How to make charcoal

Introduction: How to Make Some Charcoal

How to make charcoal

How to make charcoal

I have been involved in a local school (Portland Waldorf School) which has a blacksmithing program. There have been complaints about the smell of the coal burning and so I found out that charcoal can be used as the fuel instead of coal/coke. So I am building this charcoal maker so that the children can see how to blacksmith without coal.
There are health benefits too! Coal produces sulfer when burned which can combine with water in your lungs creating sulfuric acid (acid rain) as well as the water in your sweat. If this helps someone have a better experience blacksmithing, I will be happy.

Here I describe how I made a charcoal retort. This is also known as the “indirect” method of making charcoal. Basically you take a metal container and cook it until all of the volatile gasses leave the wood.

Step 1: Make the Container

I decided to go ahead full bore for my first charcoal attempt. Many online sources indicate that they started out with small metal containers, but I figured a 55 gallon drum would be the best bet. So I found a recycled drum merchant on craigslist, paid $25 for a drum and proceeded to cut into it.
I took some 3 inch round steel tubing and made the retort tube.
This is a tube which takes gasses from the wood as it is heated, and redirects them to where they can be burned to add to the heat for charcoaling the wood.
You can see from the image that I made the bends using miter cuts. If you don’t have the tool to make these cuts, you can use Black Pipe and fittings. That would increase the cash outlay, and since I had this stuff waiting for a use, I used it.

Step 2: Provide Holes for Gasses to Escape and Burn

Next, you need to provide holes in the pipe under the drum. The point is to create a large burner-like thing.
I drilled 1/4 inch holes every 3 inches in both sides of the tube. Later I thought that might not be enough so I used my die grinder to cut 3 slits in the top of the pipe so that the gasses would be directed more directly at the drum.

Step 3: Collect Wood and Take Your Stuff to the Burn Site

At first, I figured on using all pallet wood. So I loaded everything in my van to take it to the burn site.
Below you can see that I have everything loaded up and ready to go

Step 4: Load It Up and Cover It to Keep the Heat In

On my way to the burn, I realized that I did not have any way to keep the heat in the drum.
So I stopped off at Lowes and bought 3 pieces of cement board at $9 each.
You can see that I put a tray below the assembly in an attempt to have a low impact on the site.
I did not want to burn the grass where I was doing this, and we had a copper fire place on hand.
I think this detracted from the overall effeciency, however, so I would not do this again.

Step 5: More on Trying to Keep the Heat In

Here you see the cement board leaned against the assembly.
I have some left over KaoWool (kiln refractory blanket) from a forge project so I draped that on top to keep the heat in the drum as much as possible. I draped chains over it to keep it on the drum

Step 6: Load the Drum With Wood

Here we put some wood in the drum.
this is Fir heartwood which my friend uses to heat his home. They are mill ends from a plywood mill.
We filled the drum that much.

Step 7: Start a Fire

Pile wood up under the drum and set it ablaze.
An old indian showed me how to start a fire without flint, steel, paper or tinder.
He called it a weed burner and it’s fuel is propane.
It works real well.

Step 8: Burn for a Good Long Time

we lit the fire at 10:30AM and did not see gasses come out of the tube below until about 3PM.
We wound up burning about 5 pallets, plus 2 moving boxes full of scraps from the school’s woodshop.
Probably about 150 lbs or so.
There is about 120Lbs of wood inside the drum.
not as efficient as I had hoped.

Step 9: Examine This Video

Step 10: Watch Out for Too Much Smoke

this really does not smoke much. See the picture.

Step 11: Enjoy Charcoal!!

I really can’t believe this worked!
Enjoy some awesome home made charcoal!!
for more information enjoy these google results:
Making Charcoal

