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Making your own charcoal???

Not sure if I should even ask this but since I have access to a Metric butt-load of hard maple, how tough is it to make your own charcoal?  I know that the process requires smouldering the wood with limited oxygen but has anyone tried it and have you had any success?  I realize that this is not something that's gonna save me money etc, it's just something I'd like to try (like malting my own barley etc).
Thanks
Mt Elgin Ontario

Comments

  • @gmac, it just got real around here.. making bacon is for wimps.  Making lump - man's work.
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Austin, Texas.  I'm the guy holding a beer.
  • calikingcaliking Posts: 5,293
    It's doable. You need to build a retort out of anything like a 30 gal drum + a 55 gal drum or just a paint can. There are a few threads on bbq-brethren.com describing the process.

    #1 LBGE December 2012 • #2 SBGE February  2013 • #3 Mini May 2013
    A happy BGE family in Houston, TX.
  • bvcbvc Posts: 35
    I got a steel barrel off of craigslist with a snapband and lid about a year ago with the intention of trying to make my own, but just haven't got around to trying it yet.  Would love to hear if any one has experience as well. 
    Kenmore, WA
    Large and Small BGE
  • henapplehenapple Posts: 10,950
    As I get older my philosophy is let people do what they're good at. With equipment and time, how much will you save? Will the product be good? Could you have spent that time drinking?
    Green egg, dead animal and alcohol. The "Boro".. TN 
  • gmacgmac Posts: 449
    henapple said:
    As I get older my philosophy is let people do what they're good at. With equipment and time, how much will you save? Will the product be good? Could you have spent that time drinking?
    It's not about the cost, it's just so I can say I did it and believe me, I'm gonna spend the time drinking anyway.
    Mt Elgin Ontario
  • Dude, do not do it in the egg! People have tried and it always turned out really bad!

    Steve 

    Caledon, ON

     

  • I found this on the smokering forum. Hope it helps. I will try to send the link but I am having trouble sending itright now so I copy/pasted it.

    Several people asked me to explain the process I use in making Charcoal in the General section. I have tried many methods and find this to be the one I like the best. I should note that most of this I picked up from various postings already on the Smokering so this is by no means my original.

    Some Pros and Cons of this method:

    Pros:
    -Easy to build
    -Burns off the volatile gases during the process making use of them as fuel and keeping them out of the environment (Al Gore would be proud)
    -No good food worthy wood gets burned/wasted being used as fuel for the burn.
    -Fuel wood can be fallen branches, old scraps, etc.
    -Charcoal is separated from the ash

    Cons:
    -The wood must be DRY. If not you will get an incomplete burn.

    Items needed:
    -55 gallon drum with lid.
    -30 gallon open end drum (no lid)
    - two 3ft sections of 6� diameter stove pipe
    -one 8� to 6� stove pipe adapter
    -some method of attaching the stove pipe adapter to the lid. I used 4 �L� shaped brackets with sheet metal screws.
    -drill with a �� holesaw
    -some method of cutting a 5.5� hole in the barrel lid. I used a 4� grinder.

    Steps in building the retort:
    Note: you may want to burn out both barrels prior to building.
    Step 1 � Drill �� holes approx every 5� around the bottom of the 55 gallon drum about 3� up from the bottom of the barrel.
    Step 2 � Cut a 5� to 5.5� hole in the center of the lid
    Step 3 � Attach the 8� side of the stove pipe adapter to the lid centered over the hole.
    Step 4 � Drill �� holes in the sides of the adapter about every 4� on the transition.

    Burning process:

    Load the 30 gallon barrel with DRY wood which will be made into charcoal. You can pack it fairly tight just make sure the gases will be able to escape during the burn. The wood can be any length up to the length of the barrel. It should be of uniform thickness within the batch with the maximum thickness being about 4". These in the photo are on the thick side.



    Place the barrel on something to raise it off the ground. I use a section of log.



    Set the 55 gallon drum upside down over the top of the 30 gallon barrel.



    Tip the barrels on the side making sure the smaller barrel stays flush against the bottom of the larger barrel.



    Stand the barrels up so the 30 gallon barrel is now upside down inside the 55 gallon barrel. Center the barrels.



    Gather scrap wood and branches and pack tightly between the two barrel assuring that the wood is all the way to the bottom of the barrel.





    Continue filling the barrel to the top adding small kindling to the top when the barrel is full.



    Light the kindling and get it burning.





    Spread the kindling out so the lid will sit flat.



    Place the lid on the barrel. You will hear the gases ignite inside the stove pipe. This heats up very fast so you want to have the stove pipe in place when you put the lid on the barrel.





