making charcoal

the history and business of making lump charcoal

the history and business of making lump charcoal

Charcoal is a formless mass of carbon and can be made from most carbonaceous materials. It is one of the oldest of man-made fuels and has been prepared under the ground for a thousand years. Charcoal in lump form is still a major source of energy throughout the world and unfortunately, is one of the main causes of deforestation in the World.

Wood charcoal production dates back to ancient human prehistory whenstacks of wood logs on their ends were formed into a pyramidal pile. Openings were created at the bottom of the pile and attached to a central flue for circulating air. The whole woodpile was either constructed in an earth covered pit or covered with clay above ground. A wood fire was started at the flue base and gradually smoldered and spread up and out.

Ancient charcoal pits, under average conditions, yielded about 60 percent of the total wood by volume, but only 25% by weight, of charcoal product. Even by the seventeenth century, advances in technology yielded nearly 90 percent efficiency and was a skill that took years to learn and a major investment in kilns and retorts which had long replaced the pit method.

Much like the old process, the modern commercial charcoal process is to heat wood with little or no air present which takes special but simple equipment. In the United States, wood is the primary material used for charcoal and is generally procured in the form of residue from sawmills - slabs and edgings. Sawmills love to find users of this material because of environmental problems with burning and disposal of mill wastes. Where there are sawmills, there is an available raw product.

The United States Forest Service has estimated that there are nearly 2,000 charcoal-producing units in the United States, including brick kilns, concrete and masonry block kilns, sheet steel kilns, and retorts (a steel metal building). The state of Missouri produces a significant portion of this national charcoal product (they have until recently had less stringent environmental regulations) and 98 percent of all charcoal is produced in the eastern United States.

While charcoal can be made from any number of natural materials, hardwoods such as hickory, oak, maple, and fruit-woods are favored. They have unique aromas and tend to produce a better grade of charcoal. Better grades of charcoal come from raw materials with low sulfur content.

The uses of charcoal may surprise you. Besides being the fuel that cooks steaks, hot dogs, and hamburgers on a Sunday picnic, charcoal is used in many other processes. It is used in certain metallurgical "purifying" treatments and as a filter to remove organic compounds such as chlorine, gasoline, pesticides, and other toxic chemicals from water and air.

Activated charcoal, which has a super absorptive surface, is growing in use as a purifier. It is used in purifying and refining metals and in the gas masks that were used during the Gulf War. NutraSweetuses activated charcoal to transform their product into a powder. Activated charcoal is used as an antidote for many types of poisons and is touted as an effective anti-flatulent.

Most charcoal manufacturers sell their product as a briquette. This market has been dominated by several companies to include Kingsford, Royal Oak, and major grocery market brands. These companies may or may not make "lump" charcoal which is an alternate product that has some advantages and has potential as a small start-up business. Some new and exciting grill technologies actually require charcoal in lump form.

An entrepreneur hoping to survive in the charcoal industry will require originality and very good and aggressive marketing. Many small companies have survived but most have not made it "big." They've found that their potential in the niche charcoal market is by making natural hardwood "lump" charcoal.

Innovative ideas like developing a product in a bag that has a fuse, which when lit will ignite the charcoal. This quick light product combined with an easy-to-use paraffin coated container filled with natural charcoal has been a modest success in some local markets.

A major hurdle is creating an appealing package. Technical problems with storage make for unappealing packages and can affect sales. You may find your bag on the bottom shelf in the back of the store because of a plain package. You may also have a problem finding distributors that handle small volumes.

There is also the potential for other products. Wood charcoal has a low sulfur content, unlike coal or petroleum products. This wood charcoal can be used where other forms of carbon cannot. Developing a specialty activated charcoal for filtration of consumables like air and water is possible. This low sulfur charcoal product would be sold to a large manufacturer of activated carbon like Calgon Carbon of Pittsburgh, PA.

