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19 hours ago, Frosty said:

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

Agree, Frosty. Those who work with refractories, per se, clay as in pottery, cake batter, etc., have a knack for "just right" moisture levels. My neighbor, a New Mexico tile maker, demonstrated the process of cement tile / hydraulic tile. The moisture had to be "just right",

A similar principle was executed in raising of the San Vicente dam, here in San Diego county. See "Roller Compacted Concrete". Ah, but I have strayed - this thread is about making charcoal from leaves.

Robert Taylor

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Boy am I Yahooing this morning! Gum Arabic is acacia resin so making or collecting our own could be problematical. 

That should be an early test for sure Charles. I have questions about pyrolizing leaf pellets, wont the lignen degrade and the pellets fall apart as they coal? I'll find someone with a pellet stove, bum some, rig a little retort and get back.

Is this discussion keeping any of you from your anvil? If it's wasting your time how about you go light a fire. Nobody is holding a gun too your head

A  newcomer to the craft asked a question and some of us are having a good time brainstorming it. Nobody has to: join in, spend one second of time experimenting, thinking, reading, anything. We ask you for nothing. We also play with puns, you might not want to waste time reading those either. How about you not open the threads once you know we're not discussing your opinion of blacksmithing? It's not like we have these conversations to: irritate you, count views, likes, or other such adolescent social media BS.  

Frosty The Lucky.


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Mr. Frosty,

I heartily concur with your point of view.

The final determination of what is appropriate subject matter for i.f.i. is up to the administrators and ultimately the site owner Mr. G. Connor.

I have not heard of any of them taking issue with this topic. They have,  also,  not interfered with this particular thread.

The majority of us do not have induction forges.  Therefor, we must burn some kind of hydrocarbon in our forges. That family of chemicals includes coal, wood, saw dust, charcoal, coke, propane, natural gas,  etc.

Charcoal is pyrolyzed wood. Coke is pyrolyzed coal. Any carbon material can be pyrolyzed. That includes twigs, peat, leaves, and other biomass.

Pyrolysis is essentially destructive distillation of organic matter, generally done in the absence of air. (oxygen)

Smiths pyrolyze coal by first heating it in the forge, on the edge of the fire, and pushing the pyrolyzed coked coal into the main fire.

So pyrolyzed leaves are a legitimate heat source.

As Mr. I. Dragon has cogently stated that there are a lot of leaves in the forest. (especially his own sixty acres,  lucky fellow).

Perhaps they can be put to good use

The forgoing is SLAG's personal opinion, and all members can form their own.

Regards to all,


The compressed pyrolyzed leaf cakes will maintain their integrity. Just as wood holds up after it becomes char coal.


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1 hour ago, SLAG said:

The compressed pyrolyzed leaf cakes will maintain their integrity. Just as wood holds up after it becomes char coal.

Hmmmm, I wonder if someone locally has a pellet mill they want out of their way. We have a saw mill a few miles from here, I get saw dust from their planer mill output. The smooth coat dachshunds aren't too willing to drag their junk in the snow to do their business outdoors in winter. However a little plastic lined pen with a couple inches of saw dust and a heat lamp prevents "accidents" in the house. Anyway, the sawdust bin is open to anyone who wants it, might be a good place to feed a pellet mill.

It'd take a good wood chipper to reduce wood and brush to something small enough to make pellets or cakes but disposing of limbs and brush is a never ending story here. I know I've had to sit watching brush piles burn often enough I might even pay someone to grind them to dust and make Presto logs and pellets. Maybe let them have the scrub for a cord of manufactured fire wood. 

What do you think would be the right size pellet to char for the forge? I'm thinking maybe shooter marble size to start with.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Here's my two bits to this conversation. Lol,,,

My guess is that the mass of leaves needed and the energy expended to acquire enough leaves to bring a 6" length of half square to even a single forging temp would be astronomical.

Think a pound of feathers vs a pound of coal.

Not meaning to be a wet blanket made of leaves, just most likely being a bit too practical.  ;)

But hey, it's time for me to leaf this conversation.  :)

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Mr. Anvil,

The operative word that changes your feathers analogy is compression. That is compression with a binder. 

The leaf mass cannot be used if it is separate.

Your concern about labor intensity may have merit.

Experiment is the route to go for anyone interested in trying this energy source.


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Not wishing to leaf any avenue unexplored, so to speak,,,. How  many compressed leafs might it take to supply enough angels upon the head of a pun,, oops,, pin,,, to forge said length of half square to an 8" taper?