Step 12: Updated Design of the Kooker

I decided that even though we were successful, that the process could use a major improvement.
The first burn lasted about 6 hours and consumed what seemed like a lot of wood.
I figured if I insulated the space around the Barrel that the heat would concentrate more on the container and the result would be faster conversion time and less wood burned.
I was right.
Here are pictures of my updated burner. The walls are one inch thick refractory cement. I used about 6.5 bags of refractory which weigh 55 lbs each. (So now the kiln / retort weighs at least 350 pounds!!)
You can see in the photos the steel structure and the refractory walls. I welded 1/4 inch round bar between the members as rebar and also tied chickenwire to those bars for supporting the refractory cement.
The front is bolted on so that it can be removed when the barrel wears out and needs to be replaced.
The floor is just the ground, and I laid down a piece of hardy-backer cement board to protect the concrete there. I added a hinged plate of steel there as a “fire box” door. It is about 1/4 inch thick and when closed there is about 4 inches open below it.
When burning it gets red hot as do the steel members of the structure!!
I also added a hole in the top as a place where the smoke can emit. I plan to add an insulated chimney to it there in the hopes that the fumes coming out can have a secondary burn to perhaps make less smoke. The chimney will need to be very well insulated for this to occur, so I plan to make it a double-wall arrangement probably 10-12 inches diameter outside with a 6-8 inch diameter inside pipe, and fill the gap between with kaowool or perlite.
The next step will be a short video of this one burning.

Step 13: Video of New Kooker Burning

So This is a definite improvement – once I lit the fire below, after 10 minutes, gas was burning from the tube. After 2.5 hours gas had stopped coming out and I let the fire below die completely.
In the morning I discovered that 100% of the contents had converted to charcoal!!

The pile of wood in the picture below is what I took from to burn in the firebox. It is mostly still there!
So I don’t know for sure, but I think I burned less wood in the firebox than was in the barrel, which is a huge improvement! The next burn will have more science. We will weigh the wood placed in the barrel, and note the type of wood. We will also weigh the wood burned in the firebox and then weigh the charcoal produced and time the process again. This process should give us a much better idea of the efficiency of the improved process.
Thanks for watching!

Be the First to Share

Did you make this project? Share it with us!

By Sarah Leave a Comment ✓ This post may contain affiliate links*

One of the simplest and most popular ways to cook without power is with a charcoal grill. But what if you run out of charcoal? If you’re living through a long-term disaster, you can’t just run to the store for more. Instead, you’ll need to make your own.

Fortunately, charcoal is not that difficult to make. But before you make charcoal, you have to understand what it is.

Simply put, charcoal is wood that has had all the volatile compounds burned out, leaving carbon. Carbonizing wood requires fire and the ability to cut air off from that fire. That way the fire goes out after consuming the volatile compounds, but without completely consuming the wood.

When the fire is gone, you are left with charcoal.

Traditionally charcoal was made in one of three ways. In a pit where the fire was gradually built up and then carefully smothered. The second way was in a clamp or pile, where the pile was built in such a way that it gradually smothered as it burned.

The third way is in a kiln, where the charcoal wood was put in a separate container, surrounded by fire, and the volatile gases were directed into the outer fire to improve the burn.

Tools Needed to Make Your Own Charcoal

• Rake – A heavy duty garden rake with a metal head.

• Shovel – Standard, pointy metal shovel. A square metal snow shovel may also be useful.

• Matches and other material for starting the fire.

• Clear ground, free of underground roots.

• A non-flammable and non-melting piece of material to be used as a lid. I recommend a garbage can lid, or a square piece of metal roofing.

• Wood – While you can use cord-fire wood, I used scrounged wood like branches, stumps, and other miscellaneous wood. If you want charcoal that will be a certain size for your grill or smoker, you can smash it up later.

• Garden hose – Since you are working with fire, keep a water supply nearby and handy to put out any stray sparks (or cool a burn).

Making your Own Charcoal

Step 1

Choose a clear site with no stray roots nearby.

Step 2

Dig a pit, approximately 3 feet deep and just large enough for your non-burnable lid to fully cover. I took my lid from a bottomless garbage can, and used the can as an extra insert in my pit. Using a can, however, is optional.

Step 3

Prepare your wood. Cut any long branches or tree trunks into lengths that will fit inside your pit. Make sure you have collected more than enough wood to fill your pit. 1/3rd of the wood will be needed just to get the heat high enough for the smolder to work.

Step 4

Start your fire in the bottom of the pit. You want this fire to be quite hot. If you start a fire on the edge of the pit, you can get a good supply of coals going and then dump them into your pit. Tend your fire and build up a 2 inch layer of coals on the bottom of the pit. You need a very high combustion temperature in the pit, as otherwise it won’t pull enough air in to adequately combust all material.

