Jump to content
I Forge Iron

Recommended Posts

Are there any Texas blacksmiths on the list that are making their own charcoal? I live in the Post Oak Savanna and have pretty consistent access to post oak and Yaupon holly (Ilix vomitoria) I know, yuck.

 I was wondering if anyone has tried to make forging charcoal from this native tree/bush. My first experiments with using charcoal is with store bought lump charcoal, but I will need to find a more ready source if I wish to continue the adventure.

This tree is fast growing, so I think it might be a type of softwood. If that translates into charcoal similar to pine, I do not know. That is why I am asking.

Funnily, I live perhaps 10 minutes away from a charcoal plant. I am hoping to see if they sell directly to the public.

 

Taylor, near Jeddo TX

Link to post
Share on other sites

Instead of asking if they sell to the public; try asking what their minimum order is.  We used to buy direct from a manufacturer when we were doing bloomery smelting and buying several hundred pounds in 40 pound sacks wasn't a problem.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I have been using my own using wood in Ohio for my small scale use - so no experience with your native woods.  I can say that the charcoal comes out much better than store bought - smaller chunks and less sparks. I just need to filter out the fines and dump it in the forge. 

There are lots of very complex ways of making charcoal and also very simple ways.  I so far have just gone with the simpler ways since I have access to what is effectively unlimited amounts of deadfall wood.  I am happy to share what has worked for me - this is also the same setup I use when I cook camp meals to get a good bed of coals. Just much larger...

Link to post
Share on other sites

I've found that softwood like pine produces less ash and burns hotter than hardwood. I haven't decided if I'm willing to say I prefer it yet but I sure don't mind using softwood. 

Pnut

Link to post
Share on other sites

Remember that there's a difference between soft wood and softwood. The former is actually determined by its hardness, while the latter simply means that it comes from a conifer (which means that balsa is a hardwood and southern yellow pine is a softwood; go figure). Neither oak nor holly is a conifer, but that doesn't mean that they won't produce decent charcoal.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...

So is there any thoughts on Osage Orange, or Hedge wood.  I know it produces monster amounts of heat when burned in a wood stove to heat the house.  does that kind of heat output carry over when converted into charcoal? 

I just know that it heated some of the cast iron in our wood stove to a dull red glow and it did that regularly.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey Paul,

Hedge Apple is made into charcoal, but that might be for smokers. I wish it grew here where I live. I would try it for sure. Potter's who high fire love to place the green apples in pots for the great ash effects.

Guess the real question is how much ash does the charcoal produce.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Cutting Hedgewood is not something to be taken lightly.  I had to cut one down in my back yard and I had to sharpen the chain on my chainsaw twice and then replace it to get the darn thing cut down.  Kind of wishing I still had the stump because that stuff just does not rot and is tough as heck.  It would have made a fantastic stump to mount my anvil to.  I'm sort of thinking of getting some to use for the fire to heat up a container to convert some mixed woods in to charcoal at some point.  A rick of mixed firewood out here is fairly cheap, but a rick of hedge can get pricey.  so a small amount of hedge for the heat to convert a lot of cheaper mixed woods is what I'm thinking.  Frankly that's more based on wishful thinking than anything else.  That and I know Hedge burns really hot.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hedge, Osage orange, Bois d'arc whatever you want to call it does burn hot and I have used it. Be sure you have PPE and a fire extinguisher handy because it will pop and scatter burning coals out of the forge. It's my main firewood so I don't use it for forging much. I would have to say I prefer pine charcoal.

Link to post
Share on other sites

the popping of hedge is why we never ever burned it in the open fireplace and only in the closed wood stove in the basement.  It heated the house to 75-80 degrees when it was -10 degrees outside.  The half of the basement the wood stove was in got up to 105 degrees.  The cast iron plates inside the wood stove that held the wood in place would consistently glow dull red.  I learned later that those plates were removable and were there to actually burn coal.  They were about 5/8 thick.  That's why I'm curious about it's use in a forge.  does the popping and all get worse with extra air applied in a forge and does the resins and residue cause problems.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I've read a few posts here where people say they sprinkle water on their charcoal to reduce sparks but I've never tried it. When using some charcoal that inadvertently got damp it crackled and popped like rice krispies and spit sparks and embers like the fourth of July. Ymmv. 

I've also never had a problem with any creosote build up. Charcoal burns pretty clean because it's been pyrolized already. The inside of the cans I make charcoal in definitely get build up though. 

Pnut

Link to post
Share on other sites

Slowly drying out damp charcoal on the side of the fire can cut down on popping when it's raked in to burn.  Steam explosions seem to be the culprit.

We get 40# sacks of Mesquite charcoal from Mexico down here at a good price.  Unfortunately it's generally incompletely charred as folks use it for cooking and *want* the mesquite smoke flavour; rather than the plain clean charcoal heat only one.  (Combined with the resin pockets in mesquite and it can be quite "lively" in the forge.)  

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

I was going to ask about Mesquite.  It's a weed where I come from, and must be eradicated at all cost.  It burns hot in the stove, as fire wood, and will dull a new chainsaw in a cut or two.   It is quite dense, so I suppose it must be turned into charcoal slowly, and in small chunks.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Mesquite is a great wood for BBQ and smoking.  Places in TX make beautiful (expensive) furniture out of it as well.  Not bad for a "weed". LOL

However...many ranchers will try their best to eradicate the mesquite on their places since it competes for water in the dry climate.

Link to post
Share on other sites

How fast it grows is a matter of how much water it gets. Also typically the slower a plant grows the harder the stems. A large part of the reason it's so resinous is to limit transpiration, water doesn't evaporate nearly as fast in a HOT climate. It's pitchy nature is one thing that makes it burn fast, it's almost self kindling, hardly takes more than a spark to get it going.

Ask folks in the Irvine California area if mesquite is a weed. Of course the Chaparral "forest:rolleyes:" that covers so much of the south west is made up of a number of similar extremely flammable plants: chaparral, grease wood, mesquite, tumble weed, etc. There are others I don't recall at the moment but California has been subject to firestorms probably since the last ice age. 

A hard Santa Ana wind like right now isn't necessary for a brush firestorm but sure is a disaster multiplier.

My rule of thumb for making charcoal is to let it go until the retort stops smoking, give it a LITTLE while and close it up. By stuffing the bungs with fiberglass insulation, it stops a draft without sealing the drum so it crushes as it cools. The more exposed end grain the better. The volatiles cook off more easily following the grain that they do crossing it. Shorter is better but don't get silly about it. Eh?

Frosty The Lucky.

Link to post
Share on other sites

When I lived in San Angelo Texas, Mesquite led both lives as a tree and a weed.  If you want the tree, it's a tree.  If it came up in your yard, however, it turns in to the fire ant of the plant world.  Nasty thorns, and a habit of coming up in 12 more spots after you think you got rid of it.  It has a very deep taproot making it difficult to get rid of completely.  There were entire businesses centered around yanking those things out (ok, they did general tree services too, but they specialized).  I will say the ones that get to full growth can be beautiful, twisty, graceful trees, but the small ones are nasty.  I have lost more than one pair of jeans to the weed version and the thorns can be long and go right through leather gloves if you aren't careful

Link to post
Share on other sites

One definition of a weed is "a plant in the wrong place"!

On 10/27/2020 at 3:21 PM, Frosty said:

sealing the drum so it crushes as it cools

One of the best incidents of which occurs in this classic physics demonstration: 

 

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.

×
×
  • Create New...