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Dan O'Connor

Making Charcoal

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Thanks Mark,

 

I will split at least once.

One more task to add to the process. <_<

 

Dan,

I am not sure what kind of support is under the roof .......if the material shrinks during the process ( am not sure it will ) the weight on the roof may become a problem.

 

Jan

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Dan,

I am not sure what kind of support is under the roof .......if the material shrinks during the process ( am not sure it will ) the weight on the roof may become a problem.

 

Jan

Jan,

There is no support except at the outside rim that rests on the dirt

Hopefully the cone shape and my beautiful (not :)) welds will keep it self supporting. Ain't geometry cool! After I fabricated it I stood on the central pipe and jumped up and down on it. How it holds up under heat is another issue. I may regret not welding angle iron along the seams of the octagon. Did not want to add the extra weight for lifting it off alone.

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Jan,

There is no support except at the outside rim that rests on the dirt

Hopefully the cone shape and my beautiful (not :)) welds will keep it self supporting. Ain't geometry cool! After I fabricated it I stood on the central pipe and jumped up and down on it. How it holds up under heat is another issue. I may regret not welding angle iron along the seams of the octagon. Did not want to add the extra weight for lifting it off alone.

 

 

A stack of fire brick or length of large steel ("I" beam drop?)..maybe even a green tree trunk...would go a LONG way to supporting the center of the cover. It may be that you will have to cover the entire lid with dirt to insulate and use more of the heat for a longer char time.

 

What about a small solar powered fan to blow some of the hot exhaust air back to the in-feed as a preheat?....a "Y" junction with the fan on the side should keep the fan from most of the heat and extend its life.....use it like a Venturi assist to blow fresh air and flue exhaust back into the system.

I have thought about this for my gas forges as well.

 

Ric

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Made the first burn yesterday and last night.

 

Floor of kiln

DSC_1434.JPG

DSC_1436.JPG

 

I took Jan's and Ric's advice and made a steel center support

DSC_1441.JPG

 

All loaded up

DSC_1444.JPG

 

Cookin'

DSC_1448.JPG

 

Coming up to temp

DSC_1447.JPG

 

I ran it on the cool side (380-400C). The wood had about 20% moisture content so it took a while to dry it out.

I shut it down after 24 hours and is cooling now. After 8 hours it was still at 200C. Will open it tomorrow.

 

I did not get a picture of the liquid collection system but I collected about 10 gallons of wood "vinegar". Anybody know of any good uses for this stuff?

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Made the first burn yesterday and last night.

 

Floor of kiln

DSC_1434.JPG

DSC_1436.JPG

 

I took Jan's and Ric's advice and made a steel center support

DSC_1441.JPG

 

All loaded up

DSC_1444.JPG

 

Cookin'

DSC_1448.JPG

 

Coming up to temp

DSC_1447.JPG

 

I ran it on the cool side (380-400C). The wood had about 20% moisture content so it took a while to dry it out.

I shut it down after 24 hours and is cooling now. After 8 hours it was still at 200C. Will open it tomorrow.

 

I did not get a picture of the liquid collection system but I collected about 10 gallons of wood "vinegar". Anybody know of any good uses for this stuff?

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It took about 36 hours for it to cool down enough to open.

 

Here it is after opening.

DSC_1431-1.JPG

 

All of the pieces laid on top charred all the way through.

DSC_1433-1.JPG

 

Split in half

DSC_1435-1.JPG

 

About the bottom third of all the upright pieces did not fully char.

On this piece you can see the change in dimension from charred to not charred.

DSC_1438-1.JPG

This kiln followed the same pattern as my small scale tests. Everything charred from the top down.

 

It did not matter how big the pieces were. A 4" square piece stopped charring at the same level as the 2" square piece next to it.

 

Here is what was not completely charred. About a third of the load.

DSC_1441-1.JPG

 

I am pretty happy with this first run. The charcoal was solid and had a bit of a ring to it but it is clear that it needed to run at a higher temperature and a longer time.

I got 80lbs of good charcoal so a full load should produce around 120lbs. Maybe more-I should be able to pack it all tighter.

 

IT WORKS!! Now it is just fine tuning the process. :D

Edited by Danocon

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Awesome thread!