Hard as I try, sometimes I just can't leaf well enough alone,,,

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Sorry I'm late; no internet at the house yet so weekends are a desert so to speak...

I was wondering about mixing sawdust and leaves and compacting and wondering if the sawdust would lock into the leaf mass...but mainly I'm looking at the other end of the process: the burn.  I would worry that pyrolyzed leaf pucks would degrade into a mass of forge fleas. And that got me thinking about fluidized bed systems and perhaps "dust burners"  I'd bet a dust burner could work; but be so finicky to build and run that it would be cheaper and easier to burn dollar bills.  Perhaps producing methane would be easier or just using the wood gas produced during pyrolysis?

As for making bio mass pucks; what a lot of work to get stuff that cows preprocess for you for free! I've read about the use of Buffalo pucks to cook and forge with back in the trek westward over the US Prairies where trees were a rare item indeed. BP's collected, dried and used much like we can make a wood burning forge---though even more like at peat burning forge.

Note burning BS has such an amusing smell that adds a je ne sais quoi to any meal!

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30 minutes ago, ThomasPowers said:

I would worry that pyrolyzed leaf pucks would degrade into a mass of forge fleas.

I have no direct experience using either wood pellets or charcoal briquettes but that seems to be the main drawback with the pellets especially. I was wondering about how bad it would be with leaf briquettes. If they fell apart it would produce quite a show. It'd be pretty at night. 


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Leaf it to Charles!

Wood pellets in the Open Forge stink and smoke, because, like oil, they require a higher sustained burn temperature, and if I recall correctly, their retail cost would be prohibitively high.

As regards forge fleas, my charcoal and fines do not produce them.  Whatever the critters actually are, they seem to be destroyed by complete pyrolysis.  I have not found this to be true with cowboy charcoal. Additionally, my fines, I find, are fine for forging. 

Not trying to rake anyone in, but there is merit to the concept. Curious, Inquisitive People (QIP), who can afford to tinker, or thinker, as in this thread, are contributing to concept development. That concept being: 1) Can I make Leaf Coke worth my time? 2) Can I, the Hypothetical Entrepreneur, compete on the market with my flea-free Leaf Coke?  I promise, I will share the royalties.

On 11/23/2019 at 3:30 PM, Dale Russell said:

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  

Thanks again to Dale Russel.  These videos, especially the one from Katmandu, illustrate profitable Economy of Scale. The charcoal pucks not purchased within the community, are in demand by city dwellers.

I am analyzing process.  This all goes back to tjdaggett's OP:  IS THIS IDEA WORTHWHILE? Here, as in Katmandu, it is about Economy of Scale. Smiths are some of the most innovative people I know.  Why search elsewhere, for a more talented peet to mull this over? Carbon, being one of my passions, I will turn over every leaf.

Carbon Conservation and Burn Restrictions are, and promise to be in many more Smiths' back yards. No Politics, Please. 

I do not know if I will ever have a proof-of-concept to share, but the prototype concept is a screw-fed hopper attached to the OBI press, with an overload trip on the bottom die.  Do Not Laugh At Me!:o

Robert Taylor


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Out where I am the problem is with tumbleweeds, especially as they build up along fences along highways. The old school method  was to have people pitchfork them into a dumptruck and haul them to a dump. Unfortunately you don't get many to a dumptruck as they are large and mostly air.   When my Father was teaching at NMSU one of their projects was to figure a way to improve this process. They figured out that putting a hammer mill on the front of the truck and directing the output in the bed would allow them to run a full day with only 1 trip to the dump. They were thinking of a gas engine for the mill when my Father pointed out the truck was already equipped with hydraulics which were available and much more robust so they went with a hydraulic motor.  Now if we could make charcoal pucks from that... 

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Looking forward to watching THAT, JHCC!

Thomas, a large, dry, mumbleweed hereabouts, can weigh 25#. Curses! :angry: Come January, I will tarping mumbling mumbleweeds, and pulling them through a Christmas Tree Donut.

I expect that pyrolyzed aerated mumblechar will burn very hot, indeed!

(Pine cone petal char has a nice, aerable geometry).

DO NOT char poison oak, et al.!

