what you currently do and what you think you might reasonably pick up in outside work rather than basing it on what you could theoretically achieve if everything went just right.



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Offline Stephen1

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Re: Pricing my drying services using vacuum kiln
« Reply #13 on: May 12, 2020, 09:22:23 PM »
We charge .15cents a bd ft per day. I dry both softwood and hardwood. I have a minimm of $150 per customer. I take customers wood untill I can fill the kiln and then I run the kin. 
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Offline TCove

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Re: Pricing my drying services using vacuum kiln
« Reply #14 on: May 17, 2020, 08:35:03 PM »
Here's some rough calculations I was using:


$52,000Kiln + wiring & plumbing
$120Weekly Operating Cost
2000capacity in BF
$120Daily charge for kiln use
7Days in kiln for 4/4
$0.42Customer cost / BF @ full kiln
25Days/Month kiln is billable
$30,857income generated / year
1.69years to pay off
20.2Months to pay off


I came up with $120/day, because I feel 42 cents/BF is what customers would be willing to pay....and of course, that's untested.
I completely disagree with the previous poster that stated ..."I'm also equally sure that KD is KD.... there is no premium for faster drying of lumber up to 8/4 thickness".

I feel the biggest selling point will be the 7 day turn for 4/4 stock.

In the day and age we live in today, where people complain if their Amazon order doesn't arrive in 2 days, I feel folks will be willing to pay handsomely for a 7 day turn, rather than stickering their lumber outside, waiting 4-6 months, and then moving it to a DH kiln for 21 days.  If I'm wrong on that, then my entire spreadsheet model above falls apart.

I believe long gone are the times when standard fare was Fingerhut quoting 6 to 8 weeks for delivery.

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Re: Pricing my drying services using vacuum kiln
« Reply #15 on: May 17, 2020, 08:41:47 PM »
We charge .15cents a bd ft per day. I dry both softwood and hardwood. I have a minimm of $150 per customer. I take customers wood untill I can fill the kiln and then I run the kin.
Not bad. That's a pretty simple model.
Do you struggle at all to get customers, at that rate?
Based on my calc's, that's $300/day, for a full kiln load.

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Re: Pricing my drying services using vacuum kiln
« Reply #16 on: May 18, 2020, 07:45:24 AM »
Keep it simple. I have yet to fill the kiln with 2000 bd ft, I use 7/8" breezewood stickers. I get 12-1500 bd ft per load, mostly live edge slabs. I have yet to fill the kiln with 4/4 lumber. I usually have a mixture of slabs. Customers are showing as they find out about me and I as I learn how to run a Kiln. Quite a science. The thicker the wood the longer it takes to dry, still faster than a DH klln? but not as fast as a RF kiln. It does turn out nice lumber, especially right off the mill. 
 I now dry hardwood and softwood seperatly. I find the kiln runs along nicely. I was going to raise my rates until this Covid hit. I will now wait until the fall .
LL is not far off from what he says. You need a building to keep the kiln warm. You also need a bulding that you can climate control to keep customers wood and yours until it is picked up. I have 2500 sq ft and I am challenged with space as I unload and load the kiln.
There is another post on the IDRY , go read it all. 
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Re: Pricing my drying services using vacuum kiln
« Reply #17 on: May 18, 2020, 08:58:20 AM »
From the other side of things, (I don't own a vac kiln) from a guy who gets phone calls from very not happy people who have had their wood "not completely dried" in both vac style kilns and conventional kilns, (I get calls about both, its not the kiln's fault, its the kiln operator) where they were quoted a predicted price and time for drying, and the operator missed the deadline and returned the wood, either through ignorance or not, back to the customer with an unacceptably high (or low)  moisture content.  The drying was quoted for a certain price and time, or a max price and time, the cutoff was reached, the wood had stalled, the deadline was blown, and the customer is either forced to pay much more than anticipated because the time required to dry was underquoted or under anticipated, or the kiln operator has to get the current load out to get the next load in, and the customer gets mad at the kiln operator, and then calls me.  

The calls range from wanting to use me as a consultant, or just my moisture meter to confirm the wood is still wet, or ask me to finish drying their wood because they will never give that "crook" any more money.  I've helped a few, and the others I simply tell them they need to call their lawyer.

