Charcoal Retort D. 7-9

Before and after…

Making blacksmithing charcoal by hand.

This weeks scrap wood generously provided by Chris and his crew again, who have always been more than willing to assist with my experiments.

The major new development this week was not in the burn phase, but in the chop and sort phase of the process. Using some scrap 2×6 and a piece of 0.5″ wire mesh, I made a sifting screen box. This made the process of taking out the small bits and dust much easier and even facilitated reclaiming some of the old charcoal buried in the bottom of the bin. Eventually I would like to make one with smaller mesh to separate fine pieces from dust but in the meantime they are both in the same bag.

Making blacksmithing charcoal by hand.

Chopping and sorting blacksmithing charcoal by hand.

Screened charcoal dust and fines.

Screened charcoal dust and fines.

The first of the three burn days was definitely categorized as research rather than art. Most of the wood was in larger pieces, approximately 24″ 2x10s, and some of the fuel was damp which is a recipe for disaster in the world of charcoal making. The yield was very low, around two or three buckets, and the rest was split and went back into the retort and combustion chamber for a second round.

An overfilled retort produces very low yield.

The second and third rounds were as they should have been, though number three was a bit low on wood as we had reached the end of the stockpile. The three batches this week are estimated to have produced around twenty buckets of charcoal.

Read more about the charcoal making process and why we do it: How Charcoal is Made
Find out about the construction and operation of our new and improved charcoal kiln: Charcoal Kiln V.3