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Exo313

Small scale retort?

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I'm wondering, how down-scalable is charcoal retort technology? Could small batches be done with a pyrolization chamber, say, coffee can sized, as an approximation? Thoughts?

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Plenty of vids on youtube showing how to make small batches of charcoal often for art use or other uses.

I use two food cans, one inside the other (a can of beans may be slightly larger than a can of peas or fruit) fil the smaller can with wood invert the other and sit it top can down in the fire. quick simple and cost nothing.

You'll want a size that can produce large enough pieces of charcoal for your use.

 

 

"... It probably could be done, however it would take forever to get a usable amount of charcoal. .." Not if like me you stack a number around a fire that you would have been burning anyway, a free bucket full of charcoal from the twigs you've cleaned of the lawn, still a free bucket full of charcoal!

 

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If you were to place wood small enough to fill the can I don't know whether or not you would get big enough chunks to use in the forge since a 1" 'round' piece of charcoal does burn rather quickly and anything smaller is practically useless in lasting long enough in the forge from my experience. And I have seen many ratios on the wood to charcoal size but 2/3 to 1/2 the size of the original piece of wood, but that may vary. But in theory, you can make char out in an Altoids tin if you wanted to.

Take my word as a bit of salt, because I am teaching myself in the same area.

-Kaleb

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I was just camping this weekend and looking at the fire pit as we set up I thought 'there is a fair amount of charcoal sitting there'. Didn't want to deal with the mess, but I'm going to start gleaning charcoal when I'm done with a fire and it's convenient. Just stick it in a can and smother it.

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Yes bluesman7 I do exactly that when away camping. just make sure it is all completely cold before loading it up and setting off home. The only problem I have with this method is finding or transporting enough wood to the campsite. However sometimes I've gotten lucky and sourced a supply on site....only to run out of charcoal bins!

The small can retort is particularly usefull if you live in an urban environment and larger fires or retorts could be a cause for complaints.

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Absolutely scale-able! Scaled down: artists turn willow twigs into charcoal pencils, and primitive campers make char cloth in Altoids tins and shoe polish tins.

Scaled up, somebody once posted on turning a burnt-out (vandalized) dumpster into a room sized retort.

55 gallon steel drums, old water heaters and heating oil tanks are soooo last century. Find a tanker truck! (And take pictures.)

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The urban issue is exactly the reason I ask.  I have access to lots of scrap wood. Also considering a wood-fired forge (aka turning wood into charcoal in the firepot) for simplicity sake. 

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And here I am looking for a tanker truck, 'spose up-scale or down scale, whichever suits.

Bluesman7, don't just put the wood in a can, seal it then smother it please.

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Yes I believe it can be downsized (or upsized) depending on need, just as John McPherson said ^above^.  Just depends on what you need.  FWIW, and certainly not the most efficient way of producing charcoal,  I just built a fire in my firepit and shoveled coals into a bucket of water and then dumped on some 1/4" wire mesh to spread and dry.  In no time I had a couple of 5 gallon buckets full.  And there is the rub, what do you want it for?  A forge can burn through a five gallon bucket of charcoal fairly quickly, like in a couple of hours of continuous forging.

So I guess it just depends on volume need. 

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And I have a raised firepit that I burn wood in and transfer the hot coals to the forge so I don't have to be working with the wood smoke and heat of a wood fire on top of my forge. (I put the forge upwind of the firepit---or side by side and work upwind of them.

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