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Pine charcoal in the US

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Daniel Cauble said that "Soft wood seems to burn faster, thus burning hotter, and creates little to no ash, which in a forge where you are constantly dumping charcoal into, this is ideal." I make my own charcoal, and I have made some strap hinges with my first batch of pine charcoal. I have noticed that it is much easier to move around than the hard wood. My forge is a modified coal forge, so it isn't the most efficient for charcoal in general. I think that softwood being less dense also makes it a greater insulator, too. But really, for general forging either should be fine. I plan to build a better Japanese-style forge, so using pine over longer forging sessions will be much better.

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Brian,i'd pretty much second what Wesley says above.

The rural legend has always been that:"Softwood charcoal burns faster,producing the energy contained within more Instantly,vs hardwood,that burns longer and more steadily.

Therefore(according to same legend),Softwood best for Welding/Hardwood-for extended forging.


In actuality,i think,one just gets used to what one has access to.The Japanese smiths were net exactly rolling in species of wood to choose from,and so did what they had to do.

In Indonesia,(as per Ann Dunham's book),smiths prefer Teak charcoal,even though it's nominally illegal,and not that easy to get a hold of.


I myself forge exclusively with White spruce charcoal,as that's the only abundant species that i've access to in my environment(also like Wesley,a bottom-draft coal-forge,geared,centrifugal hand-blower;unfortunately,it's what i've used exclusively,and could not give you any comparative info....(the wood i use is "real",as in not kiln-dried constr.remnants,just normal logs...).


Probably,between the control factors that one has at their disposal:The Draft,the Fragment-size,and the forge-Volume/shape,et c.,one can use just about any type charcoal...But it's just my guess....


But possibly,by looking up the specific values for assorted tree species one can form somewhat of an idea....



I go through the contents of a 55-gal. drum in a 4-5 hr forging session,more for forgewelding,less for lighter work,just as a crude average...A normal load result for me is somewhere between 20 and 25 lbs of charcoal per drum....

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Pine is the best charcoal for making black powder, possibly because of the above-mentioned fast burning speed. I messed with charcoal a bit when I first started forging, and melted some steel with hardwood charcoal, so hardwood burns plenty hot enough.


I don't know where you'd get pine charcoal, but I've been meaning to try making some pine tar one of these days, which would yield pine charcoal as a by-product.

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Good points,Dan,thank you.


Also,at least Potentially:There may be quite a big difference between all the assorted sp. of "pine",a vast variety of densities,volitile components,et c.Pine ranes from an extreme,hardwood-like density of the Long-leaf Yellow pine,and say Ponderosa....(In Japan,when they say "pine charcoal",do they mean some Criptomeria sp.?)


The construction-industry remnants are another deal yet,potentially being (an unpredictable)mix of Spruce,Hemlock,Fur,and actually Pine...Pretty tough to quantify.


I Do certainly notice a difference between one tree and another,density,moisture content,and other,more subtle differences.....

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Hardwood definitely burns hot enough, and I get pretty good mileage out of it. In a day's forge welding, I go through 2 ($12) bags of hardwood charcoal, enough to fill a 55 gallon drum 1/2 way up. If I'm just forging and not welding up big billets, I use maybe one bag of charcoal in a day. I think I might use 2-3 bags in a weekend normally.

Edited by Brian C Madigan
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Hello Brian.

I have been on a mostly self imposed exile from bladesmithing and forging. Several factors led to it but it is not permanent.

I use pine charcoal exclusively. I use a side blast Japanese style forge and pine is essential for an efficient fire. It does burn hotter that is true, but the main element for success is the almost complete lack of ash. In a standard bottom blast forge where the ash can fall thru a grate, hardwood charcoal is feasible. I could not make it work in a side blast. I have make my own pine charcoal for 20+ years.


For my purposes any pine, spruce, hemlock etc. is better than hardwood. I have made a huge amount of charcoal from construction scraps. But as Jake has already detailed, there is big difference in the "pines".

The Japanese use Red pine- Pinus Densiflora- exclusively. It is a fairly dense pine.

Below is average densities of various pines.


White pine- 26 lbs/ft3

Red pine-33 lbs/ft3

Yellow pine-40 lbs/ft3


I live in close proximity the sawmills of East Texas and now use non-kiln dried yellow pine scrap.

There is a significant difference from it and the kiln dried white pines from construction sites.

But in reality, any pine is good.

The bad news is what you have already discovered.-you cannot buy it.

Hence the reason I make it.


You can find some of the methods I have used here;




Good luck.

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Hey Dan, good to at least see you here on the board. Hope you can come back to forging soon.

With hardwood there is ash, but I don't know what it's like without it. I don't find it being in the way or blocking the side blast. The ash tends to get pushed to the back of the forge, which I shovel out in the morning to keep it from blowing all over the place when the blower comes on.


I'd like to see the difference with no ash, since I've gotten along with hardwood for years.

That 4' Japanese would work well in my yard. Thanks for the info!

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