Since i have a free unlimited supply of mesquite and pecan wood around my house, i figured a few you tube videos showing a home made charcoal retort setup would be simple to execute. Well, it's not super simple but it's pretty easy.
Original goal was to get a 30 gal stainless steel drum, placed inverted and full of wood to convert to charcoal inside a 55 gallon stainless steel drum, fill the 55 with other wood as fuel and burn it, and somehow vent the 30 gallon drum and and off-gas the impurities out of the top. But, after pricing SS drums and seeing retort method with rocket stove where off gasses feed the rocket stove and it's sort of a self-sustaining process this really got me interested to see if i could make this work and work without spending $300-$375 for SS barrels. Well, the 55 gal steel drum (it held foam insulation that was non-toxic) lined with a rust prevention coating of paint that i found on craigslist was $15, and then I enlisted the help of a buddy to use some spare pipe to make a rocket stove to certain dimensions and specs, and then getting the drum sandblasted, and finally coming up with an insulating jacket that i don't have to worry about breathing in bits of whatever that would either cause cancer or irriation in the upper respiratory system, or both, is what i need before firing it up.
If this works, then i won't be buying charcoal again, ever, and i'll come up with flavor blends, or certain types of charcoal sizes for certain cooking applications. For example, mesquite burns super hot so when i make pizza, and a few select dried out branches from my last trimming of my two trees are used to get the bge to 800F pretty easily. the biggest advantage i see is controlling the size of the wood you're going to convert to charcoal so a consistent and uniform size for even heating and reliable long term cooks could really be helpful.
I am working on the template for the heat jacket, and once that customized piece is complete i'll post full picts here, success or failure, and get feedback from all my egg brethren here....