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Making Lump Charcoal

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Post Fri Jul 09, 2004 6:30 am
CharredGriller User avatar
BBQ Deputy
BBQ Deputy

Posts: 5823
Location: Central Alberta, Canada
Here's an interesting question: does anyone here know anything about making your own lump charcoal?

I've got access to a friend's farm and also to a good amount of hardwood waste up here (like a ton or so), so I was thinking that it might save me a considerable amount of money to make my own charcoal. I'll be at the farm anyway for a few weekends.

I've messed around with the idea about 15 years ago when I was setting up a methanol still for alternate fuel research. Basically we heated green wood in a sealed 55 gallon drum and distilled methanol and acetone from the wood. What was left over in the drum after we were finished was ash and a fair bit of charcoal, but since we used softwood it wasn't good for anything but stoking the next fire for the still.

The farm owner and I have access to some 55 gallon drums as well as some brick, so we were thinking of giving it a shot. We have a bit of tamarack and maple and a lot of birch, as well as some willow (which needs to be peeled, of cours) and possibly some ash and apple wood. No oak , mesquite or hickory, though- we're too far north to grow it.

Any ideas or links, folks?

Post Fri Jul 09, 2004 7:54 am
SRH_21 medium
medium

Posts: 104
Location: Attleboro, MA
There are a few sites on the web that tell you how to make charcoal. One that I had found is: www.velvitoil.com/Charmake.htm

I I have not made a post with a link, I hope it works.

I hope the site helps.


Scott

Post Fri Jul 09, 2004 9:06 am
Bob-BQN User avatar
well done
well done

Posts: 12904
Location: Texas
CanadaBBQGuy I've emailed you some info.
Image

Post Mon Jul 12, 2004 8:01 am
CharredGriller User avatar
BBQ Deputy
BBQ Deputy

Posts: 5823
Location: Central Alberta, Canada
Wow- I think I'll try to post these on my own website and link to them here. Thanks, Bob-BQN!

I think we'll try this in the next few weekends.

Post Mon Jul 12, 2004 2:54 pm
Rocket-Ron rare
rare

Posts: 42
Location: Leicester Inger-lund
My cats breathe smells like cat-food

Post Wed Jul 14, 2004 12:38 am
Vinsect well done
well done

Posts: 576
Location: Middle Tennessee
CanadaBBQGuy wrote....

I've messed around with the idea about 15 years ago when I was setting up a methanol still for alternate fuel research.


How 'bout making a car that runs on barbecue? Sure would make these Atlanta traffic jams easier to deal with.
:wink:
I usually cook over wood chunks. I use the leftover charcoal to start my next fires but I haven't really used lump charcoal.
What is the advantage of taking an extra step to make lump charcoal out of your wood versus cooking directly over the wood?
I understand the advantage of lump charcoal over briquettes, but I was under the impression that real wood had better flavor than charcoal.
Are you going through an extra step and loosing flavor?
If it aint broke, Break it!
Then rebuild it better.

Post Fri Jul 16, 2004 1:23 am
CharredGriller User avatar
BBQ Deputy
BBQ Deputy

Posts: 5823
Location: Central Alberta, Canada
Vinsect, a BBQ-powered car? Man, that sure would make a lot of friends! It might create a few jams on its own, though. Too many people might follow you home for dinner!

As for turning wood into charcoal, here's a bit of the why:

1) Wood still contains a lot of water, even if the wood is well-seasoned. This water uses up energy and is lost in the form of smoke and water vapor. Thus, your fire doesn't always get as hot as you want for some recipes. Charcoal has most of the aromatics and water burned off, so it burns hotter. We use it in my friend's foundry up here for making cast iron products and melting down scrap metal.

2) The lack of water makes makes charcoal cleaner burning and a lot easier to store. I've never seen fungi, molds, or worms attack a drum of charcoal, whereas the smaller sticks and wood chunks in my woodpile sometimes rot. Charcoal attracts water, but not mold and rot, so it keeps better in a sealed plastic bag or drum. In the same containers, smaller pieces of wood can become a compost pile in short order. (We found this out the hard way once.)

3) OK- this point may sound sacrilegious, but some folks just don't like the heavy smoked taste you get from all wood fires. (I know- I'll be hearing gasps of shock anytine now....) Also, some recipes don't go well with a heavy smoked flavor. Thus, charcoal works better in such a situation.

As it stands, it could be a while before we start making any charcoal. We need to wait for the wood to dry out a bit. Still, you guys have really outdone yourselves with the info. Thanks!


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