In addition to the raw material, you will have to have an area suitable for heating the material while allowing only a minimal amount of air circulation. This may be a brick kiln or you may opt for a type of metal building called a retort. You can expect to pay up to several hundred thousand dollars for one of these.

You also must develop a sorting and crushing operation. The wood that has been cooked is smaller than its original size by about one-third. It must be broken down into marketable pieces. This would have to be done by a customized piece of equipment made by a made-to-order machine shop. There is no reasonable cost estimate here - you've got to do a lot of leg work.

Then you have to bag or package the carbon. Bagging machines are readily available from bagging equipment supply companies. Charcoal presents somewhat of a bagging problem due to a large variance in the sizes of the piece. These problems are not impossible to correct and a bagging line could cost you as much as $100 thousand. You can get less expensive ones.

The best strategy for making a business success in "lump" charcoal is to keep the market local or regional. You might link up with a grill or outdoor oven company and combine your marketing efforts. Advertise the product as superior, natural charcoal that has advantages over briquettes. Many people are not aware that charcoal is available in this all-natural form.

making charcoal

making charcoal

NEW: Charcoal Maker Cart makes it easy to produce charcoal in one steel drum, with very little smoke. While our forges work well with raw wood, some people like to use charcoal as a fuel as well. Charcoal is lighter for transporting. It gets hotter faster than waiting for wood to burn down to coals and is especially handy for forge welding and casting. It's also great for cooking over! Many methods of charcoal making have been used over the years, ranging from burying wood in pits to complex retort arrangements. We've tried many of these and found them cumbersome. Having to commit to pile for a long period of time, or drag fuel to a central burner is inconvenient. We found our solution in an easy adaptation to a typical 55 gallon drum with a well fitting metal lid. The barrel must have no holes, so all air is supplied from the top. The barrel is tipped to 60 degrees. This creates a natural draft, as hot air rushes along the upper surface, pulling fresh air in the lower lip of the barrel. Begin by getting a hot fire going in the bottom of the barrel. When the starter fire has burned down to coals, add a moderate layer of wood. The right amount to add will vary by the size and water content of your fuel, but you will be able to gauge the amount by watching for smoke. If the fire smokes, that's too much fuel at once. The burning of the new fuel creates a flame cap that preserves the charcoal below it by consuming the supply of oxygen before it can go down and completely oxidize the charcoal accumulating on the bottom of the barrel. If you need to interrupt your charcoal making session, stand the barrel up and put a lid on it. This will stop the burning and preserve the charcoal. Otherwise, continue adding fuel until the barrel is about 60% full of charcoal before standing up and putting a lid on it. You can brace the barrel on any sturdy support that will hold it, or invest in a Whitlox Charcoal Cart for ease of use and transport. You can make charcoal with hard or soft woods. You'll find it is useful not just as forge fuel, but can also be great for the BBQ and as a garden amendment.

While our forges work well with raw wood, some people like to use charcoal as a fuel as well. Charcoal is lighter for transporting. It gets hotter faster than waiting for wood to burn down to coals and is especially handy for forge welding and casting. It's also great for cooking over!

Many methods of charcoal making have been used over the years, ranging from burying wood in pits to complex retort arrangements. We've tried many of these and found them cumbersome. Having to commit to pile for a long period of time, or drag fuel to a central burner is inconvenient.

The barrel must have no holes, so all air is supplied from the top. The barrel is tipped to 60 degrees. This creates a natural draft, as hot air rushes along the upper surface, pulling fresh air in the lower lip of the barrel.

When the starter fire has burned down to coals, add a moderate layer of wood. The right amount to add will vary by the size and water content of your fuel, but you will be able to gauge the amount by watching for smoke. If the fire smokes, that's too much fuel at once. The burning of the new fuel creates a flame cap that preserves the charcoal below it by consuming the supply of oxygen before it can go down and completely oxidize the charcoal accumulating on the bottom of the barrel.