Step 5

Once there is a bed of coals, add in your to-be-charcoaled wood. As soon as this wood is well caught, put your lid on the pit. Use your rake and shovel to position the lid. You want limited air flow for 3-6 hours, depending on how dry the wood is. Air flow should be mostly off-gassing, and a low smolder. It should smell like creosote.

Step 6

After the smolder has maintained for 4-6 hours, there should be barely any smoke rising. At this point, you can either cut off all air, or just wait for 24-48 hours. This wait period lets your charcoal cool, gets rid of live coals, and prevents spontaneous combustion when you open the pit.

Step 7

Remove the soil from the lid (if you sealed it), and remove the lid. The wood will have reduced by half, and up to three quarters depending on the variety. Scoop out your charcoal, and start a second batch if you’d like.

Step 8

Store your charcoal in a dry location. Though the charcoal itself won’t be damaged by water, it re-ignites better if it is dry. If you are using charcoal for grill cooking, use a hammer to smash the larger piece of wood into manageable grill-sized pieces for even heating.

Step 9

Use your pit to make more charcoal. If you do not plan on making more charcoal, then fill the pit in to prevent accidents. If you are in a forested area, flood your pit with water to remove any potential smoulder pockets after you remove your charcoal.

Variations for Long-Term Charcoal Making

If you want to make your own charcoal long-term, but don’t want the tripping hazard of an open pit, then the only additional piece of equipment you need is an old metal garbage can, and another relatively air-tight container that will fit inside it. You can use these two containers to make a charcoal kiln, which provides a slightly more controlled way to create charcoal.

Pack your air-tight container tightly with wood. You want as little free space as you can reasonably get. You may want one or two vent holes; make them so that they will vent into the surrounding fire. Create a metal way to suspend the small container inside the larger can. Start a fire in the can, and sustain the burn for several hours. Let both cans cool completely, and remove your charcoal.

The kiln method can be used to create artist’s charcoal using willow rods, or specific charcoals for use in fireworks and other pyro related activities. If you want to use charcoal for water purification, then making your own is one way to ensure that there are zero petroleum additives, or preservatives, in your wood.

While making your own charcoal requires a small investment of time in setting up the burn, it is a very easy and efficient process. Charcoal is most commonly used in grills and smokers, but can also be used in standard woodstoves, wood cookstoves, or for blacksmithing, making it a very useful skill to learn and practice.

  • How to make charcoal

How to make charcoal

  • How to make charcoal
  • How to make charcoal

The Woodland Homestead (Storey Publishing, 2015) by Brett McLeod is for the woodland homeowner, whether that’s for a large or small property. McLead provides insight to help you get the most out of your land through sustainable practices. Having charcoal on your homestead is for more than just barbequing. Learn how to make your own so that you can have energy at your disposal for your property.

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: The Woodland Homestead.

Although virtually any wood species can be used to make charcoal, the most common species in coppice arrangements are alder, oak, and maple. (Hickory makes famously great charcoal but doesn’t coppice very well.) For most people, charcoal is a by-product of other forest activities, and the wood that is used to fire your charcoal oven should be your “worst” firewood or, better yet, scraps left from other projects.

Charcoal can be used for a number of other applications besides barbeque. Both commercial and more primitive water filtration systems rely on the same basic charcoal-based technology to remove sediments, volatile organic compounds, and odors from water. One common method for remote off-grid homesteads employs a gravity-fed charcoal filtration system in which water percolates through a filter filled with ground charcoal, much like a drip coffeemaker.

Using the same process as the lump charcoal procedure described above, you can create charcoal pencils from the twigs, seedlings, and saplings removed as part of your regular tending operations. Load the pencils vertically in a 1-gallon paint can, fitting about 200 pencils per can.

The charcoal-cooking process results in usable by-products as well, beginning with the char-ash left at the bottom of the crucible. This ash can be used as a soil amendment to make acid soils more alkaline. If you choose to make charcoal out of softwood, the result will be a less energy-dense coal; however, you’ll find the bottom of your crucible lined with a thick tar, roughly the consistency of caulking. This cement has historically been used for a variety of adhesive needs but is useful on the modern homestead as a patching material that sticks to virtually anything, including wood, metal, and cloth.

