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Dan O'Connor

Making Charcoal

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That’s a lot for perlite, I think I paid something like $13 for 4 cu/ft at Home Depot a couple years ago.

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That’s a lot for perlite, I think I paid something like $13 for 4 cu/ft at Home Depot a couple years ago.

 

I would love to be able to find that deal.

I checked at HD and Lowes and only found 8 qt bags for around $7.00 which works out to about $22.00 a cubic foot.

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I seem to recall they had it in two different areas, small qt. bags by some brand name like Miracle grow inside with stuff like fertilizer and large bags outside with stuff like stepping stones and pallets of mulch.

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I seem to recall they had it in two different areas, small qt. bags by some brand name like Miracle grow inside with stuff like fertilizer and large bags outside with stuff like stepping stones and pallets of mulch.

 

Will,

 

I scoured the DFW metroplex this week to no avail. Looks like the $40.00 a bag is my only option. Now waiting for the weather to let up on the weekends. First ice and snow last week and now unrelenting rain. :angry:

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Dan ,

I went thru this thread this morn again.. great discussion... thanks for all the work and sharing you have donetongue.gif... I'm wondering if you have ever put some of your pine in a black pipe capped off with a weep hole and just thrown it in a wood stove... I would think the gasses would get burned off in the wood stove as they leak out of the weep hole and you could control the temp of the wood stove... Just couldn't make enough at one time ... but as an experiment?

Also have you read anything about terra (petra) not sure if I spelled it correctly but a soil that was made by natives a thousand years ago in the Amazon which has charcoal in it that sounds very much like what you are trying to make? From what I read it sounded like their charcoal was hard and shiney ...

 

Dick

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This is good stuff!

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Just checked their website, you’re right it looks like they have stopped carrying the large bags in the stores. They do have 2cu. ft. on their website for $17 home depot but shipping probably kills that deal. I hope I didn’t distract you from getting this done, it looks like the $43 is the best deal.

Edited by Willman

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Richard,

 

Yep, the black iron pipe will work. I have not done it but I know that artists who want to make drawing charcoal from different woods have done it with good success.

 

I have read a little about terra preta and it is pretty fascinating. I have not seen anything that details how they made it. I get a lot of attention on my original sight from biochar enthusiasts. Mother Earth News linked to my site a year or so ago and traffic really picked up.

 

Thanks J.Arthur.

 

Will,

 

Nope the weather is doing a fine job of keeping me from getting it done. :( I poured some of the panels under cover but now I have to move them away from the house and shop and assemble them. Texas winter weather is very fickle. Last week end we had snow and ice and during the week it got down to 15 degrees. This weekend it started raining friday night and just poured until after noon today (Sunday). :angry:

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Dan,

I'll take 8,000 pounds of the charcoal.

I got plans this Fall.

 

Ric

Edited by Richard Furrer

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Dan,

I'll take 8,000 pounds of the charcoal.

I got plans this Fall.

 

Ric

 

No problem there Ric,

 

Might take me two weekends tho' :rolleyes:

 

Geez-8,000lbs!!!!-Pine charcoal doesn't weigh very much. I can't imagine what the volume would workout to be.

 

Dan

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I have been playing with a charcoal forge on very rare ocasions....and i really enjoy doing it. i make my charcoal the same way as you but i use a old 80 gallon propane tank and i dont enclose the kiln, i have found that this sometimes - but not always- produces charcoal that looks like what you are after, that nice ting sound when you break it and little dust. have you tried leaving your kiln uncovered to allow the process to be cooler?

 

i have not been doing anything with smithing for some time now and even then i was a novice at best but...just a thought maybe?

 

IMGP3111.jpg

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No problem there Ric,

 

Might take me two weekends tho' :rolleyes:

 

Geez-8,000lbs!!!!-Pine charcoal doesn't weigh very much. I can't imagine what the volume would workout to be.

 

Dan

 

The best price I have found for hardwood lump is .47 cents per pound....for pine is $.75.

 

Ric

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i make my charcoal the same way as you but i use a old 80 gallon propane tank and i dont enclose the kiln, i have found that this sometimes - but not always- produces charcoal that looks like what you are after, that nice ting sound when you break it and little dust. have you tried leaving your kiln uncovered to allow the process to be cooler?

 

 

That's a good point. I was so concerned about making it efficient I may have over-engineered-again. The statement you make about sometimes is what I am trying to address with the new system. I want a repeatable process.

 

Nice setup you have there.

 

Dan

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The best price I have found for hardwood lump is .47 cents per pound....for pine is $.75.

