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Author Topic: Making charcoal  (Read 2407 times)

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Offline Don P

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Making charcoal
« on: November 22, 2017, 07:52:01 AM »
While the guys were fussing and shimming the last rows of skip sheathing on the barn roof I started cleaning up the pasture we've been sawing in. Some minor mountains of slabs and edgings and a heap of docked tops. We had been talking about charcoal and there were a couple of old drums in the windrow so I decided to 'speriment at being a collier. I lit it through a 4" bung hole in the bottom and then plugged that after it got going good. Then I fed it all day, definitely not the fast way to get rid of a pile! You can barely see the edge of the lid with a chain in the foreground, I lowered that onto the fire at 5 o'clock yesterday and scooped a couple of scoops of dirt from around our charcoal hearth on top then packed it into the crack around the edge well. We're supposed to let it cool for 2 days, I'll tip it onto a wire mesh screen and bag anything that looks like good cowboy charcoal. The rest will leave that black stain in the soil from a coaling that I've discovered in the woods several times. Kind of neat to happen upon one.
That's a Thansksgiving stumpkin in the background  ;D

Offline 69bronco

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #1 on: November 22, 2017, 08:24:04 AM »
I find there's a fine line between charcoal and ashes :D. Last batch I had some company show up and didn't cap it off on time, probably 20 minutes past usual. Poof!
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Offline Bert

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #2 on: November 22, 2017, 08:37:49 AM »
I love making my own charcoal! Never did it on that scale though. Usually a metal 5 gal bucket at a time. Good Luck!
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Offline samandothers

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #3 on: November 22, 2017, 09:45:02 AM »
Look forward to your picture of your creation!

Offline gww

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #4 on: November 22, 2017, 10:54:13 AM »
I have been looking for a good 30 gal barrel to fill and turn up side down in a 50 gal barrel.  I have found one of two but they always have a rust hole of some other defect.  I have not gone out of my way or wanted to spend any money getting one but will keep looking and when I finally get one, it will be time to try it.  Interested to hear your final out come.
Cheers
gww

Offline TKehl

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #5 on: November 22, 2017, 11:22:59 AM »
GWW, if you get around Sedalia, I'll give you a 50 gallon barrel.  Closed head, but good shape, still have paint on them.  They throw them out at work and I often have more than I need.

FYI, there is a good article about firing a LARGE charcoal kiln in one of the Foxfire books.  Can't recall which one...
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Offline gww

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #6 on: November 22, 2017, 02:29:54 PM »
TKehl
Thanks for the offer.  I took the 50 gal barrel I had and cut the top out for storing chicken feed mouse proof.  I do have another one that I can get at moms house and so I am good.  If a guy could only see into the future.  I had a thirty gal barrel with a spicket on it that I had kerosine in and gave to my brother in law who ended up giving it to some one else.  I had another one in my shed full of trash but the bottom rusted out and another one at moms used as a trash can with the same results.  Now when I want one, I have ruined them all or already given them away.  I can't see spending much untill I try it myself and see if it really works for me. 

That was a great offer but I think I am good there and sooner or later I will come up with something.  I saw one guy making it in gal paint cans and oven roasting pans in his wood stove.  I have a wood stove but don't feel like making such small amounts.  Them guys make fire works and filters and such.  Me, I just want to use some of the stuff I am just burning now to cook with.  super small batches don't have much appeal to me. 

Again, your offer was nice.
Thanks
gww

Offline thecfarm

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #7 on: November 22, 2017, 02:37:10 PM »
I was looking for one to burn stumps. I heard someone say they have a $50 deposit on them.   :o  Maybe that is why I can't found any. I've been watching one at a woods landing. I got one from the dump,but I would like to have another one,since they are hard to find.
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Offline 69bronco

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #8 on: November 23, 2017, 08:03:45 AM »
I was looking for one to burn stumps. I heard someone say they have a $50 deposit on them.   :o  Maybe that is why I can't found any. I've been watching one at a woods landing. I got one from the dump,but I would like to have another one,since they are hard to find.
I've got 15 or 20 55gal drums, if you get over my way I'll load you up.
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Offline thecfarm

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #9 on: November 23, 2017, 08:36:03 AM »
Deal!!   ;D
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Offline Don P

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #10 on: November 23, 2017, 08:54:53 AM »
Probably only if Sam needs one, this is the old road parallel to I-77 running up the escarpment between NC and VA. Highway 52 through Cana, VA has the removable lid kind at the apple/honey roadside stands. That is really a nothing bigger than a pickup truck with good brakes hiway , there's country songs about that hill, several ;)