How to Make Charcoal

Charcoal is nearly pure carbon. “Cooking” wood in a low-oxygen environment releases water, hydrogen, methane, and even tar (in the case of softwoods). What’s left after the cooking process are lumps of coal that weigh about 25 percent as much as the original material that was placed in the crucible but are more energy-dense than the original “raw” wood.

Materials

• 55-gallon metal drum for the still
• 5-gallon metal paint can with clench-tab lid for the crucible (or for smaller batches, a 1-gallon paint can with lid)
• Approximately 40 pieces of dry wood to fire the oven
• Dry coppiced firewood 1 to 3 inches in diameter, debarked and cut into uniform pieces. You will need enough pieces to fill the can. This wood will become your charcoal.

Make your oven. Convert your metal drum to a charcoal oven by punching holes in the lower third of the barrel. These holes can be punched randomly, as their only purpose is to provide oxygen to the fire inside.

Construct the crucible. The crucible, which holds the charcoal, can be constructed from the metal paint can. It’s important that the can be clean. Layer the small, debarked firewood in the can, packing it as tightly as possible. The goal is to minimize the chance of combustion by minimizing air space. Drill a 5/8-inch hole in the lid of the can, and secure the lid using the metal clenching tabs. If your can doesn’t have tabs or a closure band, you’ll need to place a weight on the top, as pressure may build within the can.

Build the fire. Place the crucible inside the barrel. Because a fire will have trouble drafting well inside the barrel, you’ll need to start a small fire and build it up slowly. Be sure to use untreated wood. Continue to build the fire so that it covers the sides and the top of the crucible, though you’ll want to make sure that the hole in the top of it is unobstructed and visible. It is very important to keep the fire hot! To achieve the high temperatures required (a minimum of 500 degrees Fahrenheit inside the crucible), you may need to split your firewood into smaller pieces that will burn faster but hotter.

Cook the moisture out of the wood. After 30 minutes or so, you will likely see steam wisping from the hole in the top of the crucible. This is the remaining moisture being cooked out of the wood. As your charcoal nears completion, a small flame will appear from the hole in the top of the crucible. As this last little bit of hydrogen and oxygen burns, you’ll want to pay attention to the crucible flame. Once it goes out, carefully remove the crucible using long tongs, and immediately cover the hole in the top with a damp rag.

Charcoal. Once the crucible has cooled, it’s time for the moment of truth. If you have tended your fire carefully and removed the crucible as soon as the flame burned out, you’ll be rewarded with your own harvest of genuine lump charcoal.

Introduction: How to Make Some Charcoal

How to make charcoal

How to make charcoal

I have been involved in a local school (Portland Waldorf School) which has a blacksmithing program. There have been complaints about the smell of the coal burning and so I found out that charcoal can be used as the fuel instead of coal/coke. So I am building this charcoal maker so that the children can see how to blacksmith without coal.
There are health benefits too! Coal produces sulfer when burned which can combine with water in your lungs creating sulfuric acid (acid rain) as well as the water in your sweat. If this helps someone have a better experience blacksmithing, I will be happy.

Here I describe how I made a charcoal retort. This is also known as the “indirect” method of making charcoal. Basically you take a metal container and cook it until all of the volatile gasses leave the wood.

Step 1: Make the Container

I decided to go ahead full bore for my first charcoal attempt. Many online sources indicate that they started out with small metal containers, but I figured a 55 gallon drum would be the best bet. So I found a recycled drum merchant on craigslist, paid $25 for a drum and proceeded to cut into it.
I took some 3 inch round steel tubing and made the retort tube.
This is a tube which takes gasses from the wood as it is heated, and redirects them to where they can be burned to add to the heat for charcoaling the wood.
You can see from the image that I made the bends using miter cuts. If you don’t have the tool to make these cuts, you can use Black Pipe and fittings. That would increase the cash outlay, and since I had this stuff waiting for a use, I used it.

Step 2: Provide Holes for Gasses to Escape and Burn

Next, you need to provide holes in the pipe under the drum. The point is to create a large burner-like thing.
I drilled 1/4 inch holes every 3 inches in both sides of the tube. Later I thought that might not be enough so I used my die grinder to cut 3 slits in the top of the pipe so that the gasses would be directed more directly at the drum.