 

Ric

 

Does that include shipping? I would think that shipping could be as much as the product.

 

Dan

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Stupid is as stupid does.

 

The weather let up and I was actually home two weekends in a row.

 

The charcoal kiln is not finished but I needed to do some testing. Primarily-will the kiln heat up enough from the combustion chamber.

So here is the preliminary setup.

Interior of walls are steel. Then 1 1/2" of perlite concrete and all covered with stucco. Its not very pretty and it needs another coat of stucco but it will do for the testing.

 

photo3640.jpg

 

With a normal fire temperature reached about 100 degrees in the kiln-Not even close.

So I really piled on the wood and added an air blast.

 

photo4640.jpg

 

 

Temperature at the exit flue was 1200 degrees. After an hour the temperature inside the kiln was 200 degrees-Bummer.

My whole design concept was failing before my eyes.

 

Then my eyes finally saw what my brain had forgot

 

photo5640.jpg

 

Can you see it?

THE STINKIN' FLUE DAMPER IS CLOSED!!

 

Opened the damper and 45 minutes later the kiln temperature was 1100 degrees.

 

photo2640.jpg

 

As I said-Stupid is as stupid does.

 

Next-Getting the the volatile gas and pine tar recovery systems to work.

The perlite seemed to work pretty good. The exterior walls were pretty warm but I could leave my bare hand on them for a good while.

Edited by Danocon

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Stupid is as stupid does.

 

 

Dan,

Go easy on yourself...the whole thing is a learning process. I appreciate your posting regardless of the outcome...it is one thing to post a finished object ( I do not know what that is like) and another to post in process where the risk of "failure" is high. I thought I would be cruising during the Winter of Wootz and it is almost Spring and not much done.....the "Spring of Wootz" maybe.

 

Jan

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Stupid is as stupid does.

 

 

Dan,

Go easy on yourself...the whole thing is a learning process. I appreciate your posting regardless of the outcome...it is one thing to post a finished object ( I do not know what that is like) and another to post in process where the risk of "failure" is high. I thought I would be cruising during the Winter of Wootz and it is almost Spring and not much done.....the "Spring of Wootz" maybe.

 

Jan

 

.. considering i have access to some 2000 hectars of woodland, with pine, birch and oak ... id love to see the finished system, and see a " dummies guide to making blacksmith's coal" :D :D

i cant even start to describe how much im learning from this forum ... thank you all so very much .. if ever i get to the US and near any of you... beer is on me :D

 

-vidar-

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Dan,

Excellent job. I can't wait for the results of your final experiments. Do you have more pictures or videos of the proces?

Isaac

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Dan,

Excellent work. I look forward to reading the results of your experiment. Do you have more pictures or videos of the process? I am very interested in charcoal making.

Isaac Zama

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Hi!

Tomorrow I try to make a punkcoal- charcoal in the hole in clay. :)

Here are some photos:

1.jpg

 

2.jpg

 

3.jpg

 

4.jpg

 

6.jpg

 

u7.jpg

 

Unfortunately I use wet wood so it dont carbonized well.

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His apprentice was cutting charcoal and it twern't nuthin' like the stuff I had been making. It was made from pine same as mine but that is where the similarity ended.

It looked just like the section of log it came from only black. There was a metallic shininess to it and it had a ring to it when I rapped it on my knuckle. As he cut, the pieces came off in one piece with very few little bits and no fines flying everywhere. When I rubbed it on my hand it left almost no dust.

 

I could not crush it between my fingers and when the pieces where jostled together there was, for want of a better word, a crystal sound (TINK)

 

I just read this, and it made me think of your experiments with charcoal. Could the charcoal you are after be this "white charcoal"?

 

Here is the relevant bit:

White charcoal is made by charring the wood at a relatively low temperature for some time, then, near the end of the process, raising the kiln temperature to about 1000ºC to make the wood red-hot. The charcoal is then pulled out and quickly smothered with a covering of powder to cool it. The powder is a moist mixture of earth, sand and ash, and gives a whitish hue to the charcoal surface. This explains the name "white charcoal." The rapid rise in temperature, followed by a rapid cooling, incinerates the bark and leaves a smooth, hard surface. If you strike it, you'll hear a clear, metallic sound.