    Let the burn continue until the lid is able to sit securely on top of the 55 gallon barrel. It doesn�t need to be clamped tight but it should be sitting flush.



    The burn will start very clean with just heat coming out of the pipe.



    As the burn progresses it will drive the moisture out of the wood. When this happens there will be varying amounts of smoke visible. This is mostly vapor as any flammable gases are being burned off in the stove pipe. Here are photos of this progression.















    Once the fire reaches the bottom of the barrel the moisture should be driven off and the volatile gases should start burning as they escape from the inner barrel. These gases provide the fuel for the remainder of the burn. When the wood stops gassing off all that remains is charcoal and the fire extinguishes on its own. The ashes from the burn help create a seal between the barrels keeping oxygen out of the inner chamber. Let the fire die out on it�s own and leave it to cool down over night.

    Once the retort has cooled, remove the lid.



    Tip the barrels upside down and lift the 55 gallon barrel off of the 30 gallon barrel. Dump the Charcoal out into a metal container.



    On this burn I filled my charcoal basket on my UDS and filled two 5 gallon buckets.



    Be SAFE and use all appropriate precautions. During the burn the barrel will be about 500 degrees and the exhaust gases will be about 1200 degrees. Play it safe and don�t get burned!
    Make sure the charcoal sits out in the open for 24 hours to assure all heat has dissipated before putting up for storage. I place the charcoal in 5 gallon buckets with lids for storage.

    I hope this helps anyone who is interested in making homemade charcoal.

    DBR
    _________________
    Primo Junior Oval
    Horizontal optionally equiped w/ Afterburner.
    Homemade lump Charcoal using two barrel retort.
    http://www.thesmokering.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=37313

    "I go now to find myself, if I get back before I return keep me here!"

    Last edited by Dead Beaver Ranch on Sat Mar 20 10 10:17 pm; edited 1 time in total
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    PaulOinMA
    BBQ Pro


    Joined: 05 Jul 2006
    Posts: 815
    Location: Marlborough, MA
    Posted: Tue Mar 09 10 1:12 pm Post subject:
    Great post. Thanks!

    Not sure I'll be doing this, though. I think my neighbors would have me committted.
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    dave from mesa
    Newbie


    Joined: 04 Feb 2009
    Posts: 58
    Location: Mesa, AZ
    Posted: Tue Mar 09 10 2:12 pm Post subject:
    Very nice. Don't think I will try it but have wondered how it could be done.

    thanks
    _________________
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    40" MEC 1200w w/glass door
    Vietnam Vets may be eligible for medical care and disability compensation. Contact the VA if you have prostate cancer or type 2 diabetes.
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    bootlegbbq
    BBQ Fan


    Joined: 03 Feb 2010
    Posts: 398
    Location: Floyd, VA
    Posted: Tue Mar 09 10 2:26 pm Post subject:
    YES! I will be doing this! What type of wood do you use for your charcoal? Is it all hickory, oak, a combination? When using it for cooking, do you add additional chunks of (non-charcoal) wood for smoking or is that necessary? Your charcoal basket is about the same size as mine, how long of a burn can you get with a full basket of home make charcoal? Thanks very much for this post. It's amazing how much I learn from this forum. Rock on Smokering
    _________________
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    Thermos
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    Ya know how ya git to Carnegie Hall don't cha...practice

    www.thesmokering.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=36580
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    Dead Beaver Ranch
    Newbie


    Joined: 05 Mar 2010
    Posts: 83
    Location: Montgomery, Alabama
    Posted: Tue Mar 09 10 7:01 pm Post subject:
    bootlegbbq You can use any wood that you would use to cook. I have lots of oak so that is what I use. When cooking I use it just like regular lump and add pieces of wood for smoke. I have only done one burn on my UDS so I can't tell you how long a burn I can get out of the full basket. The one burn I have done was Chicken hind-quarters and ABTs. The full burn lasted about 6 hours and I would say it used about 1/4th of the charcoal in the basket. Also, any fines and dust go straight into the compost for the garden.

    PaulOinMA Mrs. DBR thinks about having me committed every time I start playing with fire too. Thanks!

    dave from mesa Thanks Dave, I think the curiousity of how it works and the process the wood goes through when turning into charcoal is what got me started. After that it was just one more reason to go out and play.
    _________________
    Primo Junior Oval
    Horizontal optionally equiped w/ Afterburner.
    Homemade lump Charcoal using two barrel retort.
    http://www.thesmokering.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=37313

    "I go now to find myself, if I get back before I return keep me here!"
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    BluzQue
    BBQ Super Pro


    Joined: 27 Jun 2009
    Posts: 3820
    Location: Kentucky
    Posted: Wed Mar 10 10 8:40 pm Post subject:
    Thanks for the detailed post!
    That's a great setup & process
    you got goin' on!