So I pull in to one of the stands to buy a drum, he really wants to sell 2, the second for half price, I should have done it, a man always needs another drum. So we walk by the pile of drums marked honey, some south American stamp, and I go inside to pay, stacks of jars of mountain honey inside. Now ... I had walked by this stack of foreign honey drums on the way in to the store  :D

Online LeeB

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #11 on: November 23, 2017, 11:00:49 AM »
They have mountains in South America.  :D
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Offline Don P

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #12 on: November 23, 2017, 10:00:57 PM »
I realized if folks were going to be milling around I didn't want to dump out 500 gallons of charcoal. I need to load Christmas trees tomorrow so might not be able to see if we made charcoal for a few days.

We did light the stumpkin around dusk tonight though.


This one was a little later, it was kind of a neat abstract;

Offline samandothers

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #13 on: November 23, 2017, 11:43:30 PM »
I have been up and down that road a time or two going from Winston Salem to the Blue Ridge Parkway particularly before the connector was put in between I77 and 52 south of Mt Airy.  It is an interesting drive.  We would usually hit the Parkway at the top of the 52 climb and go North.

By the way the Stumpkin is neat!

Offline Don P

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #14 on: November 27, 2017, 06:56:23 PM »
Yeah, those stumpkins are a neat use for a hollow log. This one didn't get up and go that good. I've had it stood on its end for... years. It should have had a piece of tin over the top. It seemed to be a little too damp for quite awhile. Five year old Matthew built and ran that little bonfire at the bottom intake. Tending that and the fire coming through a crack in the back kept him entertained all evening.

I shoveled out and bagged 16 30 gallon trash bags of charcoal today. With a better burn it should make about 20 bags worth BUT I need to screen out a lot more. This screen is leaving too small pieces still, I think I'll try some chicken wire which will dump probably 50% into the next grade, which would be good blacksmith or metalwork size I think, then what drops out of the screen in the pic is good bio-char for soil. I got 2 bags worth of it. I did some reading, it looks like the soil would be happy with 10-20 tons/ac, so no worries about a spill  :D.

I forgot to take a pic when I tipped it over, I'm about halfway into it. You can see we didn't do a good job separating sizes so there are a lot of "brands", unburned chunks, that got pulled out and will go back in next time.


Then the screen and into bags. This all needs to be a stand that I can bobcat around that grades 3 ways and it shakes down into the sacks. I need to get some of those double wall paper sacks. Anyhow, there's the charcoal empire, low startup costs   ;D



Offline drobertson

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #15 on: November 28, 2017, 01:13:16 PM »
Never done it on purpose, but have noticed larger slab burn piles contained nice charcoal when the burn settled.  I know for a fact the makers of it use dried wood, light , burn then choke,(damp) off the O2, making lump, doing your own makes sense to me, the timing of the water quench is a key component,
only have a few chain saws I'm not suppose to use, but will at times, one dog Dolly, pretty good dog, just not sure what for yet,  working on getting the gardening back in order, and kinda thinking on maybe a small bbq bizz,  thinking about it,

Offline Don P

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #16 on: November 28, 2017, 08:27:45 PM »
There's no water quench here. I stick a fork, darn, I just looked back at the pic I posted, the lid is upside down. You can about see the bolts that hold the 4' or so of chain on the other, top, side. I bump the barrel and drop everything below the rim, slip a fork under the chain and drop the lid in the burning barrel. Get it punched down level and then scoop dirt on top till it seals all the smoke out. It's amazing, that 500 gallon barrel was cooling rapidly in a half hour.

So today's burn started with the barrel on its side shoved over right beside the slab pile, duh huh. I stuck in slabs, nicely lined up, no big gaps from tossing them in over the top of an upright 7' barrel. Chainsawed the pile somewhat close to the top and tipped it up. Shoved it back over to the burn area and stuck the torch in the hole. It really needs 3 or 4 bottom ports to get going, oxygen never gets to that bottom back corner. I let it get going longer before I plugged the bottom hole. from then on it burns up top but no oxygen gets to the bottom and it begins cooling. I opened it for about a half hour around 2 hours into the burn and warmed the bottom back up, who knows  :D.

With it pretty well packed it dawned on me charcoal really isn't that much smaller than shrunken wood. I thumped the barrel several more times and did add a good bit more but I dropped the top on it after about 4 hours.