Step 3: Collect Wood and Take Your Stuff to the Burn Site

At first, I figured on using all pallet wood. So I loaded everything in my van to take it to the burn site.
Below you can see that I have everything loaded up and ready to go

Step 4: Load It Up and Cover It to Keep the Heat In

On my way to the burn, I realized that I did not have any way to keep the heat in the drum.
So I stopped off at Lowes and bought 3 pieces of cement board at $9 each.
You can see that I put a tray below the assembly in an attempt to have a low impact on the site.
I did not want to burn the grass where I was doing this, and we had a copper fire place on hand.
I think this detracted from the overall effeciency, however, so I would not do this again.

Step 5: More on Trying to Keep the Heat In

Here you see the cement board leaned against the assembly.
I have some left over KaoWool (kiln refractory blanket) from a forge project so I draped that on top to keep the heat in the drum as much as possible. I draped chains over it to keep it on the drum

Step 6: Load the Drum With Wood

Here we put some wood in the drum.
this is Fir heartwood which my friend uses to heat his home. They are mill ends from a plywood mill.
We filled the drum that much.

Step 7: Start a Fire

Pile wood up under the drum and set it ablaze.
An old indian showed me how to start a fire without flint, steel, paper or tinder.
He called it a weed burner and it’s fuel is propane.
It works real well.

Step 8: Burn for a Good Long Time

we lit the fire at 10:30AM and did not see gasses come out of the tube below until about 3PM.
We wound up burning about 5 pallets, plus 2 moving boxes full of scraps from the school’s woodshop.
Probably about 150 lbs or so.
There is about 120Lbs of wood inside the drum.
not as efficient as I had hoped.

Step 9: Examine This Video

Step 10: Watch Out for Too Much Smoke

this really does not smoke much. See the picture.

Step 11: Enjoy Charcoal!!

I really can’t believe this worked!
Enjoy some awesome home made charcoal!!
for more information enjoy these google results:
Making Charcoal

Step 12: Updated Design of the Kooker

I decided that even though we were successful, that the process could use a major improvement.
The first burn lasted about 6 hours and consumed what seemed like a lot of wood.
I figured if I insulated the space around the Barrel that the heat would concentrate more on the container and the result would be faster conversion time and less wood burned.
I was right.
Here are pictures of my updated burner. The walls are one inch thick refractory cement. I used about 6.5 bags of refractory which weigh 55 lbs each. (So now the kiln / retort weighs at least 350 pounds!!)
You can see in the photos the steel structure and the refractory walls. I welded 1/4 inch round bar between the members as rebar and also tied chickenwire to those bars for supporting the refractory cement.
The front is bolted on so that it can be removed when the barrel wears out and needs to be replaced.
The floor is just the ground, and I laid down a piece of hardy-backer cement board to protect the concrete there. I added a hinged plate of steel there as a “fire box” door. It is about 1/4 inch thick and when closed there is about 4 inches open below it.
When burning it gets red hot as do the steel members of the structure!!
I also added a hole in the top as a place where the smoke can emit. I plan to add an insulated chimney to it there in the hopes that the fumes coming out can have a secondary burn to perhaps make less smoke. The chimney will need to be very well insulated for this to occur, so I plan to make it a double-wall arrangement probably 10-12 inches diameter outside with a 6-8 inch diameter inside pipe, and fill the gap between with kaowool or perlite.
The next step will be a short video of this one burning.

Step 13: Video of New Kooker Burning

So This is a definite improvement – once I lit the fire below, after 10 minutes, gas was burning from the tube. After 2.5 hours gas had stopped coming out and I let the fire below die completely.
In the morning I discovered that 100% of the contents had converted to charcoal!!

The pile of wood in the picture below is what I took from to burn in the firebox. It is mostly still there!
So I don’t know for sure, but I think I burned less wood in the firebox than was in the barrel, which is a huge improvement! The next burn will have more science. We will weigh the wood placed in the barrel, and note the type of wood. We will also weigh the wood burned in the firebox and then weigh the charcoal produced and time the process again. This process should give us a much better idea of the efficiency of the improved process.
Thanks for watching!

Be the First to Share

Did you make this project? Share it with us!

Growing up I knew charcoal as the square, chemical-soaked briquettes people bought in bags and poured into the barbecue grill once a summer. Like so much else in our lives it came from a store, wrapped in plastic and pre-treated for shelf life, with no sense that it shared a name with something amazingly useful, which hundreds of generations had made themselves.