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Dan,

I forgot about the accountant ( which most of us have and probably need). A pit burn is basically a camp fire, where the coals are saved...I cover the smoldering charcoal with a steel plate after the flames begin to subside ( about 2 hrs of burning...the fire is fed as fast as it will take the wood without creating a lot of smoke). I am looking for some used clay bricks to line the pit as some stones decompose at the temperature. The pit shown in the photos does not exist and will have to be dug again. Fast feeding the fire is really important or you will just have a continuous burn and lose too much wood. The wood stash I am targeting is mostly pine/fir and a little hard wood. I will post some pictures when our burn season starts.

 

 

 

 

 

Jan

 

Dan,

A run of pine/fir charcoal was made yesterday..digging the hole was easier the second time as no big rocks had to be removed. The digging of he hole started at 1:00 pm, the fire was started at about 2:00 pm and by 4:00 pm the rain shield was over the metal plate covering the charcoal ..I forgot rain was coming and had to scramble for some tin. The pipe over the hole supports the larger pieces and allows them to stay very hot longer. Eventually the pipe bends and is removed (ouch). I have not looked at the product as it is still raining..hope to use it soon and do another run. I realize this is not good for transport but may just do what I want it to do....smelt in a short stack furnace. The photos are a bit scrambled but you get the idea..the hole is not lined and I see a lot of dirt falling away..now I have to line it or it will get too big for the steel plate( now you see why not adding flux is a no brainer) . I am commited to burn this material as charcoal or as waste. At he end of the burn wet leaves are added to create a cover shielding me from the heat and gassing off steam during the initial cool down.

It hurts to be within 8 ft of the fire at its peak...one really needs to avoid tripping hazards and protect ones eyes ( have the beer after the fire is covered) .

Here are some pictures:

 

 

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Dan,

A run of pine/fir charcoal was made yesterday..digging the hole was easier the second time as no big rocks had to be removed. The digging of he hole started at 1:00 pm, the fire was started at about 2:00 pm and by 4:00 pm the rain shield was over the metal plate covering the charcoal ..I forgot rain was coming and had to scramble for some tin. The pipe over the hole supports the larger pieces and allows them to stay very hot longer. Eventually the pipe bends and is removed (ouch). I have not looked at the product as it is still raining..hope to use it soon and do another run. I realize this is not good for transport but may just do what I want it to do....smelt in a short stack furnace. The photos are a bit scrambled but you get the idea..the hole is not lined and I see a lot of dirt falling away..now I have to line it or it will get too big for the steel plate( now you see why not adding flux is a no brainer) . I am commited to burn this material as charcoal or as waste. At he end of the burn wet leaves are added to create a cover shielding me from the heat and gassing off steam during the initial cool down.

It hurts to be within 8 ft of the fire at its peak...one really needs to avoid tripping hazards and protect ones eyes ( have the beer after the fire is covered) .

 

 

Dan,

The product is ok..maybe a little friable and extremely light in weight per unit volume....I hope to use it soon but my ore is wet as it was left in the rain to dry ( I am sure a lot of it is flowing down the driveway}.

Here are some pictures of the material ( the 3, 55 gal containers are very clean no dirt) (the smaller containers need a little shaking to shed the dusty dirt).

There is very little ash created in the pit method because mostly the volatiles are being burned. This material (for the most part) will not need chopping and can be used as is.

 

 

Jan

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Jan,

 

How much time did you spend making this burn? I guess it boils down to the time required to get what you need. The goal is not to make charcoal but steel. If what you are doing is creating the fuel you need within the time investment you want to spend then that is a winner. :)

 

Here is what I have after my second burn.

 

As you recall my first burn ran around 24 hours. In my previous post I said that I ran it at 380-400C for 24 hours. That is not really true. When I look back at the notes those temps where close to the front where the heat was entering. Near the back it was more like 290C and that did not happen until after about 12 hours when all the water was finally driven off.

 

This time I lit a fire about 6:00pm on Friday. I let it burn for a couple of hours with low air. About 9:00pm it was at around 100C.

 

I loaded it up with fuel, choked the air way back, drank a short glass of tequila and went to bed. The idea was to drive off the water and preheat all the dirt around the kiln.

 

At 6:30am Saturday there was still a good amount of coals in the fire box. I had changed the one location of the thermometer to the side top. So one in the side top and on in the back top.

 

The both showed a pretty uniform temp at around 130C.

Loaded more fuel and opened up the air.

 

7:30am 200C

9:00am 279C

Added a bit of an air blast.