If you need to interrupt your charcoal making session, stand the barrel up and put a lid on it. This will stop the burning and preserve the charcoal. Otherwise, continue adding fuel until the barrel is about 60% full of charcoal before standing up and putting a lid on it. You can brace the barrel on any sturdy support that will hold it, or invest in a Whitlox Charcoal Cart for ease of use and transport.

how to make activated charcoal (with pictures) - wikihow

how to make activated charcoal (with pictures) - wikihow

This article was co-authored by Bess Ruff, MA. Bess Ruff is a Geography PhD student at Florida State University. She received her MA in Environmental Science and Management from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2016. She has conducted survey work for marine spatial planning projects in the Caribbean and provided research support as a graduate fellow for the Sustainable Fisheries Group. There are 17 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 97% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 343,031 times.

Activated charcoal, sometimes called activated carbon, is useful for purifying contaminated water or polluted air. In emergency situations, activated charcoal can be used to remove dangerous toxins and poisons from your body. Before you can activate the charcoal, youll first need make homemade charcoal by burning wood or fibrous plant material. Then youre ready to add activating chemicals, like calcium chloride or lemon juice, and complete the activation process.

To make activated charcoal, first youll need to turn hardwood into charcoal. Fill a large pot with 4-inch (10-cm) pieces of hardwood and cover it with a loose-fitting lid. Heat the pot over a fire for 3-6 hours until the wood has turned into charcoal. Let the charcoal cool, then rinse it with water and let it completely dry. Next, transfer it to a plastic bag and grind it into a fine powder with a hammer. Run the powder through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any large pieces, then transfer it to a bowl. To activate the charcoal, pour about 1-2 cups (240-475 mL) of lemon juice into the bowl and stir until a paste forms. Cover the bowl and let the charcoal sit for 24 hours. Now, strain the charcoal in a coffee filter inside of a fine-mesh strainer. Rinse the charcoal three times with distilled water to flush away all of the lemon juice. Finally, let the activated charcoal air dry, or dry it in the oven for 2-4 hours at 225 F (110 C). Store your activated charcoal in a canning jar with a tight lid. For lots of ways to use your activated charcoal, keep reading! Did this summary help you?YesNo

how to make charcoal (with pictures) - wikihow

how to make charcoal (with pictures) - wikihow

wikiHow is a wiki, similar to Wikipedia, which means that many of our articles are co-written by multiple authors. To create this article, 48 people, some anonymous, worked to edit and improve it over time. This article has been viewed 985,546 times. Learn more...

Lump charcoal, which is made by burning pieces of wood until all the impurities are gone and only the coal remains, is an excellent choice for outdoor grilling. It's expensive to buy lump charcoal at the store, but making your own is a cheap and simple solution. This wikiHow will show you how to make wood charcoal from raw material.

To make charcoal, locate a safe area where you can build an outdoor fire, then pile cured wood into a large metal drum with a lid. Next, build a stack of wood for the bonfire, leaving a hole in the middle, then put the drum in the hole. Cover the drum with more wood and set the wood on fire, letting it burn for at least 3 hours. Once the fire burns out and cools down completely, remove your fresh batch of coal from inside the drum! To learn more about making charcoal with 2 drums, read on! Did this summary help you?YesNo

making charcoal - tools and tool making - bladesmith's forum board

making charcoal - tools and tool making - bladesmith's forum board

Get a barrel. Run pipe out of it and back under it. Build a big fire under the barrel. Cook off the volatile gases until they ignite and continue cooking the wood with its own gases until it stops. Let it cool and Voila! charcoal.

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.

In contrast the stuff that came out of my barrels was barely recognizable as wood with big cracks and lots of small pieces and fines. It had a dull color to it. There was no resonance when struck. Just a dull "thunk". I could easily crush it between thumb and forefinger. Hell sometimes it fell apart just picking it up. And dust-Holy Moly what a mess.

Jan, I agree-For the most part. But each of us make our own series of complex decisions to arrive at our "art". Here in the US and maybe elsewhere-Jeep has come up with what I consider a brill

Me too Jesus I have set some ambitious criteria for this setup. 1) It must be controllable. Unlike my previous setup that once the candle was lit, it was pretty much a runaway train.