Charcoal is simply wood that has been burned without oxygen, either by being heated but sealed away from oxygen or, more commonly, setting it on fire and then cutting it off from the air, keeping the wood from burning completely into ash. Most other substances in the wood are driven off, leaving a porous shape of almost pure carbon, lightweight and easy to transport.

It can purify water by soaking up impurities, as in many kitchen sink filters, and treat poison victims when crushed and drunk in a fluid. It allows people to burn fires hotter than wood, enabling people to smelt iron or shape glass in a way that wood fires cannot. It can be added to soap for abrasion, crushed to make ink or paint or mixed with minerals to make gunpowder.

Perhaps the most surprising use, one that gained a burst of attention in recent years, involves trapping carbon from the atmosphere. Frequent readers of this blog might have already heard of this and can feel free to skip ahead a few paragraphs – but for the unfamiliar, I will recap the basics.

Farmers in Brazil have long known about the “black earth,” or terra preta, found over vast areas of the Amazon. In the last decade or two archaeologists have begun to realise that the terra preta was not a naturally occurring phenomenon, but had been cultivated over centuries, if not millennia. What’s more, they began to realise that much of the sparsely inhabited Amazon rainforest was once densely populated with humans, continually enriching the soil as they farmed.

Like many Stone Age societies, they burned land to clear it for farming or hunting, but unlike many others they turned some of the wood into charcoal and then worked it back into the soil, creating an unusually rich and fertile ground; according to a 2006 article in Nature, bio-char – the charcoal folded into the earth to make terra preta — is three times richer in nitrogen and phosphorous than ordinary soil and 20 times richer in carbon.

This information might have remained a curiosity, part of the amazing new research in pre-Columbian natives, except for one thing: the same technique could work for us to offset carbon emissions. Burning plants may seem like a strange way to combat climate change, but merely charring wood into charcoal, rather than letting it burn away into ash, locks much of the wood’s carbon away in a stable form.

According to researcher Bruno Glaser at the University of Bayreuth, Germany, a hectare of meter-deep terra preta can hold 250 tonnes of carbon, as opposed to 100 tonnes of carbon in unimproved soils. In addition, the bio-char itself increases soil fertility, which allows farmers to grow more plants, which allows more bio-char to be added to the soil. Johannes Lehman, author of Amazonian Dark Earths, claims that combining bio-char and bio-fuels could draw down 9.5 billion tones per year, equal to all our current fossil fuel emissions.

Whether or not such people are correct, the technique has drawn admirers like climate scientists James Lovelock and Tim Flannery. As I mentioned last week, climate change is hitting us in a variety of ways, yet we struggle to reduce our pollution even a little, and our goal of a zero-carbon world seems ever more hopeless. Bio-char, however, offers everyone a way to be, not just carbon-neutral, but carbon-negative, with almost no technology. The redoubtable Albert Bates is gathering research on the merits of bio-char, and gave us a presentation on making it at the permaculture course I took in County Tipperary. Before I started his more sophisticated techniques, however, I needed to learn how to make charcoal, and some years ago I tried my hand at doing so.

I tried three ways of doing so, with varying degrees of success. Since charcoal can be created when wood is inside a heated and sealed container, I put two metal buckets together, one upside-down and atop the other, and inside I placed one or more pieces of wood. The crack of space between the two buckets I plastered with clay, and around them I started a fire of some of our rotting lumber. (Never burn lumber for charcoal or even in a fireplace; it has been treated with chemicals that can be poisonous when inhaled, and I would not want to filter water through its charcoal.)

I tried to make small amounts of charcoal, one at a time, but it never worked. If the clay plaster held, the logs inside were merely signed, and if part of the plaster fell off – as happened more frequently – the fire caught inside until I was left with only a few small pieces of charcoal and a lot of ash.

How to make charcoal

Learning how to make charcoal at home is an easy way to make a product that has multiple uses around the homestead. Below are just a few options for utilizing it.

  1. Fuel
  2. Additive for composting process.
  3. Soil amending.
  4. Homemade gunpowder.
  5. Making activated charcoal for filtration purposes.

Charcoal is mostly pure carbon made by burning wood slowly in a low oxygen setting. We have found the best way for us to make it is by using our mud oven to create the perfect environment.

