Recommended Posts

Has anyone tried making charcoal from leaves? I was thinking about it while working under my gargantuan silver maple on--you guessed it--clearing the gutters and deck. Initially it seemed far-fetched.

The more I think about it, the more it seems plausible. You take a steel 55 gallon drum, pack it firmly with leaves, drill a couple holes for the gases to escape, and cook it over a fire. I imagine you'd be left with something similar to fines.

I see moisture and low density/return rates being a problem. Likely very inefficient.

Thoughts?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In general I think it's unlikely to be worth the effort or likely to work at all but that's never stopped me from brainstorming an idea. Maybe if you use a trash masher to compress them into bricks, then pyrolize them. Just stop feeding the masher leaves when the block gets to say 1.5" - 2" thick. 

Please note I haven't suggested any of the large number of possible sources as unlikely to work as leaves. I'll  let someone else hijack the thread then join in. :ph34r:

Frosty The Lucky.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Herr Frosty,

A great idea,  (as per usual).

The SLAG is thinking that further leaf compaction would improve the density of the starting material.

Therefor he suggests 'grinding' the leaves and then misting them and then compacting the resulting material, would result in "bricks" should result in better feed stock for the pyrolysis cooking.

But the overall question is, (drumroll please), is all that effort worthwhile? (of course, it could prove very interesting, as an experiment).

Only a little time would be expended and it may prove to become a new fuel source.

Composting the leaves is the fallback position, if the exercise proves to be impractical.

Good luck with it Mr. tjdaggett.

SLAG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Grind them? I was thinking flat particles would key together better, make better passages for volatile gasses to escape and not be as likely to crumble. 

If you spritz them with wax you can make your own "Presto Logs" I keep a box around and use a thin slice as fire starter in the wood stove when the wood isn't terribly dry. 

Compost Herr Slag? How :blink: trite. Seriously how much fun can we have brainstorming ideas if you go straight to the tried and true but old and boring solutions? 

Frosty The Lucky.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
53 minutes ago, tjdaggett said:

Has anyone tried making charcoal from leaves?

A serendipitous qreury, indeed. Just a week or so ago, I, with my 5 ton fly press, pushed 7 gallons of dried locust leaves into a dia. 1-3/4" x 2" cylinder. VERY labor intensive. Additionally, I would like to increase the pressing to 20 tons.

My intent is to pyrolyze the mass, and then to further compress it into a solid, the goal being to produce a consumable cuppel. however, it, being dry, is still too friable. I am considering infusing with supersaturated sugar solution.

Back to the original question: I would go with the trash compactor, leaves not ground.

SLAG, would the addition of water be sufficient to promote starch binding? A bit of corn starch?

tjdagget, anything that piques MY curiosity is worth trying once - although no matter how hard you mash it down, the yield may disappoint. The upside though is fines are fine in the forge, and at worst, you will have some bio char for the garden.

Frosty::rolleyes:

Robert Taylor 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't know about making any form of usable charcoal, but we did heat up the workshop with compressed sawdust in a drum, with a hole in the center. It would burn for days. The same can be done with leafs if you compact them in a drum around a pole, then pull the pole out. 

Not very safe though. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Now I'm thinking about compressing sawdust briquettes in The Pressciousss....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Presto Logs seem to perform quite well. JHCC, I wish you well in coming up with a method - imagine filling a cylinder ten feet long, with hand-tamped leaves, and, after pressing, coming out with a puck 1/2" thick. SAWDUST should be quite easier, though. YMMV.

My next iteration will be to set up a feeder on the one ton OBI Press, and if this actually goes anywhere, it is on to the 8 ton OBI. Has anyone seen the Sourdough loaf refractory?

Robert Taylor

Edited by Anachronist58
addendum

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I seem to recall a friend of mine who would make a slurry from ground leafs, newspaper, and water that he would compress into cylinders with a log splitter that seemed to work pretty well for heating his cabin. I don't know if they would pyrolize and you could use the resulting fuel without it crumbling which wouldn't be good for forge fuel but some small scale testing would answer the question.

Pnut

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not sure if this is what your after , I looked into doing this myself awhile ago as an alternative fuel to store brought briquettes .

Dale Russell  

And this

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dale Russell, thanks much for posting these videos.  Therein we have the use of a starch binder, a screw press, and an appropriate die pattern.

It appears that I will be running my first tests backwards per the convention.

Good to know, pnut.

Robert Taylor

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Anach…,

Sugar will work as a binder.  It does not have to be super saturated nor even saturated. 

A dilute sugar and water solution will work fine as long as the extended drying time is not an issue for you. 

It will be a lot cheaper.

A starch water solution can act as a binder, too. (but, I think that a sugar water solution would work better).

Mr. Frosty  Effendi,  wrote the following,

"Compost Herr SLAG? How  trite. Seriously how much fun can we have brainstorming ideas if you go straight to the tried and true but old and boring solutions?"

That idea was suggested if pyrolizing leaves proved impractical as a fuel. In other words as a fall-back use.

Thanks are in order for Mr. Dale Russell for the very informative videos that he posted.

SLAG.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Biomass briquettes is an environmentally appropriate way to talk about charcoal I guess. I liked the fly press and for pressing charcoal you could make one from a piece of acme screw and a box with a dirt filled tire for the flywheel. A closer pitched screw might do a better job too. I think they were getting it too wet, after a point the excess water displaces the material you want to compress. You only want enough to lube it and make it stick together.

Sugar eh? The stuff sure is sticky and I'll bet the: jungle, forest, city dump is full of: berries, over ripe fruit and starchy food say plantains and potatoes. Here I was thinking of Elmer's glue, it's amazing how little it takes to make a concrete test cylinder way stronger than the mix design says it should be. Nothing compared to the water activated epoxy powder we tested though.

