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Trash Dumpster Retort


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This is our charcoal retort made from a trash dumpster that is laid on its side and set on legs to lift it about two feet off of the ground. The dumpster is surrounded with thin sheet metal and there is a space of two inches in between the two where the flames traverse. We fuel a large fire underneath until the wood releases flammable gases. The gases spew from the bottom of the door and are directed into the firebox and will keep the fire burning until the charcoaling is complete.

 

 

Makes maybe 1/2 ton per firing.

 

IMG_0006.jpg

 

 

Unloading from the roll-back. This photo gives you a better idea of the size and construction method.

 

charcoal_kiln2_435x480.jpg

Edited by Skip Williams

Skip Williams

The Rockbridge Bloomery

http://iron.wlu.edu

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ok skip!!! now thats just plain sweet!!!!

All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart,and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life's heart...

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Where did it come from?

A couple of years ago some of the younger local fire fighters were setting dumpsters on fire so that they could get overtime pay for putting the fires out again. Hey this was an improvement, before dumpsters they were in the habit of lighting off abandoned farm structures and remote log homes. Anyway the dumpster was evidence in the court case and when that was over I asked the county for it and they said sure. In general, old dumpsters are readily available at large metal recycling operations. But check your local landfill first, they might have a few holey ones sitting around.

 

If you're into charcaol, I highly recommend building something on this scale. Originally we were making charcoal by the barrel but the dumpster method is infinitely easier since it'll hold boards up to 6 feet long. If you happen to be located near a wood molding or flooring mill take advantage of the fact that the cut-offs are worth practically nothing these days.

 

Action shot please?

I don't have an action shot. We have learned that for compatibility-with-the-community we should run this thing during the darker hours and we call 9-1-1 before hand to tell them that there is no need to send the fire department up to the mountain again!

Skip Williams

The Rockbridge Bloomery

http://iron.wlu.edu

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skip, didnt you guys start off using propane with this retort? why did you guys switch over to wood fire ??? i like that chicken scratching in the 2nd photo btw.......lends it that "down home feel" thanks again for sharing....

Edited by blacklionforge

All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart,and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life's heart...

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Here's the requested action shot:

 

retort.jpg

 

Peter- no, we never used propane.

 

We've run this thing for 7 or 8 years now, I hope the recent round of repairs gives us 7 or 8 more! The main thing I wish we'd done differently is support posts in the middle of the firebox to prevent the pretty severe sag. But it works quite well, and it doesn't take much longer to cook than our barrel-sized ones did.

 

You can see that after she gets going, there's not much smoke.

 

Lee

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So that smoke stack is venting the inner chamber, not the fire box?

 

It may be worth my while to come down and "borrow" that thing some time. I doubt I can get away with it in suburban Alexandria.

Edited by Christopher Price

The Tidewater Forge

Christopher Price, Bladesmith

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Quote: So that smoke stack is venting the inner chamber, not the fire box?

 

Chris, the smoke stack is venting the firebox through the space between the inner chamber and the outer sheet metal. The rest of the flames in Lee's picture are volatile gases from the inner chamber that are leaking around the door.

 

 

Quote: It may be worth my while to come down and "borrow" that thing some time. I doubt I can get away with it in suburban Alexandria.

 

A charcoal retort would fit in really well with all of the other Fire & Brimstone equipment. And there are a bunch of you bloomers and buttons guys up in that area. Maybe you could cook something up. I hope Kerry doesn't read this thread!

Skip Williams

The Rockbridge Bloomery

http://iron.wlu.edu

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  • 2 months later...

Lee, how full was that and how much shrinkage do you get?

Let not the swords of good and free men be reforged into plowshares, but may they rest in a place of honor; ready, well oiled and God willing unused. For if the price of peace becomes licking the boots of tyrants, then "To Arms!" I say, and may the fortunes of war smile upon patriots

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Matt-

My guess is that's about 600lbs, that's not much better than a guess. I think we often get about 800 lbs or even more from this retort, but this one was 1)mostly white pine, 2) not as tightly packed as some runs, and 3) had a little more loss from burning as a kiln (see below).

 

I sometimes run this as a combination kiln and retort. The evening before the main run, I burn a fire under it for several hours. When that dies down, and the retort is not pushing out gases so fast, the wood in the retort starts smoldering. I let it do this overnight, and then finish it off by cooking as a retort the next morning until it's done, and then caulking the door tight. I let it run as a kiln longer this time, the white you see in the center of the box is ash from the time it smoldered as a kiln.

 

The advantages of doing it this way are that it's a bit less labor and fuel stoking the firebox, and it gets a lot of the smokiest part done overnight, leading to fewer visits from the fire department. Disadvantage, is of course, a little less yield.

 

Sam-

The picture at the top of the page, from August, was this load (I had a long wait for available time and damp weather to coincide) . It is not as densely packed as it looks though- the stacked lumber is just in front, holding back a much looser and miscellaneous pile behind it. If I run this as retort only, I expect to see maybe 60% of the original volume?

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  • 2 months later...

Skip / Lee,

 

Is there any chance of being able to get some drawings of the retort?

 

I have some friends on another forum that are interested in it, for making charcoal of their own.

Once you can accept the universe as matter expanding into nothing that is something, wearing stripes with plaid comes easy.

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Skip I would like to see some kind of drawing or sketch also. I am having a problem visulizing the way that you are getting the volitile gasses into the outer shell so that they can burn and continue heating the inner chamber.

 

Thanks

Bill Burke

ABS Master Smith

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Hey all,

I hear your request and we'll get a post together.

 

While you wait it's worth looking at this beautiful Steam Punk design from the New England School of MetalWork. http://www.newenglandschoolofmetalwork.com/projects.php

 

Retort%20Firing%20%201.JPG

 

The difference is that the big dumpster is difficult to seal up air tight. To return the gases we leave the dumpster 'door' a little loose at the bottom and added a baffle so that the gases blow into the firebox.

 

When the coaling is complete we seal up the dumpster with insulation and furnace cement and wait for it to cool.

Edited by Skip Williams

Skip Williams

The Rockbridge Bloomery

http://iron.wlu.edu

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retort sketch_edited-1.jpg

 

Hope this helps- a sketch cut through the center of the retort from front to back. There are 3 exhaust pipes from the coaling box into the fuel box, I think they are 2" d pipe.

 

I don't think there's much special about this design that bears copying, particularly. It's main advantage is its size. The biggest mistake we made was not supporting the coaling chamber well enough, which led to lots of distortion and leaking problems. But it works.

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Lee,

 

Any way to see what the original dumpster looked like in comparison, so we can see how it was modified?

Once you can accept the universe as matter expanding into nothing that is something, wearing stripes with plaid comes easy.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Looks like some fairly serious modifications.

 

Mind if I share some of the pics with another forum that is interested in charcoal ( mainly the before pic, an after pic, and the drawing )???

Once you can accept the universe as matter expanding into nothing that is something, wearing stripes with plaid comes easy.

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Maybe it isn't clear. The pink is the side view of the dumpster turned on its side.

 

Yes, of course, you're welcome to copy any of these pics to another forum.

 

Thanks.

Once you can accept the universe as matter expanding into nothing that is something, wearing stripes with plaid comes easy.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I didn't realize that so much charcoal was coming out of Missouri!

 

Found a great video of Mr. Struemph and his charcoal kilns that'll give you a good idea of how kilns work. mms://streaming.ketc.org/KETC/218charcoalmaking.wmv The same video is on YouTube

 

 

And the names of phone numbers of some high volume charcoal producers in that area via Google Maps

Skip Williams

The Rockbridge Bloomery

http://iron.wlu.edu

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