This is lighting it with a weedburner torch stuck in the single 4" hole.


And the action shot, I've bumped it once and piled more on, I capped the bottom inlet soon after this;

Offline Don P

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #17 on: December 12, 2017, 06:55:44 PM »
I need to get more uniform bottom air, it's just not getting a good burn in the bottom of that big drum. The top of that last burn was great charcoal but in that tight stuff down below not enough air in the early burn to get it going, the bottom half of the barrel will need reburning but not before I cut another hole or two around the bottom that will get it going then I'll block and dirt pack those shut once its rolling and smoke free.

I screened into 3 sizes this time by using a chicken wire screen first blocked up over a 1/4" mesh expanded metal screen. 1" and larger pieces of charcoal on top of the chicken wire goes into lump charcoal sacks. Sitting on the next screen is 3/8 to 1" foundry grade, then everything that drops through is biochar... the greatest interest right now is in biochar, I could grind and sell every bit.

We were under wind warnings today. I went down to work in the shop but had a squirrel attack.  My first charcoal melt, this chunk of aluminum is about 6" across and 1/2" thick, the mold was the bottom of a large coffee can.

I just nestled a cut off empty propane little camping cylinder into a 5 gallon metal pail full of charcoal, popped a 2" hole in the bottom edge and hooked an old vacuum blower to it. This was as crude as it gets, an uninsulated furnace, winds to 50 blowing blizzard at times and it melted metal, neat! On the second batch I had a good bit more in the crucible, enough where I was starting to be able to just push scrap down into the pool and it would melt. I skimmed the dross off the top, got my stuff ready to pour, opened the top back up... and the metal was gone! It's all in the bottom of the pail, I had probably too much air and really had a torch going on that thin little tank. I'll rig it up better but I had a... blast  ;D

Offline btulloh

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #18 on: December 13, 2017, 09:03:33 AM »
What are you using for your crucible?

HM126

Offline Don P

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #19 on: December 13, 2017, 10:23:27 AM »
It was on old empty camping propane cylinder with the top hacksawed off. So much too thin but it was sitting there  :D. I'll be in town tomorrow and will pick up a nipple of 4" sch 40 black pipe and an end cap and try that. I'll also see if I can get a bag or two of fireclay and some sand.

I've been emailing around with some interested local folks thoughts as I've been playing, it might be of interest;

Well I couldn't screen in the wind yesterday so I played with some of the mid sized charcoal, between grilling size and biochar sized. I slapped together a furnace in a 5 gallon metal pail and put a blower on it for forced draft, basically a deep bed of charcoal and a blacksmiths forge. Nestled in the charcoal was an old camping propane bottle with the top cut off for a crucible. In the crucible I put scrap aluminum. Attached is a pic of the first pour, I just poured it into a 2 lb coffee can and made about a 1 lb disc.

The furnace was still working so I melted a good bit more the second time, I increased the charcoal and draft and got the pool hot enough I could just feed metal into the hot pool and it would melt immediately, pretty cool! I had just skimmed the dross off the top and was getting ready to pour and my metal disappeared from the crucible... I burned a hole in the thin steel propane cylinder :D However this is another use for our charcoal, we can release that carbon back to the atmosphere... and cast metal.

I now had a problem in the bottom of my "furnace" I had a slaggy mix of aluminum and charcoal. To clean that up and recover the aluminum for another melt I kept blowing air on the charcoal bed until it was gone leaving me with mostly aluminum that I'll remelt in another pour.

Sooo, where did that charcoal go? I combined the charcoal, pure carbon that the tree had created by pulling CO2 out of the air, with oxygen, and released it back to the atmosphere as CO2 and CO. Making and using charcoal while explaining this would be a real hands on teaching moment. There is the other lesson... if you smell burning fur, its you! All this stuff is wickedly hot.

In the screening from Monday I got a couple more bags of biochar. This would be the equivalent of "extra virgin" biochar by which I mean everything that drops through the screen is in those bags, charcoal AND ash. Ash contains the minerals that were in the wood, potassium (potash), it also has a liming effect. This is fine for most of us but this is not neutral biochar. Overdoing that... probably not really possible in a field but quite possible in a pot or small garden, could lead to ph or nutrient problems.

Any charcoal from above that screen is pure carbon, the ash dropped out of those screens. I will probably end up grinding that for biochar, that is nutrient free and should be ph neutral. So I'm actually producing 2 different kinds of biochar.

