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Everything Mac

Charcoal making, had a smoke complaint

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Hi guys,

I came home to a letter from the council regarding a complaint they've received about the smoke produced when I make charcoal.
I'm not surprised as there is a huge amount of smoke when I make charcoal.

Trouble is I'm not sure what to do about it. I'm fairly sure who made the complaint and I'm very sad they didn't just approach me directly to have a word.

I spoke to the guy at the council who suggested doing it at night may be better. The other option is to stop all together, though this puts me back to square one on my fuel supply. Not to mention leaves me with a hoard or wood now useless to me...

I would like to talk to the person who made the complaint but I fear that will make things ten times worse. I went round earlier with a hand made bottle opener to see if I could make peace but no one was home.


Any and all advice appreciated.
Andy

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Greetings Mac,

 

Here in Michigan you can file for a burning permit...  It won't solve your neighbor problem but you would be legal..    OR  just take some refreshment with you when you deliver your bottle opener... LOL

 

Forge on and make beautiful things

Jim

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Hi Jim, things are a tad different over here sadly.
Looks like I might be able to do it out on a farm but this may well be more hassle than it's worth unfortunately.

Andy

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Don't you just love people like that. I'm so glad the "pest" up the street from me finally moved. He had nothing better to do than complain about anyone in eye sight of his place to the township code enforcement officer ( who he happened to be friends with). Last time I got a letter like that from the township and they came out for an inspection, I told the code officer I knew who was causing me so many issues, and if he didn't stop, I was going to complain his home business wasn't handicapped accessible and push that they enforce those regs. Those modifications would involve structural changes to the house, and thus he'd also need to instal a sprinkler system in the entire house as well as bring the whole structure up to current codes. I figured it would cost the "pest" at least $60K minimum to do the work.  Code officer tried to bluff me that it wasn't required and I pulled out the code book and started listing marked sections for violations. Funny, after that I didn't get pestered any more....

 

 

Smoke is usually unburned flammables. Maybe a blower to increase your O2 would get it to burn cleaner. I don't do charcoal, but years ago I used to make charred cloth for Scouts. IIRC you sealed the stuff up in a can with a tiny hole and then lit the gasses that escaped. Not sure if charcoal is done the same way or not.

 

If nothing else works, get a copy of the local codes and find out where you actually stand and what he's in violation of. Most places do enforcement by complaint. It's real easy for someone to just complain because they know they can hide behind the governing body. In some cases you may not even be in violation of any ordinance, but the township doesn't like to get complaints. When voters get cranky, people in government sometimes loose their cushy jobs. So rather than follow the written rules, often they try to intimidate  and bluster the public into changing their actions even if they are legal. Many times if you threaten to complain about something the neighbor is doing in return, all of a sudden they don't seem to mind as much any more, especially if you can back up your position and what you are doing isn't covered or is borderline. I'm not suggesting you be vindictive, just that you explain to whomever that there are consequences to playing this little game, and they can just as easily be on the other end of the complaint. It's to their interest to play nice and get along or they could have to deal with the township as well.

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it's posts like this that make me SO glad I don't live in the city, or in a neighborhood with a HOA. doing it at night doesn't sound all that bad. makes for cooler pictures of the retort too.

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I've spoken to my immediate neighbours and no one has a problem with it. There's two houses behind mine that I've not spoken to yet, one of which is where I suspect the complaint originates from.
I'm going to try an speak to them before I do any more.

Most people I spoke to have said they've more important things to worry about and to crack on.

Cheers
Andy

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You may consider an indirect fired retort. It would work like a wood stove (infact the heat sorce can very well be a wood stove) I've seen one built with a double barrel wood stove kit. With a 30 gallon inserted in the upper barel to act as an oven. The advantage of this kind if set up, the "exhaust" is plumed back to the fire box, where it is burnt.
Let me do some hunting and see if I can find the info I have. We are looking at two basic things, a clean affordable heat sorce and a I in to distill the wood. Since we aren't interested in recovering the wood tar, resin or turpentine, the exast is burnt by the heat sorce. And again if its set up to burn clean (yea, that's a relitivly turm). You can always throw in a rack and call it an oven ;-)

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Just build a rocket type retort and you will make less smoke than the average BBQ.. I know its A BIT OF A MISH. but once you have one you wont look back! 

 

Ian

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Ok, I haven't found the link to the retort I'm looking for.
Hear is a link to a free PDF of what I think is the best wood stove building book going. Efficient = clean.
I'm still trying to find the link.

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We have a neighbor who used to complain a LOT but the last time she complained in writing about our barking livestock guardian dog being abused and neglected got her written a ticket for being BAD. Most agencies do NOT like being used as a club for personal nitwits.

 

Anyway, the problem being smoke you can burn the smoke by putting a pilot flame in the plume. It's the same effect as poking a hole in the coal fire to light the smoke. It usually doesn't take much and once lit is usually self sustaining. Sometimes all you need to do is pass a lit torch-like thing through the smoke or use a weed burner. tossing a piece of burning paper in the smoke will work but tends to send burning sparks aloft so I do NOT recommend it.

 

A bit of screen, hardware cloth size +/- at the top of the retort where it can get hot will act as an igniter once the smoke gets burning and keep it burning.

 

Personally I much prefer an indirect retort, after a very little smoke on lighting they're very clean. Ian's rocket retort looks to burn darned clean but if you have nervous neighbor a couple yards of flame shooting into the sky might scare the B'jeebers out of him/er. Of course it MIGHT be worth it. <evil grin>

 

Frosty The Lucky.

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Ian's retort model looks like it'd do the trick.  There's some youtube videos in that thread of similar type retorts.

 

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I've been busy on other projects so haven't had a chance to build his type.  That and my neighbors haven't complained about the simple retort I'm using which works, but puts out lots of smoke. 

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I definitely recommend fighting fire with fire.  Years back I had a neighbor that loved to complain about all and sundry, and a lot of those complaints could have been valid.  Unfortunately for him, he didn't have his own ducks in a row and the neighbors all seemed to pitch in to get him a few visits from the local bigwigs.  He learned his lesson quick like!

 

If you have a nebbynose neighbor, make sure you document any and all infractions that you can, and then see how they like a letter from the council.  Don't simply try to make do as that allows the bullies to carry on!

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Trouble is Vaughn that I still don't know 100% who made the complaint. Everyone I've spoken to has told me they've bigger things to worry about. In reality it could have been one of about twenty odd houses in the vicinity.

I've not done any more charcoal making since I posted this thread. I'm loathed to be defeatist and the idea of the person who complained with a smug grin on their face annoys me intensely, but I am going to sacrifice making charcoal in my back yard for the blacksmithing. If they make noise complaints then I'm stuffed.


As it stands I've now got two options. Continue to buy charcoal from a producer that lives an hour away, buy in bulk and make a trip every so often.
Or go to a woodland owned by a guy willing to let me make charcoal there using his offcuts and such in exchange for a few favours.

I've got a big barrel or two lined up for the burn so I can at least go and see how much I can make in a day, if it turns out that it will be impractical to make it myself then I'll go back to buying it.

Andy

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