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Jeremy Blohm

Efficient way to make charcoal

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 So i started making my own charcoal using the barrel inside the barrel technique and it seem im only getting about 20% yield. I know there is a million different ways to make charcoal, what in your opinions is the most efficient way?

I have plans on making a retort but in the mean time need a simple, quick, efficient way before making my permanent retort. Or is 20% an average yield? 

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"Under average conditions, 100 parts of wood yield about 60 parts by volume, or 25 parts by weight, of charcoal; small-scale production on the spot often yields only about 50%, while large-scale became efficient to about 90% even by the seventeenth century."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charcoal

What I tell people, and I much admit that I got this bit of wisdom from My Lady Wife (who used it in spinning show and tells), is the 10-1 rule.  On average it took 10 charcoal makers, working about 9 months a year, to provide enough charcoal for a single smithy to run for a year.  So you have to ask yourself, do I want to make charcoal (and ancient and honorable profession), or do I want to bang iron?  Which is not to say that making steel, or charcoal is not a fine way to spend your time and learn things about this craft, but as a full time thing?

 

Geoff

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13 hours ago, Geoff Keyes said:

What I tell people, and I much admit that I got this bit of wisdom from My Lady Wife (who used it in spinning show and tells), is the 10-1 rule.  On average it took 10 charcoal makers, working about 9 months a year, to provide enough charcoal for a single smithy to run for a year.  So you have to ask yourself, do I want to make charcoal (and ancient and honorable profession), or do I want to bang iron?  Which is not to say that making steel, or charcoal is not a fine way to spend your time and learn things about this craft, but as a full time thing?

 

Geoff

Well...im not sure how to go about saying this but I will just come out and say it. Im flat broke!:wacko:

I have been off of "work" for 2 years now and my wife WAS the manager of a convenient store but they closed the doors for business today. So every bit of cash i can get has to pay bills until she finds another job then i can go back to doing things the way i used to. So with that said every knife i make has to be sold and it has to bring in every bit of profit. So If i wanna keep banging metal i have to find a way to pay for fuel so why not make my own fuel. I have time, a brother who owes me a thousand favors and i have a 12 year old son, a 11 year old son, a 7 year old daughter and a 5 year old son that all like to help there dad and get there hands dirty. 

Plus the charcoal i made i ran in the forge for a couple hours this morning and it was so much better than the crap bought from the store. Less than half the sparks!! And the batch i ran last night i got quite a bit more than the first couple runs. It has a lot to do with the way the barrel is packed! :D

Edited by Jeremy Blohm

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And that is a fine reason to make your own.  Let us know what you learn about charcoal making, there is always interest in that sort of thing here.

 

Geoff

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35 minutes ago, Geoff Keyes said:

And that is a fine reason to make your own.  Let us know what you learn about charcoal making, there is always interest in that sort of thing here.

 

Geoff

I will share every bit of knowledge i learn from this im hoping to make a nice kiln after my addition to the shop is finished but that's all in the future. I have to look at the present and do what i can with it. 

I have a buddy that has a huge pile of tops and anything 3 inches and under in diameter black locust that i have access to and im going to try to make charcoal with that one of these days but for now i have enough to last me a month or so of forging without having haul any wood. 

Im going to do a lot of testing with different woods and different methods and see what works best for high yields along with best for forging. I would like to get into smelting and crucible steels eventually so im goimg to work on getting 55 gallon drums full of different charcoals all labeled and ready to do experiments with it in smelting. Not that im going to know a whole lot of difference but it might give me an idea of what works better for what.

Also Geoff i seen the blade you made with black locus burl its got me wanting to wander in the black locust forest here to see if there is any in there somewhere.

Edited by Jeremy Blohm

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Here is how I did it. I eventually cut my pieces of wood down to about 3/4" by 1-1/2" by about 5-1/2" long and randomly laid them in the kettle. I would load the kettle, start a fire under it and  pour a little charcoal lighter fluid on the top and light that too. when the top was burning pretty well, I covered it, closed the door off on the fire below and let it sit until it stopped smoking. This usually took most of the day, so I made myself busy doing other stuff. I would come back and check the side of the kettle periodically to see if it was cold yet. It usually lasted until the next day and then I would open the kettle and pull out anything that was fully carbonized and separate anything that was only partially done. The fully done stuff went into the plastic pails, the less than fully stuff went back into the kettle for the next burn. My yield was probably in the 50%-75% range, or about a 60% average. The amount of wood I burned in the lower fire was probably 20% of what went into the kettle. I would do 1 or 2 kettle burns a weekend and I still have all of that charcoal. (I'm preparing to try smelting)

What I didn't show is that I drilled a bunch of 1/2" holes in the bottom of the kettle and welded short pieces of 3/4" tubing over them. The tubes are about an inch long. This lets the heat from the bottom fire enter the kettle and not light the wood on fire. I can take more photos, if you like. I still have the entire set up out in the back yard. Just send me a PM.