Oh, if you visit the old iron furnace at Foster Falls there is a large slaggy chunk of ore, charcoal, limestone and iron laying beside the furnace. At some point in the life of that furnace they lost blast and the charge inside the furnace "froze". I can only surmise they had to disassemble the front of that furnace and drag it out to where it sits now, then rebuild the furnace, a really bad day! I've scooted inside the Ravens cliff furnace, the firebrick lining inside of it collapsed, ending its service life.

Offline btulloh

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #20 on: December 13, 2017, 10:51:27 AM »
That' very interesting.  In your previous post, I thought the propane cylinder was used to make the furnace.  I wouldn't have thought it could be used as the crucible, but there you go. 

For some unknown reason, I'd like to make some aluminum ingots from scrap.  I can't really say why, but that's just the way it goes.

Keep up the good work.
HM126

Offline Don P

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #21 on: December 13, 2017, 11:32:56 AM »
Well, I really want to smelt iron and make a blade from local dirt but that's getting way out there :D
I had a juice can lined up to pour that second batch into. I was going to put it on the wood lathe and turn a pulley.

I need to play with simple moldmaking. Michelle has a nice aluminum garden trowel and a grain scoop I'd like to replicate. Then there is the tablesaw crank handle I broke back before the turn of the century which has tied up a perfectly good pair of vice grips ever since. Blower impellers and swinging waterwheel buckets, Victorian table legs...  :D

Offline btulloh

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #22 on: December 13, 2017, 01:43:34 PM »
That's quite a list of good things to do.  To quote our own Kbietz, "Never enough time . . . ".

Are you going to use sand molds?  They seem like they'd be pretty easy and you have some good patterns to start with.
HM126

Offline Don P

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #23 on: December 13, 2017, 05:21:24 PM »
Sand molding is on the list of things to learn. I've read up on it several times in the past but have never done any. I also have a tub of plaster of paris, quite old I haven't lifted the lid to see if it is a chunk or a powder but it can barely take the heat, it does need to be baked to avoid a steam explosion where greensand, unbaked regular sand molding, is porous enough that even though the sand is damp enough to hold together the steam can escape. Plaster is too tight to let the steam out so most of the moisture has to be driven off. As a kid I had a steam explosion when I was playing around casting lead, My "shadow" was  pretty obvious on the lead covered kitchen cabinets, something best avoided! I'm not sure if I'm technically still grounded  :D. If I remember right steam is about 600 times bigger than water and hot metal can make lots of steam instantly.

Offline gww

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #24 on: December 13, 2017, 06:00:45 PM »
Don
I am really enjoying this thread and hope you keep expermenting and also posting those expermants.
Cheers
gww

Online ljohnsaw

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #25 on: December 13, 2017, 07:03:52 PM »
I've been following along, too.  I have a pile of aluminum that, someday, I want to melt down and make something...
John Sawicky

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Offline Don P

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #26 on: December 13, 2017, 08:35:33 PM »
I'm glad y'all are enjoying it too, I've always wanted to mess with this end of things. So far about the only thing I've spent is time. I guarantee those old iron workers here a century ago were using river sand and hillside clay to make molds and refractory lining.

There was one of those aha moments yesterday, actually there were several, we call them ignoseconds cause whatever it was was usually really ignorant and you figure that out in the span of about a second.
One was, the heat and flame are not that visible, and it is some kind of hot. Always have the gloves on.
When the crucible leaked into the furnace there was a second of "where is it?".  "Uh-oh, I hope it doesn't run back to the fan" (Fan should be up with a downward sloping tube to the tuyere!) Quick check and the fan was good. Next thought, 2 or 3 lbs of red hot glowing aluminum just hit the sheet metal bottom of the pail, and I'm over snowmelt saturated wet ground, big spatter hazard. Probably better over a dry bed of sand. Happily, ignorant but unscarred  :)

Offline Dave Shepard

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #27 on: December 13, 2017, 08:40:03 PM »
Water expands 1,600 times when turning into vapor.
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Offline samandothers

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #28 on: December 14, 2017, 01:40:54 PM »
You are wise to recognize the dangers though a bit delayed but better than not recognizing and paying a higher price!

Enjoying the journey.

Offline Don P

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #29 on: December 14, 2017, 04:39:57 PM »
Slow learner but learning  :D
The camera decided it wasn't too bad out today.
This is the 5 minute furnace. Small blower, too much for this even, I had an old brake shoe I was shading it with most of the time, I can make an adjustable swinging flap. This would work for a number of pours if lined with some kind of refractory. It would burn hotter with a lot less fuel.



