Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Making Charcoal

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.

Charcoal has many useful applications: as a fuel source, as a filtration medium, and as a toxin neutralizer. Therefore it behooves a prepper to know how to make it themselves. 

Select a dense hardwood
The more dense the wood, the more charcoal you’ll get for your effort. Don't use pressure-treated lumber! It contains chemicals that make the charcoal useless for cooking, filtration, or ingestion.

Cut the wood into small pieces
The smaller the pieces the more you can fit into your container, and if they are of uniform size they will all  “cook” at the same rate. Obviously, there is a point of diminishing returns where you it takes more effort than its worth to cut them into smaller pieces; just keep in mind that the larger the blocks, the longer it will take to make the charcoal.

Heat the wood 
Build a large bonfire that will burn for 3-5 hours, depending on the size of your container. A small pot will require less burn time than a 55 gallon drum, which needs the full five hours. 

Place the container on the fire and cover it loosely with a lid. If you have no container, you can wrap the wood in foil. If you lack foil you can ignite a pile of wood, get it burning, and then cover it with dry sand or dirt to turn the earth itself into a kiln. Be sure to leave a small vent at the top.

Watch the smoke
At first, the smoke will be white or light gray, and is mostly water vapor and volatile compounds. When the smoke turns dingy brown, place the lid tightly on the container and keep the fire going until the smoke output drops. 

Allow to cool
Wait several more hours or overnight. The charcoal you want will be black in color, very lightweight, and will crumble easily in your hand.

When you check the container, you may find some pieces that are still wood; this means that you didn’t cook them long enough. If they are covered in ash, the wood got too much air.  If either of these happen, start up the fire and try again. 

Next week I'll walk you through how to turn your homemade charcoal into activated charcoal. 

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