10:30am shut off air blast at 450C

11:45am-9:00PM around 360C

Added air blast to 440C shut of at 9:30pm

Closed kiln

8:00am Sunday 248C

6:00pm 120C

Left for Houston Monday opened Tuesday night-31C

 

Result

all charred- top parts were a little over cooked but not bad.

 

Here are samples of most of it.

 

DSC_1605.JPG

 

I am shooting for that glassing look at the breaks and the ringing sound when struck.

Seemed to have got the glassy look going.

 

DSC_1609.JPG

 

DSC_0006.JPG

 

The sound is getting there.

 

I got 135lbs from this burn.

kiln is 4' diameter by 2' tall.

 

The next burn will be without air blast. Keep it a constant 360-380C for 24 hours after the preheat. For total of 36 hours The 8 hours of the preheat can go unattended. I will try the same with the last 6-8hrs of the burn. I need my beauty sleep don'tcha know. :D

Edited by Danocon

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Jan,

 

How much time did you spend making this burn? I guess it boils down to the time required to get what you need. The goal is not to make charcoal but steel. If what you are doing is creating the fuel you need within the time investment you want to spend then that is a winner. :)

 

Dan,

I am at awe seeing your determination and you are getting pretty knowledgable about charcoal. I like the set-up but I cannot generate smoke for long periods of time it is just unacceptable here. The burn took less than 2 hrs but I spent 2 days getting the wood which was already cut and stacked before I arrived ( very close to home).....I should have enough for 5-6 runs and I did a yard waste burn today (above ground). The yard waste burn pile (not pit) yielded 2, 32 gallon cans of ash/charcoal mix, lots of ash if the fire is above ground. I have to burn lots of trimmings and the pruning which happens on a wind stormy day ...so I make charcoal out of my ( and those belonging to some folks close by) burn piles . I have no problem buying charcoal.

 

Jan

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Jan,

 

How much time did you spend making this burn? I guess it boils down to the time required to get what you need. The goal is not to make charcoal but steel. If what you are doing is creating the fuel you need within the time investment you want to spend then that is a winner. :)

 

Dan,

I am at awe seeing your determination and you are getting pretty knowledgable about charcoal. I like the set-up but I cannot generate smoke for long periods of time it is just unacceptable here. The burn took less than 2 hrs but I spent 2 days getting the wood which was already cut and stacked before I arrived ( very close to home).....I should have enough for 5-6 runs and I did a yard waste burn today (above ground). The yard waste burn pile (not pit) yielded 2, 32 gallon cans of ash/charcoal mix, lots of ash if the fire is above ground. I have to burn lots of trimmings and the pruning which happens on a wind stormy day ...so I make charcoal out of my ( and those belonging to some folks close by) burn piles . I have no problem buying charcoal.

 

Jan

 

Dan,

The pit (pine/fir) charcoal is working OK...but I can only use about 50% for smelting as I like to avoid fines in my furnace. I have made some cast iron and a bloom which I have not cleaned yet. So 22 lbs of ore into the furnace at 6 min. between 2lbs charges of ore and fuel...then something failed ..I think my ceramic air pipe dissolved in the furnace. I am getting a new camera this week end to make better records. If the failure was at the very end, I may get as much as a 5 lbs bloom.

The typical recovery for bloom making is 37% of the iron is recovered. That is a lot of work for 5lbs of bloom.

Jan

Edited by Jan Ysselstein

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ame='Jan Ysselstein' date='14 February 2012 - 09:05 PM' timestamp='1329275103' post='208665']

 

 

Dan,

The pit (pine/fir) charcoal is working OK...but I can only use about 50% for smelting as I like to avoid fines in my furnace.

 

Jan,

I don't mean to rag on your method but to be honest I think you would be better off buying charcoal. The open pit creates charcoal just begging to turn into fines, with almost no heat energy.

There is virtually no fines in the kiln charcoal I make. We all have to work in our own constraints and smoke is a big one. Even living out in the country I have to be concerned with wind direction and atmospheric pressure (high pressure or an inversion makes the smoke hugs the ground). I have neighbors within 500 yards of me and the wrong wind direction and pressure could smoke them out. :o

No way this could be done in a neighborhood.Plus, am I adding to the pollution problem? Now that the the kiln itself is working well I need to tackle the smoke issue.

 

But, having said that, if 50% usage is good enough for the time invested then OK. It's your journey. :D

 

This statement from the Hitachi Tatara website is very telling I think.