Edited by Joshua States

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This is awesome thank you for sharing. Looks like the kiln you made is awesome and has great yields. How dose the softer woods work in the forge or are you saving it for your smelting?

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14 hours ago, Jeremy Blohm said:

This is awesome thank you for sharing. Looks like the kiln you made is awesome and has great yields. How dose the softer woods work in the forge or are you saving it for your smelting?

I'm going to quote Alan Longmire from this thread in the Bloomers and Buttons forum.

"Think about it this way:  what are the two most legendary smelted ferrous products?  Tamahagane from Japan and charcoal iron from Sweden.  Both are made with softwood charcoal."

It would be pertinent to mention that not only did these ancient smiths smelt with softwood, they forged with it as well. So, having no direct knowledge of using this charcoal in the forge, I would be comfortable making the assumption that it would work just fine. Then there are these guys (and gals) who forge using wood with a system that at least partially carbonizes the wood to charcoal, and they don't seem to care what type or species of wood they use. Watch the videos, they are kind of cool.

There are quite a few threads and posts here about making charcoal. Do a Google search and type this into the search bar: site: bladesmithsforum.com "making charcoal"

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3 hours ago, Joshua States said:

I'm going to quote Alan Longmire from this thread in the Bloomers and Buttons forum.

"Think about it this way:  what are the two most legendary smelted ferrous products?  Tamahagane from Japan and charcoal iron from Sweden.  Both are made with softwood charcoal."

It would be pertinent to mention that not only did these ancient smiths smelt with softwood, they forged with it as well. So, having no direct knowledge of using this charcoal in the forge, I would be comfortable making the assumption that it would work just fine. Then there are these guys (and gals) who forge using wood with a system that at least partially carbonizes the wood to charcoal, and they don't seem to care what type or species of wood they use. Watch the videos, they are kind of cool.

There are quite a few threads and posts here about making charcoal. Do a Google search and type this into the search bar: site: bladesmithsforum.com "making charcoal"

I have done the same search and i did happen to read alan's post about this and that why i would ask if you did use the douglas fir in the forge. I have done a lot of research on the subject and i haven't found much about using softer woods. There used to be a huge charcoal factory about 5 miles from where i live and now there is a huge dairy farm sitting at the location. They stripped the land of all the oak and then shut down operations. And they stripped all the giant white pine from the area to rebuild chicago after the great fire of chicago in 1871. But all the timber has grown back but not what it used to be. You can still find some of the huge white pines where i hunt in the national forest here. Probably baby's back then so they passed them up. There is a really old dam that they used to flood a lake called stoney lake. And then all the lumber was floated out to lake michigan and then to chicago.  I have an almost unlimited supply of Norwegian spruce i believe is what it is and red pine. Not sure how it will charcoal bit i also have an unlimited supply of black locust bit i have to pay firewood price for it but i have so many sources of different wood i need to find what works best and stick with it. I wanna figure out what to do with the pine pitch if i do use pine. Any suggestions?

Edited by Jeremy Blohm

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Ok so i finally made it to the shop to check on the 3rd batch of charcoal and i got a hell of a lot better results. I think the first 2 batches flame and oxygen got into the smaller barrel and burned up some of the charcoal before it finally got snuffed out. The charcoal looks more like black wood than black chunks. At first i didn't think i got it hot enough but when i pulled some out it was vert light and broke apart easily. I wasn't able to get any photos because we were supposed to be doing christmas but i snuck out back to take a peak. I did bring a chunk home to get a picture and examine further.

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This was a random log that has been drying for a couple years. It is hard wood but i dont know what. Next im going to try some Norwegian spruce and then some red pine just for shits and giggles.

Edited by Jeremy Blohm

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On 12/24/2017 at 12:03 PM, Jeremy Blohm said:

I wanna figure out what to do with the pine pitch if i do use pine. Any suggestions?

I had the same question when I started making charcoal from SPF. Type this into the search engine bar at Google.com: site: bladesmithsforum.com "cutler's resin"

The wood in the photos doesn't look fully carbonized, but it's difficult to tell from a photo. As I made more charcoal, I got better at "feeling" the wood for density. I could just pick up a piece and tell whether it had fully changed into charcoal. Sometimes, I could break off the end that was done and throw the other half back into the kettle.