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Very interesting subject, It has got me to thinking alot about it. When I hunted in Mexico I visited a ranch where charcoal was produce from mesquite wood and the end product looked very much like what you discribed in you first post. It still resembled the wood it was made from was hard with little dust and had a sheen to it. I wish I would of paid more attention the exact process. What they where doing was using and under cut volcanic rock ledge that they had divided into chambers with adobe walls and face. The face of each chamber had a large opening and the roof was vented. There process was basicly filling the chamber with as much dry wood as they could tightly stack in there sealing off almost all of the face opening and lighting the wood on fire at the bottom of the stack. Once the fire had caught sufficiantly they would seal off the rest of the opening and then seal off the stack vent. After several days they would open the chamber and remove the charcoal produced. This was a continual process with all the different chambers in different stages so that every day they where loading one and emptying another with a few in between cooling off. This was the process as best as I can remember, although I am sure my discription is not exact , these guys had been doing this for generations and where good at it. This was close to Sabinas, Couhila where the coal mining is.

 

James

Edited by James Weaver

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I haven't posted on this topic in a while. Took the summer off.

 

I have been back at it for a month or so now.

 

I think I have tried about every way to make charcoal.

 

This monster was a flop.

IMG_0135.JPG?gl=US

 

Might have worked but would consume to much fuel wood

 

So I tried some direct burns

DSC_1180.JPG?gl=US

 

Too slow

After 12 hours and 25% had carbonized.

 

Then tried a modified version of Lee's method

 

DSC_1103.JPG?gl=US

 

This was the most successful. In the retort versions

 

Both my original barrels

 

barrel2.JPG

 

And my test retort.

DSC_0586.JPG?gl=US

 

All the volatiles were cooked off.

 

Resulting in a fire like this

 

DSC_0686.JPG?gl=US

 

Nice little glow

 

But we need something like this

 

b.forge-fire-1-700.jpg

 

 

Watch Pierre Nadeau's video on cutting charcoal.

It reall shows the type charcoal they use. Cuts like glass rings when it is struck.

It is wood that almost still wood but is fully carbonized.

 

 

So, Lees' method got me a fire like this.

 

DSC_1227.JPG?gl=US

 

Pretty good and at some point I need to stop making charcoal and actually do some smithing. But I have few more avenues to go down that I have uncovered. :D

Edited by Danocon

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HEY!

I have been Pinned! pretty cool

 

Okay,

 

For all of you that have been following this thread who want to actually make charcoal and are not really interested in my pursuit of the perfect charcoal-Here is a modified version of Lee Sauder's method.

 

Since I was using kiln dried pine I really had to choke it down to keep it from burning up.

In addition to Lee's great write up.

 

This is the basic set up.

DSC_1103.JPG?gl=US

Barrel with a removable lid.

I added the chimney because of the pine.

 

I tried all kinds of ways to limit the smoke same as Lee but to no effect.

 

Cut four holes in the bottom with an angle grinder and pried the top of the hole out. Ended up with a 3" x .5" hole.

Used dirt to control the air flow.

DSC_1109.JPG?gl=US

 

Started a fire at the top as Lee says and let burn down to the air holes.

 

Reading the smoke tells you a lot if you don't have thermometer

You want soft, thick, white smoke. By soft I mean not coming out hard and fast.

DSC_1112.JPG?gl=US

 

If your smoke is boiling out and has a dark tinge to it, it is burning too hot.

 

When the smoke lightens up and has a blue tinge to it stop the burn. Or if you see can coals through the air holes-stop the burn. This took about 7 hours

DSC_1113.JPG?gl=US

 

Just cover the bottom vents with dirt and put a brick of top of the chimney. Open it up the next day after it cools down.

 

You will get some pretty nice chunky charcoal.

DSC_1135.JPG?gl=US

 

Technically it is not difficult. There is s certain amount of art to it though.

Do it a few times and you will get the hang of it.

 

So if you want actually make a blade and not spend all your time making charcoal this is a good method

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HEY!

I have been Pinned! pretty cool

Okay,

For all of you that have been following this thread who want to actually make charcoal and are not really interested in my pursuit of the perfect charcoal-Here is a modified version of Lee Sauder's method.

So if you want actually make a blade and not spend all your time making charcoal this is a good method

 

Dan,

Congratulation on the pinning. Do you have any numbers regarding yield and "effort" in terms of hours spent per lbs of charcoal?

 

 

Just today I was in the hood begging for the tree trimmed discards of neighbors ( saving them from the chipper and directing it to the Branch Manager). I will be sticking with the pit method, as it is relatively fast, and I have become addicted to the light fluffy charcoal. I hope to do several runs at about 160 lbs per run yield. I will attempt to keep track of my time and expenses to give readers an idea of what may be involved ( we know it is homemade, not "free" ). There is a Pizza oven on the horizon..I have the form and just need some time.

 

Jan

Edited by Jan Ysselstein

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