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Dan O'Connor

Making Charcoal

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Hi All! This is my first post in this forum! ^_^

 

I came from Italy and I try to forge good blades (and armour) since 2004 using possibly only traditional techniques.

 

During my studies about traditional fuels for forges I have visited two countries in the alps where the charcoal is made in the traditional way and I have spoken with one the last men that mades charcoal as a work.

He told me some "secrets" and explain the method to build the "pojàt" (north-italian name for the wood stack necessary for the process).

 

Here some photos of one of my pojàt experiments.

Until now I have made only 3 attempts.

The process is difficult in particular because you have to control, hour by hour, the weather (wind in particular) conditions and change the position of pipes. In my firts attemp more than half of the charcoal burn only for a change in the direction of the wind.

A big stack needs more cares and more time, and for this reason the charcoal makers sleep near the pojàt during the process to control it and stop when it is finished.

 

I use this charcoal, mixed with coke (1 part charcoal-2 parts coke), to forge armours in particular.

 

If you have questions please ask me!

 

Greetings

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Nice traditional methods.

And welcome Giovanni.

Perhaps the Admins will move this to it's own thread, right next to Dan's. For a good comparison of tec.

 

Mark

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Thank you Mark!

 

Here some photos from the book "Magli e Fucine d'Europa" (editor Angelo Colla, author Mario de Ruitz) that talk about the ancient blacksmith workshops in south-east Europe.

 

 

1 car.jpg

car 001.jpg

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Wonderful stuff, Giovanni! That's how it was done here too. I'll see what I can do about setting it up as a separate thread, may take a while.

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Giovanni,

Thanks for posting that method...very interesting, I hope you get a good yield.

Each winter I burn an amount of yard waste in a pit ..this year I am lining the pit with bricks ( from a steel mill rotary kiln). After the burn calms down I try to save the coals for smelting, here is a picture taken today of the pit under construction (4ft X 4ft dia).This burn produces no smoke but he soft charcoal limits the stack hight of a smelting furnace.

I wanted to smelt in this pit as well as make charcoal and pre-reduce my ore ( kind of like some people roast ore.....but the pit environment is different and should be hot enough (while very reducing) to remove some oxygen from the ore. So instead of wanting it to do 3 things I will settle for two (charcoal and reduction of ore).

 

 

Jan

charcoal.jpg

 

 

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our current charcoal kiln is based on iwasaki~san's miniature japanese kiln: iwasaki-sumiyaki.com/esub2.htm

having his calculations for the opening sizes in the firebox, firewall, and flue helped minimize the oxygen and maximize the efficiency...and its dead easy to operate compared to some of our previous retort methods...keep a small fire burning in the combustion chamber, watch the steamy white smoke, when it changes to blue/clear burn for 5 more minutes to allow the temperature rise, then seal it up for the night...here are some of the details/differences of ours: islandblacksmith.ca/how-charcoal-is-made/

and a clip to give the overview of operation...

**not shown is that it needs to be fully insulated somehow or the bottom layers of wood will not cook fully...learned that pretty quick!

@Danocon is your round kiln working well and pretty much your final source for charcoal now?

@Tamahagane Arts what was the quality of the montana pine charcoal compared to nihon no mokutan?

Edited by DaveJ

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Really great pictures Giovanni,

 

The biggest advantage of this type of charcoaling is that it is very little equipment needed. Pile up the wood, cover with leaves and dirt- light it.

 

The down side is that it take lot of skill and practice to get it right and the yields are low -percentage wise.

But a lot of charcoal can be made at one time this way.

 

Thanks for the pictures

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Dave,

Technically, what you have is not a retort.. A retort is a sealed container that is heated externally and has an exit flue for gasses.

Yours, I would term a kiln that works on the same principle as my 4' round kiln. Hot gasses from a combustion chamber enter the coaling chamber heating and coaling the wood.

 

Giovanni's pictures show the direct method while a retort is an indirect method. Ours is something in between and I believe the best method for getting quality charcoal consistently. The Japanese have used this method for centuries.

 

To answer your question my round kiln has made about a 1000 lbs of good charcoal. But it is not very efficient. It takes me two good days to make 150lbs. My Tatara can easily chew though 800lbs in a burn. So I am building a much bigger and what I term a hybrid kiln.

 

It is a radical design and I have no idea if it will work or how the operation will go. Hopefully I can produce 800-1000lbs in a couple of days. Design should be scalable for smaller applications.

 

Here is a picture of the lid. (and me :) )

 

hybrid lid.jpg

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@Danocon wow, that's gonna be a monster!

 

yes, the last two versions i built were retorts, but this one is a kiln, based on the japanese model...and i am very happy with the quality and quantity of the charcoal made this way over the retort method...

 

are there major design changes from your current kiln or mainly a lot more space in there? do you find the round design cooks evenly enough?

 

i look forward to the reports!

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Danocon, on 21 Jan 2014 - 16:45, said:

Major design changes.

 

Stay Tuned. :ph34r:

gladly!

 

 

a friend sent this, for some deep extended reading...a technical paper on charcoal making:

http://www.fao.org/docrep/X5328E/x5328e00.htm

 

here's one highly useful snippet i caught:

"Studies have shown that charcoal with optimum properties for the iron

industry is produced with wood pieces measuring about 25-80 mm across

the grain. Length along the grain has little influence."

 

and a video from Japan: http://ourworld.unu.edu/en/japans-charcoal-making-traditions-still-alive

(part of a series on satoyama, traditional managed forest)

Edited by DaveJ

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I read that wood vinegar is used as herbicides and fungicides Danocon -- dont know how much truth there is to it. But i believe it. Wood is the only burning fuel to its byproduct be useful for anything else after its been burned!

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great thread, I always classify a thread as "great" by the amount of things I learn. this thread is off the charts!

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Booo Hisss :) Dan what happened you had me all interested and then you left me high and dry.  LOL

Robert

Edited by RobertMunford
stuck foot in mouth and put in wrong place i think

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