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I found out that I like charcoal more than coal because the only coal I can get around here is anthracite. The only problem is that charcoal is pretty darn expensive. I looked into ways of making coal, but I don't really want to get a 55 gallon drum and make some huge fire and I can't take over all my dads garage. I was wondering if I could make charcoal in my brake drum forge or does it have to be a larger container like a 55 gallon drum?

  Thanks

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I looked into ways of making coal, , , ,

Coal seams are fossilized accumulations of plants which lived and died in swamps that were so devoid of oxygen that few microbes or other critters could survive to feed on their remains. The first phase of coal known as "peat" thus developed. These swamps were interwoven with intricate, meandering river channels which eventually covered things with mud and silt. Subsequent deep burial by more sediments in succeeding geologic ages resulted in heat and pressure which transformed the peat into coal. Generally speaking, every 12 inches of coal thickness represents approximately 10,000 years of continuous peat accumulation.

Did you find a faster way to make coal? Please let us know.

You can make charcoal using what ever size container or device you wish.

Economically speaking, people have found that a 55 gallon drum is cheap to locate and construct a converter with. Larger charcoal makers use much larger containers for charcoal production.

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Edited by Glenn

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I believe that a quick Google search would highlight a few guys making charcoal in drums. I am not realy interested in making coal char or otherwise, but I did come across these guys sometime ago.

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I don't remember where, perhaps here, I saw a recirculating device that used the exhaust gases from a drum to speed and clean up the smoke of making charcoal.

 

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Yes, you can make charcoal in your forge. Small amounts and it would be most likely inefficient.

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Yesterday, I was smoking a rack of ribs when it occurred to me that once the aromatic smoke compounds cook out of the wood, the charcoal that's left isn't providing anything beyond heat. If you're cooking low and slow, you don't really need all that heat. So, before each addition of more wood, I started scooping out most of the coals, quenching them with water, then setting them aside to drain and dry in the sun. By the time the meat was done, I had enough for a short forging session.

Efficient? Nope. Sufficient to meet all my charcoal needs? Hell, no. Did it get the job done for now? Yup. Will I need to make myself a retort eventually? Yeah, probably.

(Is Frosty going to give me crap for overthinking? Chances are good. ;) )

And when the time does come to build a retort, I think I'm going to try to make one with a smoking chamber attached....

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How urban are ya? I'm in a subdivision, but with a lot of trees, and I make it in a 55 gal drum in the backyard. It's very smokey at first, then clears up some after the first 15-20 minutes. About 50 minutes in, it's usually more or less smokeless. I get maybe a 30 percent yield, (small but consistent, retorts worked great when they worked, but were making me crazy) so I wouldn't mess with less than that.

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The Y1K forge is a small camp fire a shovel and your forge. As you run low on charcoal in your forge use the shovel to scoop some out of the camp fire. Keep the camp fire fed and something between you for a heat shield is a good thing.

You can use wood in your forge and work in the coals in the bed but the heat of the flames is very unpleasant. Done that, threw the burnt T shirt away and the hair grew back so just take my word for it.

Frosty The Lucky.

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I don't remember where, perhaps here, I saw a recirculating device that used the exhaust gases from a drum to speed and clean up the smoke of making charcoal.

 

I have seen that somewhere also.

I thought it was a very elegant solution. To use the gas to provide the heat to produce more gas.

The version I saw was a drum set horizontal on a frame with a couple of tubes coming out of the top and curving round the drum to point under it.

The drum was charged with wood and sealed. A fire was lit underneath and as the temperature built the gas coming from the tube was ignited and supplemented the bonfire underneath.

I do not remember whether the gas pipes were sufficient to keep it going without the bonfire, do you?

Alan

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I have seen that somewhere also.

I thought it was a very elegant solution. To use the gas to provide the heat to produce more gas.

The version I saw was a drum set horizontal on a frame with a couple of tubes coming out of the top and curving round the drum to point under it.

The drum was charged with wood and sealed. A fire was lit underneath and as the temperature built the gas coming from the tube was ignited and supplemented the bonfire underneath.

I do not remember whether the gas pipes were sufficient to keep it going without the bonfire, do you?

Alan

As I remember:  Once the water vapor was gone the volatile components of the wood kept it going to almost the end.