I have some interesting information (Well to me anyway), but I have no idea what it is telling me. I am in the process of building my charcoal kiln. Much of it involves welding and my welding skil

Now that I know what I am looking at I can tell that the charcoal got way too hot and the the air was not properly shut off before it cooled down allowing it to burn inside the barrel after it finished "cooking".

These pictures and tutorial are very well done and for the right circumstances describe an ideal way of making charcoal. I will continue to use the pit making method..I am not recommending it to anyone. I see people ( including myself) in general ( particularly in smelting ) hanging on to the methods they learned or developed.. .even when a "better" method is at hand. Probably just human nature.

These pictures and tutorial are very well done and for the right circumstances describe an ideal way of making charcoal. I will continue to use the pit making method..I am not recommending it to anyone. I see people ( including myself) in general ( particularly in smelting ) hanging on to the methods they learned or developed.. .even when a "better" method is at hand. Probably just human nature.

But in your case I think using a pit to make charcoal is pretty practical. Smelts are voracious consumers of charcoal. Setting up a large enough retort system to supply the needs of smelting would be horrifically expensive I think.

There is a tremendous amount of good information on this forum. Too be brutally honest I am a mediocre bladesmith. However, my 30 years as a machinist, process engineer and later a teacher have left me with a talent to dig into the core of something and then explain it in simple terms.

Wood starts to carbonize at 270C or about 520F. I am going to stick with Celsius from here on out. I live in a Fahrenheit world but all the research I have read is in Celsius and I have come to think in Celsius for making charcoal anyway.

However with some judicious loading of the fuel, fanning the fire and shielding it when the wind blew to much I was able to get it to around 550C and keep it there for maybe 45 minutes. During this time there was lot of smoke under pressure. You could hear it hissing as it exited the vent holes,but only sporadic flaming.

It stayed at 760C for around 10 minutes then the flames subsided and died and temperature dropped rapidly. As I had been doing all along to kill the burn I pulled the can and turned it upside down on a pile of dirt to cut off the oxygen so that the hot charcoal would not ignite inside the can.

Surprisingly this was some pretty nice charcoal as well. More friable than the previous burn but pretty good. and the sound was really cool kind of musical. Don't know if that translates to good forging fuel but cool none the less.

The official name for this process is pyrolysis. Turns out that pyrolysis CAN be an Exothermic reaction. Where the reaction generates more heat (energy) than is put into it. But it can also be Endothermic-where it absorbs more heat than it generates. There are a lot of variables involved but the big one is how much energy is put into it. So in the 350C burn there was not enough heat energy put into it so it remained Endothermic. In the 550C and 720C burns the applied energy passed the threshold and the reaction went exothermic.

Dan, thank you for taking the time to present your experiments like this. I really enjoy reading about it. Right now I use a propane forge, but I have not forgotten about the virtues of (and joy using) a charcoal forge.

Dan, thank you for taking the time to present your experiments like this. I really enjoy reading about it. Right now I use a propane forge, but I have not forgotten about the virtues of (and joy using) a charcoal forge.

I appreciate your work as well, Dano. My last attempt at coaling was a dismal failure, but then it was just a 55 gallon drum full of not-entirely seasoned branches in the middle of the burn pile. If I ever get serious about it this thread will be invaluable!

3) It must separate out the tars and turpentine's. These elements in the pine were a contributing factor to the runaway train effect. Plus, there is bound to be some use for this stuff. They also send a lot of ugly smoke into the atmosphere when they burn-Not good for the environment and more importantly my relationship with my not too close but close enough neighbors.

4) Be build-able by some one with intermediate skills with metal (welding etc.) It will not be dead simple like my pipes out of a barrel but reproducible by someone with some mechanical and building ability.