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    redneckrampage
    BBQ Fan


    Joined: 25 Jan 2010
    Posts: 238

    Posted: Wed Mar 10 10 9:07 pm Post subject:
    wonder if i could get away with this in the middle of town heck my neighbors already hate me
    _________________
    Char Griller ...for now
    in the works...a uds and trailer smoker
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    CrazyChef
    BBQ Super Pro


    Joined: 12 Jul 2007
    Posts: 1655
    Location: Madeira Beach, FL
    Posted: Wed Mar 10 10 9:30 pm Post subject:
    I just bookmarked this post. Thanks!
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    Dead Beaver Ranch
    Newbie


    Joined: 05 Mar 2010
    Posts: 83
    Location: Montgomery, Alabama
    Posted: Wed Mar 10 10 10:25 pm Post subject:
    redneckrampage If you can burn a stick burner in your neighborhood you can do this. The key is the retort and using DRY wood for both the charcoal and fuel wood. All smoke and volatiles get burned off so the only smoke is pretty much steam. You could also use a 20 gallon can on the inside and make a smaller batch to test it.

    BluzQue Thanks!

    CrazyChef Thanks, that's a great compliment!
    _________________
    Primo Junior Oval
    Horizontal optionally equiped w/ Afterburner.
    Homemade lump Charcoal using two barrel retort.
    http://www.thesmokering.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=37313

    "I go now to find myself, if I get back before I return keep me here!"
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    charleso
    BBQ Pro


    Joined: 30 Jun 2009
    Posts: 657
    Location: Thomasville, GA
    Posted: Thu Mar 11 10 10:15 pm Post subject:
    AWESOME POST, DBR

    A few questions, if you don't mind.

    First, is there any vent holes in the 30gal barrel to allow the gases to escape? Or do they just come out around the bottom of the barrel?

    Second, about how many 3/4" holes are drilled around the bottom of the 55gal? Would too many cause the feul wood to burn off to quickly and cause an incomplete burn on the lump?
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    Dead Beaver Ranch
    Newbie


    Joined: 05 Mar 2010
    Posts: 83
    Location: Montgomery, Alabama
    Posted: Thu Mar 11 10 11:22 pm Post subject:
    charleso - There are no holes in the 30 gallon barrel. The gases escape between the two barrels and ignite once the moisture is driven off. This is why it is so important to make sure the wood is absolutely DRY. As SoEzzy says, "Ask me how I know" You'll get an incomplete burn and will have to repeat the fire process over. You can do it but it's a waste of time when you can just use dry wood.

    I just went and counted, I have 16 holes and that seems to work well. I started with just 8 holes and found that wasn't enough so I added another hole in between each hole. I don't know what the effect would be of too many holes as I have not tried that. I would think you would reach a point where the burn would go too fast but I don't know what the effect would be on the final product.
    _________________
    Primo Junior Oval
    Horizontal optionally equiped w/ Afterburner.
    Homemade lump Charcoal using two barrel retort.
    http://www.thesmokering.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=37313

    "I go now to find myself, if I get back before I return keep me here!"
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    Dead Beaver Ranch
    Newbie


    Joined: 05 Mar 2010
    Posts: 83
    Location: Montgomery, Alabama
    Posted: Fri Mar 12 10 2:05 am Post subject:
    Okay, when I put this together I used the last of one burn that had cooled off and then took photos as I started the next burn. So, here is the result of that burn.

    Here is the charcoal dumped into the wheelbarrow.



    I put it all in buckets. I filled three 5 gallon buckets with good sized lump and got about 4 gallons of fines for the garden.



    The fines were a little too course for the garden so I smashed them with a 2X4.



    Then I ran it through this grate to get the ones that needed more smashing.





    Here's the final product.



    I took the fines to the compost pile.



    Mixed it in good with compost.



    And into the garden bed which I had covered with grass clippings from last fall.



    So now I won't need char for a while. I have four 5 gallon buckets.



    Does anyone have Spring Fever?





    I know I do!!

    DBR
    _________________
    Primo Junior Oval
    Horizontal optionally equiped w/ Afterburner.
    Homemade lump Charcoal using two barrel retort.
    http://www.thesmokering.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=37313

    "I go now to find myself, if I get back before I return keep me here!"
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