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Charcoal Retort project...nearing completion

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.... 
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Comments

  • lkapigianlkapigian Posts: 3,010
    Standing by to see it in operation ...awesome 
    Visalia, Ca
  • HeavyGHeavyG Posts: 4,945
    Can't wait to see your progress.
    Camped out in the (757/804)
  • Not only will you be able to have the lump the size you want, with the very limited amount of handling you will undoubtedly have very few broken pieces and very little dust.
  • westernbbqwesternbbq Posts: 2,145
    Nice try.  I know a bong when I see one.
    hilarious!

    Hey' not here man.....
  • FATC1TYFATC1TY Posts: 828
    Very cool. Interested to see despite being too lazy to ever want to do that myself. 
    -FATC1TY
    Grillin' and Brewing in Atlanta
    LBGE
    MiniMax
  • lousubcaplousubcap Posts: 16,794
    edited February 2017
    Impressive project and skill set.  Well beyond me.  Looking forward to the initial run.  
    Louisville;  L & S BGEs, PBC, Lang 36; Burnin' wood in the neighbourhood. # 38 for the win.  Life is too short for light/lite beer.  
  • Ozzie_IsaacOzzie_Isaac Posts: 8,823
    Very ambitious project!  Looking forward to the finish.
    If it is worth doing, it is worth overdoing.

    XL, Medium, Minimax, Blackstone Griddle
  • HntnhrdHntnhrd Posts: 701
    We have a guy that has his own business local making charcoal. I think he buried his in a side hill as a "heat jacket". Fwiw
  • RedSkipRedSkip Posts: 1,294
    edited February 2017
    Not sure a rocket stove on the inside of the 55 drum will work.  You need to surround the wood with heat to burn off the wood gases.  Drum of wood on the inside, with heat on the inside.

    Perhaps that's the plan, just looks like the rocket stove will be on the outside.

    When it's good charcoal, it should sound like glass and not dense wood, otherwise it will taste like Royal Oak.
    Large BGE - McDonald, PA
  • Interesting project.  As we have a wood stove to help heat this very old farmhouse, a pile of firewood, and plenty of woodland on our land, this could be very handy.  Throw a few sticks of fire wood into the retort and have our own charcoal supply.  My wife's uncle makes his own charcoal, he's really into outdoor Dutch Oven cooking, and once gave me a big packet of info on making charcoal, but it looked quite involved.  Looking forward to see your final design.  Good luck!!!

    Tommy 

    Middle of Nowhere, Northern Kentucky
       1 M, 1 XL, a BlackStone,1 old Webber, a Border Collie, a German Shepherd and 3 of her pups, and 2 Yorkies

  • WeberWhoWeberWho Posts: 6,345
    Great post! I can't wait to see the results
  • westernbbqwesternbbq Posts: 2,145
    RedSkip said:
    Not sure a rocket stove on the inside of the 55 drum will work.  You need to surround the wood with heat to burn off the wood gases.  Drum of wood on the inside, with heat on the inside.

    Perhaps that's the plan, just looks like the rocket stove will be on the outside.

    When it's good charcoal, it should sound like glass and not dense wood, otherwise it will taste like Royal Oak.
    I thought the same thing but after seeing a bunch of rocket stove retorts, insulated on outside, i became convinced that rocket stove would work...

    Ill see after the insulating jacket gets made....and post results here
  • RedSkipRedSkip Posts: 1,294
    @westernbbq. Best of luck, definitely a cool project.  Your buddies welds look clean too, nice all around fun.  Mitered 45's can be tricky.
    Large BGE - McDonald, PA
  • westernbbqwesternbbq Posts: 2,145
    Thanks @RedSkip,   i am not a metal guy but my buddy told me the same thing,  the trickiest part was getting that angle just right....


    But he owns a fabrication shop and presented to his main welding guy as a problem to solve.   They got it done


    Now lets see if i can keep enough heat in to mKe full retort mode....
  • RedSkipRedSkip Posts: 1,294
    Roxul insulation is really good and should be ok to attach using stud bolts, nuts, and washers.
    Large BGE - McDonald, PA
  • paqmanpaqman Posts: 2,776
    Interesting project!

    ____________________
    Entrepreneurs are simply those who understand that there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity and are able to turn both to their advantage. •Niccolo Machiavelli
  • CanuggheadCanugghead Posts: 6,196
    Nice work! How about custom sized mesquite for the uuni, do you ship to GWN?  ;)
    canuckland
  • westernbbqwesternbbq Posts: 2,145
    Yeah Buddy @Canugghead!  Come to az for some sun and we will send u home with a bunch of mesquite!
  • blind99blind99 Posts: 4,220
    This is awesome. 
    Chicago, IL - Large and Small BGE - Weber Gasser and Kettle
  • RedSkipRedSkip Posts: 1,294
    Large BGE - McDonald, PA
  • HntnhrdHntnhrd Posts: 701
    Any updates??
  • westernbbqwesternbbq Posts: 2,145
    @Hntnhrd, not yet i got sodetracked with flag football season (in phx we have fall winter and spring league) and work has been insane....

    I will get back on the horse as the last component is to make the heat insulator jacket template and semd it off to manufacturing for completion. Then i can fire it up....
  • westernbbqwesternbbq Posts: 2,145
    Ok guys, charcoal retort project update... I did .manage to finally get the template made for the jacket for the retort barrell.   My cuzzy in law came by and hes an airplane sheet metal fabricator, the dude can build anything and i helped him get his first used large bge....

    Im so sloppy with stuff like this but i do know alot about project management.  So.  We made this today...well .mainly CIL and i got him cold beverages and held the tape or the paper

    We used cgs butcher paper and this turned out better than i imagined

    Next step is to obtain the jacket insulator to be made from this template...
  • blind99blind99 Posts: 4,220
    Man I love this project!  I've been following along and really enjoy. Can't wait to see it in action. 
    Chicago, IL - Large and Small BGE - Weber Gasser and Kettle
  • westernbbqwesternbbq Posts: 2,145
    Its been pretty cool @blind99, if it works the first time ill be stunned, but after observing what others had as successes and failures from youtube and one buddy of mine who did it, i think the stuff they incorporated that worked is part of my project and the stuff they all indicated were inhibitors to the project has been excluded from my process....
  • blastingblasting Posts: 5,523
    @westernbbq ; I was thinking about this project - wondering how you're doing with it?
    Phoenix 
  • westernbbqwesternbbq Posts: 2,145
    I almost fired it up last nite..its done except for insulating jacket but I'll do a dry run without to start...just been so busy with life haven't had time...
  • Ozzie_IsaacOzzie_Isaac Posts: 8,823
    I almost fired it up last nite..its done except for insulating jacket but I'll do a dry run without to start...just been so busy with life haven't had time...
    Do you need a removable blanket? If not could you have your CIL make an outer shell then pour concrete between for insulation? Would no longer be portable, but would be non-carcinogenic.
    If it is worth doing, it is worth overdoing.

    XL, Medium, Minimax, Blackstone Griddle
  • YukonRonYukonRon Posts: 12,280
    Unlimited lump. Nirvana.
    "Knowledge is Good" - Emil Faber

    XL and MM
    Louisville, Kentucky
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