Robert Taylor

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I was maybe 8-9 when the Folks bought a house on a commercial acre and we were spending time getting it turned into home. Dad took down a number of raggedy trees but the big issue was tall grass, weeds and fences lined solid with tumble weeds. They were so packed new tumble weeds just rolled over on the slope of the captured ones. Welllll, came the day to burn the brush, the grownups didn't know anything about burning tumble weeds and nobody asked when they got the burn permit. Dad and I made a pile maybe 30' around and as high as he could throw them. Dad made me stand way back, I remember because I wanted to help with the fire and was pretty disappointed I couldn't. :(

The BIG memory was watching Dad toss a ball of burning newspaper into the pile and when it caught running like HE was on fire. :o The pile went up like a bomb, fortunately the updraft didn't blow burning fireballs around the neighborhood. 

After that ONE time burning tumbleweeds we took them to the dump. My job was to jump up and down on the sheet of plywood to crush them flat. I'd get one, put the plywood on it and start jumping, you'd be surprised how much jumping a little kid has to do to crush a tumbleweed flat, even Dad had to give a couple jumps.

My mental jury is still out on how well making bio pellets then pyrolizing them will work. Collecting leaves with street sweepers or lawn tractor leaf vacuums should be an adequate supply at minimum labor. Using garbage trucks to compress leaves, brush, slash and especially tumbleweeds seems to handle the bulk issue.

Dump the garbage truck directly into a modified hammer shredder to reduce for the pyrolizer. There are lots of commercial designs to copy from on a modest scale. 

I don't know why the 3RD. world teaches and or sells semi direct retorts. They're a lot more complex and require materials and fabrication to build a less effective retort. They're already using drums with clamp on lids. The lids showed a bung so a little, say less than 6" of 2" black pipe, a street elbow and another elbow turns it into an indirect retort for up to 50% product return. 

Weld or bolt a couple hooks on the side of the drum at each end so you can lift and carry it horizontally with a pole or piece of pipe. Load it with whatever biomass you have and clamp the lid on with the pipe elbow on the opposite side as the hooks. Tip it over, pick it up and lay it in a fire till flame stops shooting out of the end of the pipe. It's cooked, lift it out, replace it with the next one and let the first one cool or douse it with water.

To clarify FLAME isn't what's shooting out of the vent pipe, what is being vented are the volatiles in super heated gas form which light on contact with ambient air. The resulting flame provides a lot of the heat necessary to char the biomass. With a little more engineering it should be possible to use this flame to start heating the next retort drum, maybe even get enough volatile cook off to provide it's own heat. 

I'm thinking 3+ drums would only require a wood fire to get the process started and the be self sustaining till it was time to knock off for the day. If you doused the char with water and: starch, sugar, mucilage, etc. and binder it's ready for the mill and won't be covering everybody and thing in chardust.

Fabricating specialty equipment would of course up productivity, return on investment, etc. but I'm not thinking of starting a business. I'm thinking of something a couple few guys could do as a weekend project after scrounging and fabbing the equipment. A screw extruder would be super easy to adapt from a commercial meat grinder, an old stand mixer w/ meat grinder attachment and you're powered. If you wanted to go bigger: an ice auger a short piece of pipe it'll fit into reasonably snugly, motor W/gear reducer, feed hopper, pellet extrusion die and a stand. John has a good source for gear reducers and motors with, heck they're selling hoppers all the time too. ;)

This ain't high tech stuff, any half decent shade tree mechanic who can run a bead could do this in a couple days, max. not counting scrounging parts.

Think maybe the local: town, city, HOA, etc. would just HATE the idea of having a place to dump the fall leaves they have to clear off the streets, parking lots, etc. for FREE? How about utility companies who have to keep their rights of way clear of trees, brush etc.?

Dang, this whole idea could get away from a guy and have everybody who generates biomass they have to dispose of bringing material. 

This line of thought is addicting. Maybe Iforge needs a 12 step thread?

Frosty The Lucky.

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I've worked on several pyrolysis systems turning ground wood scrap into charcoal...which then usually gets turned into activated charcoal for filters.

What you want to do is a continuous line pyrolysis and then take the charcoal output from that and compress it into usable blocks--similar to how standard briquettes are made.  Without the clay fillers, they should burn a lot hotter than the BBQ version and be suitable for smithing.  

It could be done with leaves as the input pretty easily--probably via a screw conveyor feeding the pyro chamber and a drag conveyor as the exit.  Not sure why one would bother though as there are better "free" feedstocks out there.  Interesting as a concept, though.  

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Thanks Kozzy, plenty of System Descriptions on the web. Some of the more eccentric among us (names withheld) after still working to determine if we should indeed bother. Leave the Mad to <their> Madness.

Thomas, Butiumin is Smokin', but some say, Things Go Better With Coke.

Betcha My coke is bigger than Your coke:P



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