I see you are using concrete block to contain the heating fire..how does that hold up at firing temperatures? I am considering lining my pit with those and an inner layer of brick. Will it last for 20 hrs at high temperature?

My understanding of the pit method is that the temperatures are not so extreme. My opinion is that since you are also going going to use a fire brick lining the CMUs would be protected from any real heat and add the structural support that you need.

I tried some others and over half of the batch had basically the same tone. The ones that did where always solid pieces with no splits or breaks. One that I dropped broke at the split and when I dropped it again it now had the same tone as the others.

This may seem totally unrelated, but do you think those retorts of yours could be adapted/used to make coke from slack (small pieces of bituminious coal used to bank up a fire overnight)? I want to build my first furnace and will probably go with oil as coke is unobtainable in may neck o the woods, but if I can make my own thats a different story. A book of mine says that meturilogical coke needs to be heated to 1000 degrees C. Could your barrel retorts get that high?

This may seem totally unrelated, but do you think those retorts of yours could be adapted/used to make coke from slack (small pieces of bituminious coal used to bank up a fire overnight)? I want to build my first furnace and will probably go with oil as coke is unobtainable in may neck o the woods, but if I can make my own thats a different story. A book of mine says that meturilogical coke needs to be heated to 1000 degrees C. Could your barrel retorts get that high?

The long answer is I have no idea how long you have to cook the coal to get coke. If it must remain at temp for hours then the barrels will burn out in a short time. The wood gives of volatile gases so is pretty much self sustaining. I don't know but I assume coal does not give off these gases in the volume required to self cook. That would mean that you have to supply external energy (wood, gas fire) to cook it.

It is a semi-production system and based on a car system where "cars" are loaded with wood and placed in the kiln. When the process is complete the cars are pulled to cool and new cars are placed in the hot kiln. This kiln will hold 4 cars made from 55 gallon drums.

Why not just perlite or "dry stall" rather than making a concrete ( I think even vermiculite will work at that temp)....I hope you are hiding these numbers from the family accountant...or ( heaven forbid ) she may clarify the data for you. Couldn't you have just built her a nice BIG pizza or bread oven and put all that wasted heat to use. Good luck, it is an interesting post. I am enjoying the swordbuilder post as well..and plan to participate in the discussion. First, I have to finish this wootz stuff ( this Winter ) and get these darn crucibles to stop cracking on me. Tamahagane is a by-product of the cast iron I make, when you get down the road a bit I will be glad to share some with you.

Why not just perlite or "dry stall" rather than making a concrete ( I think even vermiculite will work at that temp)....I hope you are hiding these numbers from the family accountant...or ( heaven forbid ) she may clarify the data for you. Couldn't you have just built her a nice BIG pizza or bread oven and put all that wasted heat to use. Good luck, it is an interesting post. I am enjoying the swordbuilder post as well..and plan to participate in the discussion. First, I have to finish this wootz stuff ( this Winter ) and get these darn crucibles to stop cracking on me. Tamahagane is a by-product of the cast iron I make, when you get down the road a bit I will be glad to share some with you.

Nope, no hiding from the family accountant. Another reason for a lack of progress-Perlite is kind of expensive. Best I could do was a 4 cu/ft bag for $43.00. looks like I will need 3-4 bags. I bought all the steel at a wholesale place but still I've got $300.00 in the steel.

To use loose perlite I need some way to contain it. I am pouring the concrete in the open side of the frame then tilting it up and bolting it together again. Then I will wire it and then stucco the whole thing to protect it and seal it. That's the plan anyway.

Jan, I agree-For the most part. But each of us make our own series of complex decisions to arrive at our "art". Here in the US and maybe elsewhere-Jeep has come up with what I consider a brill

Me too Jesus I have set some ambitious criteria for this setup. 1) It must be controllable. Unlike my previous setup that once the candle was lit, it was pretty much a runaway train.

I have some interesting information (Well to me anyway), but I have no idea what it is telling me. I am in the process of building my charcoal kiln. Much of it involves welding and my welding skil

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