This is inside at the bottom, that is the tuyere, the blow pipe to the fan, the dropped pour did try to head back to the fan, that's melted aluminum in the pipe. Notice it burned though the sheet metal... or without going to the trouble of lining a quickie pail furnace it will last long enough for a few pound pour.



This is the dropped pour, I'll remelt it next time, charcoal floats and skims off easily. Sort of neat as art.



The lined furnace I'm thinking might be a flue pipe stuck in an old drum with hillside clay packed around it and a very slow warmup to cure it then continue on and fire. I'm going to bring the blast in either at several points around it (in our old local iron furnaces that duct around the old furnaces was called the windbelt) or from underneath like a forge to get a more even burn. You can see the cold back corner on the pail. My single inlet charcoal burning drum suffers from the same problem. When I have time I'll make a lined furnace and try again.

Offline Don P

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #30 on: December 16, 2017, 09:09:58 AM »
I got back over there yesterday and flipped out the burn barrel from that second burn above. What was up is generally to the right and the bottom end of the slabs as they stood in the packed barrel is to the left.


It looks like the fire went up from my too small inlet at the bottom until it found a level where it had enough air from above to burn and then it never got enough oxygen to really get going down below. I had other things to do yesterday so didn't take time to cut more inlets. I decided to start with a smaller looser fire in the bottom, let it burn and then start feeding those slab ends back into the fire as it could take them. I finished by throwing the roof board cutoffs in. (I pulled about 30 good pieces of reasonable length 1x6 poplar out of what had been chucked into that pile in the background ) I probably fed it every hour or so and then dropped the top on what was then only about a 3/4 full drum and sealed it off with a couple of scoops of dirt. When I would throw in a healthy amount the smoke goes white, steam, then if I had thrown on too much it would have green/yellow in it, unburned wet methane I think, choking it down too much.

I think I've got enough lump and blacksmith charcoal for the near future, my barn shed is about full of bags  :D
I'm going to start just burning and dumping the charcoal and make a pile. Screening and bagging on any scale would need work, its bottlenecking me right now, need to clean up and get out of his pasture. I'd like to have enough frost action after I pull out to help loosen up our compaction of that site over the past year.  I'll let it sit in the weather until I'm done burning. Then I'll get a hammermill and dump the rest through it and grind it to biochar. I cleaned up the planer shavings and put them in the farm compost pile. Moved the planer up into the barn for doing the loft floorboards which will generate a bunch more shavings. The ground biochar will mostly go on the pile with the shavings and I'll roll it all in. Hopefully it will be good black earth for their garden in a year or two

Offline r.man

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #31 on: December 17, 2017, 09:30:14 PM »
The easiest way to make charcoal that i have found is in an outdoor furnace. Load heavier than needed one visit and then shovel excess coals into a steel pail the next time. Sift out the ash after the pail has cooled and repeat. I am making fuel grade for a charcoal gasifier so I will grind the raw stuff into smaller pieces and sift out the dust. Without much extra time involved I am producing about 2 pails or close to 10 gallons of raw charcoal a day. I have made charcoal in an indirect barrel system as well as a direct and this is by far the least time consuming way.
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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #32 on: December 17, 2017, 11:38:15 PM »
That sounds like the best way - you are making heat that you are using and robbing a little to make the charcoal, instead of just wasting all the heat.
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Offline Don P

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #33 on: December 18, 2017, 07:18:51 AM »
r.man, Have you figured out how you're going to grind it? I was thinking a hammermill, curious to hear how people do it.  I'd really like to see plans and progress on the gasifier when you have time.

Offline Dave Shepard

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #34 on: December 18, 2017, 11:35:17 AM »
This is at the top of a burn cycle, so everything is glowing pretty well, but it's all charcoal. I could produce a couple barrels a day.

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Offline gww

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #35 on: December 18, 2017, 05:42:29 PM »
Dave
I have pulled that type of stuff out of my stove before.  Do you find that to be cooking charcoal?  I do know if you do it the indirect way and burn all the gasses out of the wood that you would not smell things like hickory smoke when you used it for cooking.  The stuff out of my stove looked ok but I have tried cooking over wood and it is terrible.  So, You may not be using the charcoal for cooking but does just pulling the wood out of the furnace get it to be smokeless or at least make the smoke not smell like smoke?  Smoke not controlled makes good meat bitter.