"In terms of the raw materials used, charcoal closely follows iron sand in importance. This is because even when the iron sand is of good quality, the iron will not come out if the charcoal is bad. Even if the iron sand is inferior to some degree, the iron will boil provided the charcoal is good."

Edited by Danocon

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Jan,

I don't mean to rag on your method but to be honest I think you would be better off buying charcoal. The open pit creates charcoal just begging to turn into fines, with almost no heat energy.

There is virtually no fines in the kiln charcoal I make. We all have to work in our own constraints and smoke is a big one. Even living out in the country I have to be concerned with wind direction and atmospheric pressure (high pressure or an inversion makes the smoke hugs the ground). I have neighbors within 500 yards of me and the wrong wind direction and pressure could smoke them out. :o

No way this could be done in a neighborhood.Plus, am I adding to the pollution problem? Now that the the kiln itself is working well I need to tackle the smoke issue.

 

But, having said that, if 50% usage is good enough for the time invested then OK. It's your journey. :D

 

This statement from the Hitachi Tatara website is very telling I think.

"In terms of the raw materials used, charcoal closely follows iron sand in importance. This is because even when the iron sand is of good quality, the iron will not come out if the charcoal is bad. Even if the iron sand is inferior to some degree, the iron will boil provided the charcoal is good."

 

Dan,

Maybe you are correct, I have been accused of being Sisyphean, I just cannot help myself.....The chipppers are coming on Monday and I will gather some more sticks on Sunday..good luck on your journey.

Jan

Edited by Jan Ysselstein

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I have been accused of being Sisyphean, I just cannot help myself...

Jan

 

 

:lol::lol::lol:

 

I had to look that one up. Thanks for the new word.

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Jan,

I don't mean to rag on your method but to be honest I think you would be better off buying charcoal. The open pit creates charcoal just begging to turn into fines, with almost no heat energy.

There is virtually no fines in the kiln charcoal I make. We all have to work in our own constraints and smoke is a big one. Even living out in the country I have to be concerned with wind direction and atmospheric pressure (high pressure or an inversion makes the smoke hugs the ground). I have neighbors within 500 yards of me and the wrong wind direction and pressure could smoke them out. :o

No way this could be done in a neighborhood.Plus, am I adding to the pollution problem? Now that the the kiln itself is working well I need to tackle the smoke issue.

 

But, having said that, if 50% usage is good enough for the time invested then OK. It's your journey. :D

 

This statement from the Hitachi Tatara website is very telling I think.

"In terms of the raw materials used, charcoal closely follows iron sand in importance. This is because even when the iron sand is of good quality, the iron will not come out if the charcoal is bad. Even if the iron sand is inferior to some degree, the iron will boil provided the charcoal is good."

 

Dan,

I have given this Hitachi quote some consideration. I think we can develop a list of characteristics which make charcoal "bad" based on experience...

 

Wet charcoal is bad

Incompletely burned charcoal is bad

Charcoal made from wood having extremely high ash content may be bad

Charcoal too weak to endure a furnace experience is bad

 

So far I have found none of those apply to the pit charcoal I am making. I thank you for turning me on to the virtues of Pine ( softwoods ) . Dan and his information on Pine charcoal and Dustin and his copper tube...there is a wealth of good information to apply . This is why

this forum is so valuable.

Jan

 

Edit, 3/7/2012

Burn #4 is cooling and all the charcoal made so far as been used to smelt iron, 5 blooms and lots of cast iron.....the problem is, that pine has to be burned to avoid a fuel pile sitting next to my shop..I only have so much storage capacity so am forced to use it ( the charcoal ) as I make it. I love the material but now have a lot of larger diameter wood...Ideal size is 2.5 inches diameter or less. To deal with the larger wood size I am playing with stacking patterns. The attached pictures show how the pit is lined 2ft X 3ft metal shelves and the stacking pattern (note how hot the sheet metal has gotten). In a day or two the hole will be filled with dirt and in 2 months the weeds will be back. Next year I will begin gathering a branch here and there in the fall for some winter charcoal.

 

 

Edited by Jan Ysselstein

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Yesterday I tried an upscaled version of your testing method with good results. Basically used a small steel trash can with a lid(with small holes in it) and a barrel as the container for the heat source, which was small sticks and fallen branches gathered from the property.

We just tried to keep it hot, but not too hot; shooting for around 1000F. after I didnt see any more volatiles burning out of the top, I suffocated it and let it cool.