I first came across this method years ago when watching a documentary about the deforestation in Brazil.

Even though the video was disturbing to me it did give me some ideas on how to make charcoal on a smaller scale as seen below.

First step is to start a fire.

How to make charcoal

Load up the oven with wood, preferably hardwood for a better quality of charcoal.

How to make charcoal

While it is burning gather some clay.

How to make charcoal

And whittle a piece of wood to create a bung.

How to make charcoal

You want to make sure that all the wood is burning and the smoke has turned a light grey or clear. This shows that a majority of the wood gases have burned off.

How to make charcoal

Use your clay and bung to close the opening to your mud oven.

How to make charcoal

Use water to smooth it out and make sure it is set in place firmly to your oven.

How to make charcoal

Pull out the bung to leave a small opening to allow just enough oxygen to help keep the fire from smoldering out.

How to make charcoal

I usually let it set twelve to twenty-four hours to give it time for the process to work and to properly cool down.

And that’s all there is to learning how to make charcoal at home. Let us know how it works for you if you try it.

Charcoal making is a fairly easy process, and requires a little equipment and some time.

Charcoal has lots of uses, from purifying water to providing fuel for cooking. If you enjoy a BBQ or cooking outdoors, then making your own charcoal can save you money. Plus, it is a good way to use up any scraps or off-cuts of wood you might have about the place. You could even make charcoal to sell at farmers’ or foodies’ markets, or rural events.

To make charcoal for cooking, you must have the right sort of wood. Untreated hardwood timbers scraps or off-cuts are fine, as is wood from hardwood trees. Hardwood simply means wood from a tree that is deciduous, that loses its leaves in winter and buds again in spring. Oak, Hazel, Chestnut, Maple, Apple are all examples of hardwood trees that make good charcoal for cooking.

Wood for charcoal making should be well seasoned, not freshly cut green wood. Seasoned wood is wood that has been stacked somewhere dry and airy for approximately six to eight months, allowing the moisture content to slowly evaporate. If you burn green wood, all you get is a load of damp smoke.

To make charcoal, wood needs to burn slowly with no air around it, otherwise it will just turn to ash. Some sort of container is required to create the right environment. If you want to make charcoal on a larger scale, for example to make a profit from woodland, there are charcoal kilns specially designed for the job. However, for smaller scale charcoal making, a steel oil drum works well, provided it is clean. One end of the drum is cut off to be used as a loose fitting metal lid, with a few holes in the top.

Two ways of making charcoal:

The direct method:

This is perhaps the easiest way to make charcoal. The direct method is to make a small fire in a container, then add wood to it. Once it is burning, you put the lid on to restrict the air and watch as white smoke and steam from the wood comes out of the holes in the lid.

When it turns to a blue coloured smoke, any moisture from the wood has dried. You then completely stop any oxygen from entering the drum by closing off the holes. Sand or soil work well. Without air, there is no flame, so the wood inside smoulders and cools. Leave it for 24 hours before removing the lid, to ensure everything has cooled down. The container should have charcoal ready for use.

The indirect method:

This method is to fill a steel container with wood, then build a fire around it. Because of the amount of wood you need to burn to get charcoal using this method, it is more suited to making small amounts, perhaps for purposes other than cooking fuel. The benefit of the indirect method of charcoal making is that it allows you to produce small amounts fairly quickly.

Build a fire in a safe area, or use a fire pit. Find a suitable metal container with a removable loose lid. Make a hole in the lid. It is important that the lid is loose, so that pressure doesn’t build up in the container as it heats, causing it to explode and possibly injure someone.

Wrap some metal wire around it so you change the position of the container once it is on the fire, and can hook it out again when it’s hot. Fill the container with wood and put on the lid. Use long handled tongs or a stick to put the container into the fire.

White smoke will come out of the hole in the top of the lid, which will become flammable. Keep an eye on the container. When the smoke and gasses from the lid are no longer flammable, carefully remove the container from the fire. Leave the lid on an allow it to cool completely before opening.

The results

When you remove the lid from the drum, you should see blackened chunks of coals. There should not be any wood or ash visible. Charcoal making is an art, as well as a science, so getting it right might take a little practise.

Using homemade charcoal is a sustainable way of producing fuel for the home. Using coppiced timbers from hardwood trees is healthy for woodland management, and any smoke created during the process is nothing compared to the carbon footprint of imported charcoal.