I could try it myself cause I am burning wood every day but figured if you already know, I don't have to waste a steak if I am wrong.
Cheers
gww

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #36 on: December 18, 2017, 06:11:21 PM »
I haven't tried cooking with it. My interests are more along the lines of blacksmithing with it. These are softwood slabs. Hardwood slabs do the same thing. Actual split firewood I don't think would work as well.
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Offline gww

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #37 on: December 18, 2017, 06:52:45 PM »
Dave
I kinda knew you were using it for differrent stuff but thought I would ask anyway.  Thank you for taking the time to respond.
Cheers
gww

Offline Don P

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #38 on: December 18, 2017, 07:06:04 PM »
I've screened out some lump for grilling but haven't tried any yet. I suspect it is creosote or the tars stuck to the charcoal that is giving it the off flavor. One check I read somewhere along the way said that good charcoal shouldn't really need soap to come off you, if it is shiny, oily or tarry it was at too low a temperature so is not just pure carbon yet. That might be the flavor  ???

I picked up some playsand and firebrick today while I was coming home from the last round of physical therapy for the shoulder repair. I think I'll try lining a half barrel with bricks packed with hillside clay, fire it slow then try a melt and see what happens.

The roofers were finishing up at the barn so I cleaned up there, dumped the last load of charcoal and have just smothered todays burn. I think one more and I'll be out of that pasture.  Up behind the haybarn where we set up later and sawed from midsummer to fall has enough slabs and edgings for quite a bit more.

Offline r.man

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #39 on: December 18, 2017, 10:55:59 PM »
Don I built a grinder last year based on one by Gary Gilmour. Fairly fast with a separater screen built on to it and it gives good results. I do have a better gear box and motor to put on it as well as some dust control before I use it for large amounts.
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Offline Don P

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #40 on: December 18, 2017, 11:23:13 PM »
I'd appreciate a look if you have any pics.
How were you direct and indirect firing?
Several years ago a friend was making charcoal indirectly by filling a 55 gallon drum with wood, put the band clamp on the lid and laid the sealed drum on its side across angle iron that was across a cinder block firebox. He put the 2" bung on the bottom and ran a pipe from that hole back to the fire. The unburned gasses coming from the cooking wood would help feed the fire. It was working good until creosote, condensate and ash blocked the pipe. It's kind of suprising how far the top of a drum can go. We decided it needed a hinged steel flap in the lid as a popoff valve.

With this I was trying to find an easy way to make charcoal on site out of the slab pile. For a teenager this might turn a few bucks.

Offline gww

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #41 on: December 18, 2017, 11:42:55 PM »
Don
Thanks for mentioning the 50 gal barrel thing and also what to be carefull of on it.
Cheers
gww

Offline Paul_H

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #42 on: December 20, 2017, 10:25:26 AM »
Hi Don,

here is a FF link to a thread on making charcoal and running small engines on the the screened fuel. This link should take you to a charcoal grinder built by FF member Magicmikey

http://www.forestryforum.com/board/index.php/topic,81327.msg1297600.html#msg1297600
eg  tregar  meste  på  Tulla, for  ho  var  krulla  i  ulla.

Offline Don P

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #43 on: December 20, 2017, 07:44:18 PM »
Thanks Paul!  I made the mistake of reading the whole thread and watching all the videos. That looks so much easier with charcoal. This could be a problem, that looks like fun  ;D

Offline Paul_H

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #44 on: December 21, 2017, 06:56:49 PM »
Yes,charcoal like sawdust is addicting!😀
I remember the threads you posted long ago of the charcoal kilns near where you were working. Pretty interesting,we have nothing like it around here.
eg  tregar  meste  på  Tulla, for  ho  var  krulla  i  ulla.

Offline Don P

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #45 on: December 21, 2017, 10:32:01 PM »
That looks like an easy way to get into running on wood. I liked Gary's method of making charcoal. I do have another tank I could make an afterburner out of for this tank. It would take the knuckleboom to set it, although that's do-able. I can see even when my smoke cleans up there is a lot of unburned gas rolling out of the drum, that extra burn room I'm sure would help clean that up. I like the big barrel for holding a fair amount of slabwood at a time. It makes a pretty good whack of charcoal but I can see that as a good thing, there are several vehicles that don't leave the farm but run a lot. That I think would be a good place for charcoal or wood gas.

The rotary screen is a great idea, looks very much like a gristmill's bolter reel. They start out with a fine screen for cornstarch and then become progressively more coarse as the ground grain travels down the bolter. There are dividers underneath at each screen change. What I've been capturing between chicken wire and expanded metal screens, my aluminum melting size, looks like about the size you all are using for transport fuel.

