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Mtbarn

Softwood charcoal?

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I have access to dimension lumber scraps through work. Does anyone have experience with charcoal made from softwoods?

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I started with hardwood charcoal but have switched to mostly soft wood from pallets. I get fewer fire flies, less ash, and I don't notice any difference in burn rate. If you aren't already making charcoal check out the threads on different methods. Lots of good information here.

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Softwood like framing lumber charcoal burns faster but hotter. Pallets are typically hardwood though not usually high quality. Hardwood charcoal lasts longer. BTUs per lb. are the same though.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Hard wood lump charcoal is not typically fully pyrolised, thus fire flees. To much air will exasperate the situation. Softer woods such as pine, Cotton wood, willow etc contain less silica thus produce less ash. 

 

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The 40# sacks of mesquite charcoal are particularly bad about not being fully charred as they WANT the mesquite smoke flavour to come through rather than the hot clean burn for forge work.

As for softwood charcoal; As I recall it's used in Japanese sword smithing.

And a lot of pallets are all softwood these days---look for the HT stamp it means they were heat treated rather than chemically dosed to prevent insects/diseases being transmitted by them.

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Thanks everyone for taking the time to respond and for all the good information!

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Mn iv used hardwood, I typically might start with royal oak and then move to a cowboy charcoal once I have the heat. it sort of depends on brand

My forge is just a narrow channel made of two brick walls only 5 inches wide though and about 14 inches deep so it gets much hotter then a grill type pile, I like to put a large chunk of dry firewood ontop to pack in the charcoal and insulate the stack.

Hardwood is ashy, which is good and bad youl find yourself cleaning your steel/anvil more but its good for welding, bad for forging.

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As a follow up to my original question, when do I size my charcoal?  Should I break up larger pieces after they’ve been pyrolized or should I cut them to size beforehand?  

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Yes Definitely!   (It converts to charcoal easier in a smaller form, but you seem to lose more to inter chunk friction when handling it that way,)  As size of charcoal can be modified according to how YOUR forge works and what YOU are forging; I would experiment and see what works best for YOU! 

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I never bothered to make charcoal first when I ran low on coal. I just tossed the chunks in and got a fire going. Worked it like a coal fire and added it around the edges, I just kept pushing it in as it was consumed. With enough air the smoke isn't that bad.

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Thank you again everyone  for the feedback. I’ll post some pictures if/when I build a charcoal retort. 

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