So the point is, when drying wood, using any style kiln, the wood only dries as fast as it does, and will not necessarily follow a manufacturer's schedule, to the day.  So the pricing model, the kiln operator, and the customer, should be prepared for that.  This is especially true of thicker wood, and any wood prone to stalling.

I didn't see any allocation for insurance.  If drying as a business, for money, business insurance should not be ignored.  There should be insurance for the equipment, for the buildings (fire is a big one), for the employees,  and insurance for any claims due to damage caused by the product, often called "end user insurance" which covers bugs, mold, other stuff.  Its not cheap.  Homeowner insurance will not cover these.  Stacking green wood, although a very simple process, is actually quite injury prone, and I don't know anyone who has not had a finger, toe, foot, hand etc mashed smashed to some degree.  Sometimes is just a blackened finger nail, sometimes much worse.  Imaging dropping a 100 lb hunk of wood on a ketchup pack.  There is blood.  

I didn't see any time allocated for sticking and unsticking the wood.  From our experience, it takes about an hour for one person to sticker stack a thousand bdft of 4/4 to go into a kiln, and about 45 minutes to dead stack it when dried.  So for a couple thousand bdft of wood, a half day wages can be burned pretty quickly.  If processing a load a week (we do a load every 7 to 9 days, with multiple kilns) that money starts to add up.
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Offline Walnut Beast

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Re: Pricing my drying services using vacuum kiln
« Reply #18 on: May 18, 2020, 03:05:45 PM »
From the other side of things, (I don't own a vac kiln) from a guy who gets phone calls from very not happy people who have had their wood "not completely dried" in both vac style kilns and conventional kilns, (I get calls about both, its not the kiln's fault, its the kiln operator) where they were quoted a predicted price and time for drying, and the operator missed the deadline and returned the wood, either through ignorance or not, back to the customer with an unacceptably high (or low)  moisture content.  The drying was quoted for a certain price and time, or a max price and time, the cutoff was reached, the wood had stalled, the deadline was blown, and the customer is either forced to pay much more than anticipated because the time required to dry was underquoted or under anticipated, or the kiln operator has to get the current load out to get the next load in, and the customer gets mad at the kiln operator, and then calls me.  

The calls range from wanting to use me as a consultant, or just my moisture meter to confirm the wood is still wet, or ask me to finish drying their wood because they will never give that "crook" any more money.  I've helped a few, and the others I simply tell them they need to call their lawyer.

So the point is, when drying wood, using any style kiln, the wood only dries as fast as it does, and will not necessarily follow a manufacturer's schedule, to the day.  So the pricing model, the kiln operator, and the customer, should be prepared for that.  This is especially true of thicker wood, and any wood prone to stalling.

I didn't see any allocation for insurance.  If drying as a business, for money, business insurance should not be ignored.  There should be insurance for the equipment, for the buildings (fire is a big one), for the employees,  and insurance for any claims due to damage caused by the product, often called "end user insurance" which covers bugs, mold, other stuff.  Its not cheap.  Homeowner insurance will not cover these.  Stacking green wood, although a very simple process, is actually quite injury prone, and I don't know anyone who has not had a finger, toe, foot, hand etc mashed smashed to some degree.  Sometimes is just a blackened finger nail, sometimes much worse.  Imaging dropping a 100 lb hunk of wood on a ketchup pack.  There is blood.  

I didn't see any time allocated for sticking and unsticking the wood.  From our experience, it takes about an hour for one person to sticker stack a thousand bdft of 4/4 to go into a kiln, and about 45 minutes to dead stack it when dried.  So for a couple thousand bdft of wood, a half day wages can be burned pretty quickly.  If processing a load a week (we do a load every 7 to 9 days, with multiple kilns) that money starts to add up.
Thats put in perspective very well 👍👍👍

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Re: Pricing my drying services using vacuum kiln
« Reply #19 on: May 20, 2020, 09:45:07 PM »
thank you YH you have put my thoughts into print. We figure each load is 4 hours for 2 people. That is built into our 1st cycle. 
Like everything it is a learning experience and experience is one of the best teachers. next best is being a member on the FF and having access to information here. 
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