Offline bdsmith

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #46 on: January 09, 2018, 10:03:39 PM »
Don P:
I grind my charcoal with a Toro leaf blower using the vacuum attachment and bag.  I have to control the moisture content of the charcoal between "dusty" and "muddy" but I can process 5 gallons in about 5 minutes.  The Toro has an aluminum fan blade that fractures any size of chunk into 3/8" or less.  The unburned pieces pile up behind the fan and you can hear the sound change.

Also, charcoal used for biochar ought to be burned at a low temp - around 600 to 700 degrees.  This leaves tars and petroleum behind.  Various bacteria and fungi feed on these.

I have adapted the TLUD stove (Top Lit, Up Draft) method to my charcoal making.  I burn wood in a vertical sided pit and keep adding wood to move the combustion layer upwards. This robs the lower wood of O2 and the residual heat bakes out the wood gases leaving charcoal.
I have been making 2 to 3 cu yards at a time, with 5 to 6 hour burns.

Offline Don P

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #47 on: January 09, 2018, 10:33:33 PM »
Cool, I'll try some through my sawmill blower and see what happens. It has a steel impeller I welded up and it can take a pretty good hit, not sure if it'll grind or just pass it through. I could install a screen above the blades so it can't eject above the screen size, not sure if that would work or just clog but its a easy starting place. Thanks for keeping the ideas flowing.

 That's interesting about low temp and leaving hydrocarbons intact, that is the opposite of what I read... somewhere. That article was saying that the soil bacteria would clear it from the char with time but that it was not a good thing. I'm still at the open minded skeptic stage of learning. I'm hoping to get some passed around and played with.

With the recent cold snap we got into the charcoal slab pile the other day, we've all been blowing through the firewood this winter and it's early yet! There's still plenty of sawing to do there still though.

Just in case this works out, be thinking of doing this in a third world country to make cooking fuel and garden amendment and how to use that charcoal safely and efficiently in a simple tin can rocket type burner.

Offline Al_Smith

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #48 on: January 10, 2018, 06:03:41 AM »
I don't really set out to make charcoal by using a coking oven or retort of sorts .However if I rake the ashes of my slash pile after a burn I may have as much as a 5 gallon bucket full of lump charcoal.
I burn the slash from the top down so in theory the smoke wafts up through the flames and as such the ashes tend to cover the bottom of the pile where it burns up with a lack of oxygen  .Presto chango charcoal

Offline Don P

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #49 on: January 10, 2018, 08:05:49 AM »
That works for very small amounts of grilling charcoal but the rest went up in smoke and ash. I'm trying to look at it sort of like the butcher, those pigs ears and ham bones are another resource.

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #50 on: January 10, 2018, 03:41:00 PM »
A little bit is nice for grilling if you have time to do it .To me lump charcoal is better than briquettes .However it takes a good bit to get the fire going just the way you like . It's worth the time if you have the time .

Offline justallan1

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #51 on: January 15, 2018, 08:37:28 AM »
What I did was take a 20-25 gallon oil drum, punch some holes in the lid, cram it plumb full of wood and then put the lid on. I then put that upside down in a 55 gallon drum and filled around and on top with wood and lit the wood. I then took a half of a 55 gallon drum with no ends and perched that on top for a flue. I had already punched some holes in the bottom few inches of the 55 gallon drum that I have the fire in to let air in.
After I let the fire burn itself out I took the flue off and covered the 55 gallon drum with a chunk of sheet metal with a couple cinder blocks to weight it down and plugged the vent holes at the bottom with dirt.
The following morning I pulled out the 20 gallon oil drum and opened it to find I had probably 12-15 gallons of charcoal.
My little charcoal gasifier is built and hooked up to a generator, now I just need to bust up the charcoal and fire the thing up.

Offline mike_belben

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #52 on: January 15, 2018, 01:05:56 PM »
Any of you guys ever look into making "active" charcoal?

Offline TKehl

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #53 on: January 16, 2018, 08:59:32 PM »
@r.man or anyone else using a wood stove to make charcoal.

Do you put a lid on the bucket when you take the coals out or dowse them with water or?  Seems like they would keep burning if they were moved to an open bucket. 

Wanting to try this out.  Am I overthinking things? 
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Offline Don P

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #54 on: January 16, 2018, 09:19:20 PM »
If it is still hot it'll burn if it can get oxygen, so yes you need an airtight lid. I've heard stories of old time colliers opening up the mound before it had completely cooled and losing it in a very hot fire.