Charcoal ash that is left over from cooking, or from being used in a wood-burning stove, is a good fertiliser for growing plants. Making charcoal has lots of benefits, so give it a try!

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Homemade charcoal briquettes are inexpensive, easy to make, and environment-friendly. In the following article, we have provided detailed steps on how to make charcoal briquettes. Take a look.

How to make charcoal

Homemade charcoal briquettes are inexpensive, easy to make, and environment-friendly. In the following article, we have provided detailed steps on how to make charcoal briquettes. Take a look…

How to make charcoal

How to make charcoal

How to make charcoal

How to make charcoal

How to make charcoal

How to make charcoal

How to make charcoal

How to make charcoal

How to make charcoal

How to make charcoal

How to make charcoal

How to make charcoal

How to make charcoal

Charcoal is a gray-black light porous substance that is composed primarily of carbon, along with some volatile chemicals and ash. Apart from its most significant use as cooking fuel, charcoal was used as a component of gunpowder and to power steam engine trains. Even though there are many indoor and outdoor gas-powered stoves available for grilling, majority of people will agree that charcoal briquettes help make better-tasting meats. So if you like using charcoal briquettes while grilling but don’t wish to spend a lot of store-bought kind, here is a do-it-yourself option that’ll reduce your expense considerably.

What are Charcoal Briquettes?

They are uniform chunks of charcoal that are used in barbecue grills. The primary components of these briquettes are char (traditional charcoal) and coal, such as sub-bituminous lignite or anthracite. The best raw materials used to make traditional charcoal are from different types of wood scraps such as beech, birch, hard maple, hickory, and oak.

Apart from these, a binding agent such as starch made from corn, milo, or wheat, an accelerant (such as nitrate), and an ash-whitening agent (such as lime) are also required. Briquettes are highly flammable, catching and maintaining fire easily. Which is why they are preferred during barbecues.

Items Required for Making Charcoal Briquettes

Before we begin, it is necessary that you gather all the essential tools and items needed for the process.

How to make charcoal

Steps to Follow

Step 1 – The first thing you need to do is collect some wood scraps. The kind of wood you are looking for should be dry. It doesn’t matter if the scraps are smaller or larger in size as the briquettes will form on their own. However, if you wanted the briquettes to be smaller in size, you can cut up the wood scraps into smaller pieces.

Step 2 – Now we need an old metal barrel with a lid for this step. Using the electric drill, make a few holes in the base of the barrel. Each hole needs to be 1.5 inches in diameter and should be closer to the center. Place about three bricks on the ground and balance the barrel on them. The objective is to give the barrel some elevation.

Step 3 – Crumple a few sheets of old newspaper into balls and toss them into the barrel. Add sufficient amount and light it. Once the paper achieves full fire, add some of the wood scraps. After there is a strong fire going, add the rest of the wood.

Step 4 – Keep an eye on the appearance of the smoke. When it turns from yellow-white to a much reduced wispy blue, it is time to cut off the oxygen supply. This will help in charring the wood scraps. Place the lid over the barrel, remove it from the bricks’ platform, and securely place it on the ground. Keep the bricks on top of the lid so there is no way oxygen can go inside. Lastly, gather some dirt around the base of the barrel.

Step 5 – Now all that’s left to do is give it time. After the wood scraps are properly charred, allow it to sit for another 24 hours. By this time, the barrel should be cool to touch. Remove the lid, take out the charcoal chunks from the barrel, and place them in the empty container. Take the charcoal dust from the bottom of the barrel and crush the smaller pieces of charcoal into dust, to make the briquettes.

Step 6 – Having gone through all the preliminaries, it is finally time to form the briquettes. You need a thick paste made from cornstarch and water. Mix the two and stir over heat till you achieve thick consistency. Add in as much of the charcoal dust to the paste as possible. Put this gooey paste into Styrofoam egg cartons and allow it to dry. They should be ready for use in about a weeks time, and are almost totally smokeless, and as good as any store-bought ones.

Charcoal briquettes are great to use as they provide long-lasting and virtually smokeless fire; which is why, they are environment-friendly. The above article has provided you with all the necessary items required to make the charcoal briquettes and the steps. However, if this proves too cumbersome, you can always opt to purchase some when needed.