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So how do you make charcoal?

Right now I'm using the barrel in the barrel method. I wanna make it In larger quantities. Any tips or pictures would be greatly appreciated.

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Thank you. 

Note to mods. Sorry and thank you for moving this to the correct subforum. I did a quick search and didnt see this one so I figured general discussion was a good second choice.

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Another tip for searching Iforge is not to use the resident search engine it's not much. Use your favorite and include Iforgeiron in the terms, it'll come here first.

Using the direct method, cut the wood in small pieces and pack it in the barrel with just a little space around the pieces and a few air holes in the bottom of the barrel. Light the wood through the air holes, I used to use a couple charcoal briquettes in each because they're easy and I'm lazy. Once the wood gets going good put a lid on the barrel, not a tight one just something to cover it to limit the draw and contain the heat. When it stops smoking block the air holes with dirt and put a tight lid on the top. It'll take a day or so to cool and open it slowly. You should have a decent return, as in 30% +/-

An even better method is to load the same barrel but turn it open side down on the dirt with a couple air channels under the edges. Light it as before, the smoke will exit the holes that used to be air holes. When it stops smoking plug the air holes on the bottom with dirt and the smoke holes with wads of aluminum foil. It'll cool in a day or so, the return should be better than the other method.

A retort can produce in excess of 60% if you don't count the wood necessary to get it started working and it's more complicated set up.

Frosty The Lucky.

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I really wanna make mass quantities of charcoal. I have a large 100 gallon tank I'm thinking of making a retort. I want something I can capture the gas and feed it into a burn chamber. I have seen someone's avatar on here that is exactly what I'm looking to build. I will search and see if I can find who it is. 

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Definitely look into the Hookway retort, as in the page IDFC linked above. If I were going the charcoal route (which I may yet, someday), that would be my own clear preference.

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Have you looked at snagging some old water heaters?  If you have any welding capability they're a good vessel for retorts- especially the natural gas ones (with a tube up the middle).  I'd seen a video of a build of a nice looking retort with one of the big heating oil tanks as the outer vessel, and a water heater as the retort vessel (oriented horizontally).

The other thing I'd offer is considering being more imaginative with the outer container, you could actually build that using adobe/mud bricks and not be limited to the size of whatever metal thing you can find.

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1 hour ago, JHCC said:

Definitely look into the Hookway retort, 

I looked into it and it doesn't look like it would produce enough charcoal to meet my needs.i like the idea.

I will find a picture of what I wanna build.

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On 5/14/2019 at 8:39 AM, Benona blacksmith said:

Anachronist58

Hello Benona b.  Yes, I make charcoal in that stove/forge, but only with the Aerobic (direct burn) method. When it is loaded with glowing coals, I shut the intake and exhaust valves, and combustion ceases.

The unit you have pictured above, is certainly the way that I would go - do you need vast amounts of charcoal just for Smithing, or have you additional uses?

Robert Taylor

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Look up indirect method. And NO I don't mean watch Youtube videos, you can find dimensioned drawings in books. IIRC Mother Earth News used to have plans for sale in the ads. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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For sure be careful listening to YouTube videos. I watched one and the guy keeps saying he's making blacksmith coal!! Not reliable sources. I second Mother Earth News. I have M.E.N. guide to homemade power it's chocked full of good info. 

Pnut (Mike)

 

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I use charcoal exclusively and I'm fortunate in that I can find as much as I need in the bush. I have thought of making some at our museum using the double drum method,  just as an interesting exhibit for visitors. They often ask where I get the charcoal from. Seems like a lot of work for small return though.

Some old time charcoal men who have memories of supplying charcoal to the mine smelters said that you just need to dig a big pit, get a fire going, pile in heaps of wood and cover it over with iron sheets and earth, leaving a small air gap at each end. We have yet to try it, but it's a thought.

I like neilyeag's idea. There's a guy near us who makes his BBQ charcoal in a hollowed out termite mound pretty much like that.

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Ausfire, that is the same basic method used in third world countries. Dig a pit get it burning and cover it up.

Pnut (Mike)

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Yes I have other uses for the charcoal like making orishigane and when I get up north to get ore I will be making bloomery iron. Not to mention charcoal for the grill and charcoal dust for mine and my buddy's garden.

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When I'm not using gas for production work or pattern welding, I mostly use charcoal. I make all of my own on account of my workshop being set in 10 acres of woodland so the fuel is all around me! 

I looked into retorts and they are definitely worth using, especially if your wood supply is limited or you are near other people. They produce higher percentage yield and better quality charcoal than direct methods can. The Hookway retort is one of the few commercially available ones int he UK (and the plans are cheap if you want to build your own without the learning curve of youtube/books). The issue I had with it was that the quantity was too small from an oil drum sized kiln and the larger ones would involve too much effort/time/money on my part. 

I currently use a 5 foot ring kiln of the type most wood colliers use these days. The drum is 5 feet diameter and 4 feet high and I get about 120kg of charcoal out of it. It takes a couple of hours to load, couple of hours to unload and the burn is about 10hours. The quality is a bit more variable, but the browns go into the next burn (or camp firewood) and I've started to use even the fines on the forge so no more than a small amount to get the kiln up to temperature is wasted. ring kilns are commercially available at a fraction of the cost of a retort, infact the cost of a second hand ring is often less than the materials for a similar sized retort

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