Very consistant charcoal of good quality, good density and friablity. Almost all of it was useable, even, most of the "fines" were of decent size.

 

I'm going to play around with variations of this method(probably using multiple trash cans at a time), as its easy and has high yeild.

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And whereabouts in east TX are you getting these pine scraps? My shops in Yantis, about 15 minutes from Sulphur Springs. If they have quite an excess, I might be interested in getting some too.

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Dan,

I have given this Hitachi quote some consideration. I think we can develop a list of characteristics which make charcoal "bad" based on experience...

 

Wet charcoal is bad

Incompletely burned charcoal is bad

Charcoal made from wood having extremely high ash content may be bad

Charcoal too weak to endure a furnace experience is bad

 

So far I have found none of those apply to the pit charcoal I am making. I thank you for turning me on to the virtues of Pine ( softwoods ) . Dan and his information on Pine charcoal and Dustin and his copper tube...there is a wealth of good information to apply . This is why

this forum is so valuable.

Jan

 

Edit, 3/7/2012

Burn #4 is cooling and all the charcoal made so far as been used to smelt iron, 5 blooms and lots of cast iron.....the problem is, that pine has to be burned to avoid a fuel pile sitting next to my shop..I only have so much storage capacity so am forced to use it ( the charcoal ) as I make it. I love the material but now have a lot of larger diameter wood...Ideal size is 2.5 inches diameter or less. To deal with the larger wood size I am playing with stacking patterns. The attached pictures show how the pit is lined 2ft X 3ft metal shelves and the stacking pattern (note how hot the sheet metal has gotten). In a day or two the hole will be filled with dirt and in 2 months the weeds will be back. Next year I will begin gathering a branch here and there in the fall for some winter charcoal.

 

 

 

Dan,

The pit charcoal project is over and the pit will be filled with dirt this week...I have lost count of the number of runs done...but , would do it again if possible. The photos below show a before and after image of the pit...the buckling of the sheet metal was due to the weight of the wood on the sheets.

Jan

 

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And whereabouts in east TX are you getting these pine scraps? My shops in Yantis, about 15 minutes from Sulphur Springs. If they have quite an excess, I might be interested in getting some too.

 

Joe,

 

Sorry I didn't see this for some reason. Sending you a a PM.

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What a fascinating thread.

 

I usually make my own charcoal by simply setting fire to pine offcuts laid out on a large metal sheet and then dousing them with a hosepipe when they seem 'cooked'

It's a tiny bit trickier than it sounds, requiring some fussing with the fire to get a reasonably even burn and standing over the fire waiting for the right moment to douse it.

The resulting charcoal is very light, burns very fast and doesn't provide as much heat as the store bought hardwood kind. In other words it's a very second rate fuel. I have been willing to live with that for now due to the cheapness ( the pine offcuts are sold by weight and I can fill the bed of a pickup for around 20EU ) and the simplicity of the process.

 

I think it might now be time to get a little more 'scientific' so thanks for doing all this research Danocon and others. Apart from anything else I really like the spirit of inquiry involved.

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I really wish I'd read about your work earlier. I'm familiar with the quality of charcoal in Japan and its amazing how consistently good their fuel is. Completely debarked Pine charcoal is what they use.

 

I've just order 3000lbs of pine charcoal from this place:

 

http://realmontanacharcoal.net/

 

They were one the few places I found that seemed able and confident of producing the quantities at the all the quality I need for a Japanese sword smith I'm hosting for 3 months and doing events with in the US & Canada starting this September.

 

If anyone has had any experience with the charcoal maker I've hired to make charcoal, I'd gladly listen.

 

Great work, thank you for sharing.

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I really wish I'd read about your work earlier. I'm familiar with the quality of charcoal in Japan and its amazing how consistently good their fuel is. Completely debarked Pine charcoal is what they use.

 

I've just order 3000lbs of pine charcoal from this place:

 

http://realmontanacharcoal.net/

 

They were one the few places I found that seemed able and confident of producing the quantities at the all the quality I need for a Japanese sword smith I'm hosting for 3 months and doing events with in the US & Canada starting this September.

 

If anyone has had any experience with the charcoal maker I've hired to make charcoal, I'd gladly listen.

 

Great work, thank you for sharing.

You can find more details of what I am doing at

 

https://www.facebook.com/Katanabuilders

 

Sorry,

No experience with the Montana charcoal guys.

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