Okay, back to Elmer's. Hide glue is easy enough to make. I wonder how much it'd take, like all the above adhesives I'm thinking a little in the water used to compress the briquettes would do the trick. It'd sure beat adding clay unless they have a reason for the nonflammable component and it looked like they were adding quite a bit. IIRC 1pt clay to 6pt. charcoal powder.

Their retorts were getting a surprisingly good % return though it could be better with a little redesign. 

The screw extruders look like a better process than pressed bricks but the bricks may make better heat for the size. The bricks are part clay though so it's a maybe. Screw extruding presses is how Presto logs used to be made, my Uncle Brent used to work at the fake log press during the Depression. His job was to carry them from the tray where they came out of the extruder and stack them. He said he had to wear long sleeves because they'd burn your arms they were so hot.

A screw extruder would be easy to automate say a water wheel driven line shop. Load charcoal in the crusher mixer which would feed a conveyor or chute to the extruder. The extruder output would be a conveyor belt with a cutting wheel rolling on it. Briquettes roll off the end onto drying racks to enjoy waste heat from the coaling retorts. 

Darned if I can think of a snappy comeback. Sorry if I let you down Slag. I'll do better next time, honest. :)

Frosty The Lucky.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Frosty said:

Okay, back to Elmer's. Hide glue is easy enough to make.

I'm not sure if it is still being sold but Elmer's used to sell mucilage.  it seems like it would be excellent for this application. 

Pnut

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I haven't had time to synthesize all of this what with having a new daughter, but I wanted to say that I love you people. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One can buy feed pellet mills, that’s how wood pellets for stoves started out. I would think the cattle cube size plates would work well. As to binders, with enugh pressure, heat will be generated that will heat the ligum and that will act as a binder (see straw lumber). I do not belive anyone uses binders in alfalfa pellets. 

Might have a buisness there cleaning up leaves for folks (many cities in the east acualy came to the Midwest to buy hay stackers) and spend the winter making pellets (cubes would burn well in coal stoves) 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Gee THANKS pnut, I was living in my happy little world and thinking I could go buy a bottle or squeeze thingy of mucilage until now, thank you VERY much for popping my bubble! I tried to salve my shattered illusions by proving mucilage is still commonly available by employing my Yahoofu only to find it's . . . <sigh> :(

However, while skimming the thumbnails on the Yahoo page I noticed this one and discovered mucilage probably isn't being sold because it's so darned easy too make and you can make it any flavor you like! Woo HOO, I'm secure in my happy little world again! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzWCoJ2u_bQ

Gelatin is basically boiled/rendered(?) down: hide, cartilage, milk etc. so we're good there and vinegar is pretty easy to make. The only question I have about it's utility making charcoal or compost briquettes, (I'm afraid I just couldn't resist, Slag.:P) is how mucilage smells when it burns. Hmmm, another thought just entered my dented noggin, I wonder how much extract it'd take to make the fire smell nice. Wright's Liquid Smoke is probably coal to Newcastle so it's probably a non starter but I like the smell of mint. Bet I could get some interesting comments at the BBQ, Vanilla chicken. Mmmmm, Oooh OOOH, strawberry, coconut pork chops!

2 hours ago, tjdaggett said:

I haven't had time to synthesize all of this what with having a new daughter, but I wanted to say that I love you people. 

New daughter? Uh huh, did I miss the pictures or don't you care if we believe you? Oh okay, I admit whether or not we believe anybody is pretty marginal in the scheme of things but we do LOVE pics. We love you too, that was a GREAT question!

Seems Charles and I are typing at the same time, good morning Charles! Feed pellet mills eh. good thought. Lignin is what you're thinking of, I had to look it up, thank you Yahoofu!  It would bind wood and other vegetable matter but not charcoal. I wonder if lignin is harder to extract than mucilage is to make.

Frosty The Lucky.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It seems as though we agree. I haven't gone mucilage shopping in a while and haven't actually seen a bottle since I was a kid hence the hesitation to say whether or not it's still included in Elmer's product line. As far as making mucilage I don't think I have the desire although there's a ton of stuff that It's used for that I had no idea about. Medicinal mucilage anyone? We haven't passed the medicinal mucilage statute yet so I'll just have to wait till KY catches up:D

What do you think about the effectiveness ofgum arabic for a binder?

Pnut

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

All I know is, the little time I have, I wanna spend it forging, not converting leaves into charcoal..  The idea is cool, but at end of the day, what is YOUR time worth?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a scientific interest in the process, and am fascinated by all things carbon. I am the only person I know who collects crude oil, oil shales, bitumen, and beach tar for fun - am I Abby, Abby Normal?:unsure:

I have a lifetime supply of wood for forging,  one is likely to meet all kinds of people here......

Robert Taylor

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

^I get it, believe me, I have my ways too. I wish I had the patience to experiment like what you discussed here.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
37 minutes ago, JW513 said:

All I know is, the little time I have, I wanna spend it forging, not converting leaves into charcoal..  The idea is cool, but at end of the day, what is YOUR time worth?

One voice of reason.

I always shudder at the videos posted from time to time showing appalling working conditions, patronisingly presented as ideal technology to preserve " .... " fill in with fad of the day. 

Survival technology is always interesting however. Something like "How would you do it if you are stranded on a deserted island situation".

A hobby of sort I suppose. 

Blacksmithing however, is about reproducing what is in your head, by squashing it between your hammer and your anvil.

Making fuel is not blacksmithing ... in my personal view. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This thread is posted in the Solid Fuels section.......

Blacksmithing is not making solid fuels - in my personal view.

Robert Taylor

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.