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Author Topic: Making charcoal.  (Read 4499 times)

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Offline mike_belben

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Re: Making charcoal.
« Reply #40 on: November 13, 2021, 10:16:19 AM »
Thats where i was going with that.  I have researched it and played around with it in 2017/18 and basically decided it was bunk.  A bunch of people needing money with something from nothing to sell so they make up a wizzbang fertility story and pray to the climate gods.  

In terms of adding nutrient to the soil i still call BS... however i have changed my stance on being useless.  The charred pieces have tremendous surface area in the cracks and seams yet hold together like the aggregates in really really good living soil. This creates lots of porosity for oxygen holding and water infiltration. It creates spaces for critical arthropods like ants and centipedes.. And most importantly, spaces for micorhizal fungi.  

That is its best feature and it would show results much much faster if the char was first innoculated in fungi.  Leave the char fines in a pile in shady wet woods covered in forest litter, punky decayed wood with white fuzz etc.  Hose it down with some type of sugar water to jump start the percolating and feeding of the fungi down into the char bits.

Adding it below grade to ones best garden bed could be going backwards for a while, because that is disturbing old fungi to install young fungi.  In that case id scratch up the top, spread some char then mulch over that thick to keep sun from drying it.  Fungi must stay moist.  

Really dead crusty dusty clodding hard crop tillage dirt has no fungi to left to disturb so in that application id turn it in.  You can only make dead dirt better.  

Next year i intend to compare char to stump grindings which is my present favorite material.  I have a supply of "ramial" only branch chips being delivered now too for comparison. 
Revelation 13:11-18

Offline jake pogg

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Re: Making charcoal.
« Reply #41 on: November 15, 2021, 01:19:55 PM »
I make charcoal on a fairly regular basis,for forging fuel.

I think my method would fall under Don's definition of "caveman" kind,a reclosable 55-gal drum that gets loaded with wood split to under 2"/about 1' long(very much like cookstove wood),fired with restricted exhaust,and eventually snuffed with a lid.

I've gotten used to referring to this as an"open-retort" method but may well be technically incorrect.

I try to implement elements of the Japanese method(-s),though have never bothered to try to copy their style of a rig.

A part of the Japanese idea is to try to leave about 15-20% volitiles in the resulting charcoal,as they do contribute a slight amount of BtU's,and are also said to modify the burn in other ways.

The only species available to me is White spruce so the resulting charcoal is on a softer side,and of course is nowhere as rich in calories as most hardwoods.

However,the softwood charcoal gives off it's calories at much faster rate,which makes it better for forge-welding vs a longer burn desirable for more of an extended forging operations.

One of the most important factors in welding is to create and maintain a reducing atmosphere zone in your fire-pot,and that's where the remnant volitiles come in handy,combining with less oxygen and faster they "temper" the fire(making it dirtier and richer in C).

Wood pyrolysis is a surprisingly complex,difficult to control process(even with most sophisticated equipment).
Some rules of thumb that i follow,or try to,the factors to shoot for are:

Resulting charcoal must fracture cleanly across the grain,as a sign of it being "done".
It is desirable for the fracture to be glossy,a sign of it not being over-done.
And lastly a truly caveman factor that of a lump of charcoal not marking your skin when drawn across the back of your hand(which i think is a simple density indicator),also as a sign that the product has not been over-cooked.

Whenever i travel to town(i live remotely and hundreds of miles from the nearest road),i enviously examine friend's stashes of beautiful,store-bought hardwood charcoal,oak,mesquite,fruitwoods,et c.,that they use for outdoor grilling.

However,this poor soft stuff that i come up with is surprisingly efficient:A forging of a couple+ pounds comes to heat very rapidly,making it eminently practical to work up and axe-head size tool of any complexity of construction;the nature of this fuel in no way a limiting factor in the process.

I use a hand-crank blower for air-blast,and a very modest firepot.Originally owned by an Amish family in Kansas(they upgraded:)),it was cast sometime in the 1860-ies for use with bituminous coal.Again,surprisingly,it works just fine with this softwood charcoal,though in welding it needs filling every heat.

As to the question of why any particular species would produce it's own flavor in cooking,possibly it may have to do with that % of remnant volitile compounds...But i really wouldn't know the science behind that. 
"You can teach a pig anything,it just takes time;but what's time to a pig?"
Mark Twain

Offline Machinebuilder

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Re: Making charcoal.
« Reply #42 on: November 22, 2021, 07:18:42 PM »
I gave the charcoal making another try on Saturday.

I use an old drum that was laying around, filled it with variuos pieces of scrap and the top didn't fit well because the drum was a bit out of round.
I put a concrete block on top and a big chunk of wood, Piles more scraps around it and fired it up.





I ended up with about 1/2 barrel of charcoal and learned that the big chunk is too big.

I also found the barrel is not too good, when I emptied it I saw some holes in the bottom.

I'm happy with the outcome and will try it out when I smoke my turkey.
Dave, Woodmizer LT15, Husqvarna 465 and 435, Bobcat 751, David Brown 770

Offline Beau Woodworks

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Re: Making charcoal.
« Reply #43 on: November 23, 2021, 02:17:04 AM »

The holes in the bottom of the barrel are not necessarily a bad thing. They will release volatile gases into the fire and aid the cooking of the charcoal far more so than the gases that escape from the lid

Offline SwampDonkey

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Re: Making charcoal.
« Reply #44 on: November 23, 2021, 02:41:33 AM »

Up north its a desired firewood.  In tennesse hickory is often shunned as a firewood for a reputation of melting stoves and burning too hot.  

Rest easy Mike, we've warped many a stove with beech and rock maple. Not me personally, but I've seen a few over the years. Some of those Enterprise stoves, which were in every farm house in these parts, have been warped. That was more apparent with their wood furnaces. The old foundry closed up when she burnt to the ground. ;D

I'm intrigued by the process of making charcoal, but personally, that is as far as it gets. I love the heat of wood, but I don't have much for rock maple or yellow birch to get involved. Oak is too sparse and hickory is extinct up here. ;)
No amount of belief makes something a fact. James Randi

1 Thessalonians 5:21

2020 Polaris Ranger 570 to forward firewood, Husqvarna 555 XT Pro, Stihl FS560 clearing saw and continuously thinning my ground, on the side. Grow them trees. (((o)))

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