 

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I've seen a couple versians of the indirect method retort. One was two clamp top drums on their sides, plumed with 2" from the top rear of each drum to undeneath where it was drilled as a burner. The whole thing was built in a small block and tin shed. A fire lit under it cooked the volitiles out of the wood, they were inturn burnt to provide a cleaner fire and more fuel.

the second I have seen was built with a double barrel stove, the uper barel had a 30 gallon clamp top incerted to make an oven. The oven was plumed with 2" to pipe the volitiles to the fire box. The guys making charcoal for gunpowder are making some bery high end charcoal. 

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If it weren't for idiot packed services(the spawn of unmarried parents) there would be plenty of info regarding this subject  on this site, but alas........

Sadly my laptop with my pictures went to its happy hunting ground and I have yet to strip my retort down to repost pictures.

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Ian's retort is elegantly simple hopefully he'll get back to his lap top soon and post.

The system I used the one time I helped build an indirect method retort was as simple as I could make it. yeah, I'm a BAD engineer, I know.

It was a 55gl drum with a clamp on lid I replaced the rubber gasket with stove rope, probably over kill. We laid it on it's side in a piece of pipe that was about 6" bigger around. We kept it on the bottom by laying pieces of rebar (it was at hand) across the pipe under the drum with the 2" bung at the bottom.

We screwed a 2" street elbow into the bung, a nipple that cleared the side by maybe an inch I don't recall, an elbow and another nipple a few inches long. This was aimed back under the center of the drum. The back of the pipe was blocked completely with sheet steel and dirt. The front was blocked by sheet steel with a little  gap on top and a draft hole directly in front of the 2" pipe burner. The inside of the drum was packed with alder and willow in the 2" dia. range left in the round so gasses can circulate.

We packed the space around the drum with the branches and twigs from the alders and willows we filled the drum with. Well we pout a couple pieces of pallet wood in too but I don't think it mattered.

We lit it off with a little charcoal lighter fluid a LITTLE like a 1/2 second squirt and a match. It smoked till the brush got rolling and then it settled down to a nice burn. WE could tell pyrolization had begun when we started seeing white vapor (steam) coming out the smoke hole. The wood gas was burning and when it stopped a couple hours later we blocked off the draft hole and smoke hole and let it cool.

It doesn't really matter what you use to contain the drum so long as it won't burn or be damaged by the fire. Wood gas burns HOT so cinder blocks are a bad choice. Digging a hole for the drum and covering it with a piece so sheet steel is a good choice.

Frosty The Lucky.

 

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Tia Goo has a video that describes how he makes charcoal from wood scraps the same way coal is used to make coke. His forge fire is made with char coal and the green wood is slowly worked into the center. By the time it has gotten to the hottest part of the forging fire, the volatiles in the wood have gassed off and the char coal is burned to produce the heat needed to forge. Seemed to work fine for him but I am sure there is a learning curve. 

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I find that works for a lively inspired bottom blast well enugh but for an effecient 6" sideblast fire it dosnt work for tinkers. The seperat fire as suggested by Frosty works well in that case

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Tia Goo has a video that describes how he makes charcoal from wood scraps the same way coal is used to make coke. His forge fire is made with char coal and the green wood is slowly worked into the center. By the time it has gotten to the hottest part of the forging fire, the volatiles in the wood have gassed off and the char coal is burned to produce the heat needed to forge. Seemed to work fine for him but I am sure there is a learning curve. 

My bottom blast LPG cylinder forge works well on wood - with two irons in the fire it heats them as fast as i can work them.
I would say that had I the opportunity, I would get a second cylinder and make mine taller so I can have more 'green' wood 'coking' up above.
With my current blower (a hair dryer) I get plenty of heat for forging, but not enough to forge weld, though I suspect this is a result of my air flow, rather than my choice of fuel.
If I had the chance to build a 55gal drum retort I'd still give it a go (I tried digging a pit burn, but it didn't work well), but at this stage wood can work fine as fuel.

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If it weren't for idiot packed services(the spawn of unmarried parents) there would be plenty of info regarding this subject  on this site, but alas........

Sadly my laptop with my pictures went to its happy hunting ground and I have yet to strip my retort down to repost pictures.

Ian, is your retort similar to the one discussed in this thread?

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