I had a little pile of cooled charcoal on the ground a few feet from the burn barrel and had the bottom bung open, glowing bright. The black charcoal that could see the fire relit. Play in a safe area.

I noticed they have a charcoal retort set up in Liberia for turning their scraps into cooking fuel.

Offline TKehl

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #55 on: January 16, 2018, 09:55:18 PM »
Well, I just couldn't wait for a response.   ::)  Had been thinking about doing this for a week or two and had a bunch of extra coals in the stove tonight. 

I filled a 5 gallon metal bucket with coals from the fireplace.  It lit fire 3 times while I was filling it.  I threw a little snow on it to settle the flames with the intent of leaving enough heat to dry itself out.  LOTS OF STEAM!

After that, I packed 2 inches of ash on top and mounded our tremendous amount of snow (2 whole inches!) around the bucket smearing some on the sides to take advantage of latent heat.  Still some steam here for a bit.

So far the only casualty is the plastic handle on the bucket bail.   ::)  :'(   ;)
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Offline bdsmith

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #56 on: January 16, 2018, 10:38:11 PM »
TKehl:
Ash will allow air in very slowly so the coals will remain lit.  They will also keep in the heat.  That's how the oldtimers kept from having to go through the pain of using the flint and steel to respark a fire.

Combustion requires 3 things - fuel, oxygen and heat.
You need an air tight lid on the container if you want to stop combustion or you can put water on the coals to cool them off.  Otherwise it will burn until only ash is left.

I have tried to a couple of different ways to smother the fire when I make biochar in pits.  I found that lots of water is the only consistently effective method.

Offline TKehl

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #57 on: January 17, 2018, 09:23:36 AM »
You bring up a lot of good points that I would have a hard time arguing with.  I had nothing to loose but about 10-20 minutes of my time.   

Unfortunately though, it looks like it worked.   ;D  Will open it this afternoon and see.    ;)

None of the packed ash “cap” has fallen and the bucket is cold to the touch.  I did pour a little water on the ash cap about 1AM this morning when I went out to feed the stove.  Thinking that frozen packed ash would be a better air barrier than just packed ash.  On the other hand, the bucket was already pretty cold at that time.  I don’t think wet packed ash made a difference over dry packed ash.
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Offline Al_Smith

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #58 on: January 17, 2018, 04:18:57 PM »
Charcoal has been around since cavemen discovered fire .When in England for example during the dark ages they set huge piles of wood afire to make the stuff.Covered the pile with dirt and watched it for several days on end .Those tending the fire sat on one legged stools so if they fell asleep they'd fall off which would wake them up .If the dirt cover fell away the whole pile could burst into flames and be lost,all that work .

Offline TKehl

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #59 on: January 17, 2018, 08:58:20 PM »
My setup:



Removal of frozen ash cap:



My supervisors  ;) :



Results:



Very small batch and still need to sift out the ash.  But, I had no money and very little time involved in this.  Charcoal came out nice and dry.   Pretty happy with the results!  ;D
Lucas 6-13+slabber, Mr. Sawmill bandmill, orange chainsaws, JD SSL, Case Backhoe, farm tractors, trailers, and 150ish acres of trees.  Fledgling woodshop with CNC router, laser engraver, Woodmaster 712, and a Berlin 108 moulder (project).  Oh, and a lovely (patient) wife and four offbearers.

Offline Don P

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #60 on: January 17, 2018, 09:15:50 PM »
Burger time  ;D

If you look back at the big barrel burn I was doing I was dropping a lid on top and then a few scoops of dirt packed on top of the lid to exclude air. Then I look for smoke and if any shows I pack that area better. That amount was taking a couple of days to cool off.

Mike, tell me more about activated charcoal. I'm thinking it is just "hot" charcoal, clean, everything but the carbon has been burned out.

Offline mike_belben

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #61 on: January 18, 2018, 08:31:33 AM »
Naw, i checked wikipedia and its a bit more involved.  Either steam or chemical process.  Its expensive to buy and has a million uses.

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Re: Making charcoal
« Reply #62 on: January 18, 2018, 05:32:54 PM »
Don. I've made charcoal, probably about 20 times, with various direct burn setups.  I smothered the fire out most of the time, but I like extinguishing with water better.  It puts the fire out faster, saves more charcoal and bigger pieces.

However you do it, sifting out the ashes and fines is important for blacksmith type use.

 


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