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6 minutes ago, Joshua States said:

I had the same question when I started making charcoal from SPF. Type this into the search engine bar at Google.com: site: bladesmithsforum.com "cutler's resin"

The wood in the photos doesn't look fully carbonized, but it's difficult to tell from a photo. As I made more charcoal, I got better at "feeling" the wood for density. I could just pick up a piece and tell whether it had fully changed into charcoal. Sometimes, I could break off the end that was done and throw the other half back into the kettle.

It is very light about a third of its original weight maybe even less. It broke part easily but didnt have much fines that came off when i broke it. It is all still sitting in the barrel so when i get back out there i will get some photos of the rest. It has been brutally cold here...yesterday was about 5°f today is 9°f. 

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It is very much a trial and error thing :) I have 3 retorts I use right now, and just bought a 400 gallon diesel tank to make into another retort.. takes a lot of charcoal forging ^^

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1 hour ago, Troels Saabye said:

It is very much a trial and error thing :) I have 3 retorts I use right now, and just bought a 400 gallon diesel tank to make into another retort.. takes a lot of charcoal forging ^^

I seen your post about the diesel tank and I am thinking of doing something similar once spring hits and I get my addition on the shop finished. I am currently looking for a tank right now. But for the meantime I'm back to using propane. We have to much snow to access the wood I need. But I have found a source of hardwood for free all I have to do is cut it up and load it. There is a lot of maple. I haven't looked into what kind of charcoal it makes but it seem like it should be good stuff. And i have a huge amount of pine that I can burn to make the charcoal. I wonder what a big propane tank would be like for making a big kiln. Seems like the walls would be a lot thicker than an old diesel tank but I'm going to take what I can get my hands on.

Edited by Jeremy Blohm

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Something like this would be awesome!!!images.jpeg

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Sorry about the terrible drawing but this is kinda my plan if I get the diesel tanks or something similar with propane tanks or something like that. 20180115_180516.jpg

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Of course I have seen the off gases recycled into the burn chamber as fuel since they are combustable.

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3 hours ago, Vern Wimmer said:

Of course I have seen the off gases recycled into the burn chamber as fuel since they are combustable.

This would be a good idea. I think I seen that on danocon's charcoal making thread where the pipes angle down under the barrels and the gas is ignited and finishes the burn. These pipes would go back into the burn chamber. And now that I'm looking at it the doors to the charcoal chambers have to be much bigger!

Edited by Jeremy Blohm

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This is a really cool video.

 

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Indeed :) Exeter is a nice design, if it wasn't for the pricetag I'd get one^^ but for now I'll stick to my hillbilly version of their design

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On 15/1/2018 at 11:14 PM, Jeremy Blohm said:

I seen your post about the diesel tank and I am thinking of doing something similar once spring hits and I get my addition on the shop finished. I am currently looking for a tank right now. But for the meantime I'm back to using propane. We have to much snow to access the wood I need. But I have found a source of hardwood for free all I have to do is cut it up and load it. There is a lot of maple. I haven't looked into what kind of charcoal it makes but it seem like it should be good stuff. And i have a huge amount of pine that I can burn to make the charcoal. I wonder what a big propane tank would be like for making a big kiln. Seems like the walls would be a lot thicker than an old diesel tank but I'm going to take what I can get my hands on.

 

when you say propane tank - do you mean like a diesel tank  - a stationary tank on its own or like the bottles you buy for stoves ?. In my experience : when dealing with bigger kilns, 1/4" walls will suffice, but no less - I tried one with 1/8" once, it collapsed with a big whooping sound about 5 hours into the burn :P  gave me quite the startle. My smaller kilns (400 litres/100gallons each) only use 1/10" plates and they work great :)  but the 1800 litre tank I bought I plan on insulation with rockwool. The walls are about 1/4" thick should be plenty metal to keep it from collapsing. 

 

Pine is awesome for charcoal :)  used it quite a bit early on, but now I normally use beechwood (got an enormous amount for free) but pine is definatly good.

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11 minutes ago, Troels Saabye said:

when you say propane tank - do you mean like a diesel tank  - a stationary tank on its own or like the bottles you buy for stoves ?. In my experience : when dealing with bigger kilns, 1/4" walls will suffice, but no less - I tried one with 1/8" once, it collapsed with a big whooping sound about 5 hours into the burn :P  gave me quite the startle. My smaller kilns (400 litres/100gallons each) only use 1/10" plates and they work great :)  but the 1800 litre tank I bought I plan on insulation with rockwool. The walls are about 1/4" thick should be plenty metal to keep it from collapsing. 

 

Pine is awesome for charcoal :)  used it quite a bit early on, but now I normally use beechwood (got an enormous amount for free) but pine is definatly good.

I was thinking a 500 gallon tank. One of our local suppliers have decommissioned tanks and they are 1/4 wall i was thinking of making one of an old fueloil tank but I don't think the walls are thick enough.

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