Charcoal stoves are essential if planning to live off the grid. They are used for cooking and heating the house.
However, they require wood charcoal as the source of fuel. That explains the need to learn how to make charcoal at home.
It is easy to make charcoal when living off the grid because you are close to the trees, which are the main requirements. Charcoal making involves burning wood under a limited supply of oxygen.
That is the process we will discuss in this post. We will state the requirements and explain how to make charcoal at home. Keep reading for details.
- What Will You Need To Make Charcoal?
- 4 Steps To Make Charcoal From One Metal Drum
- 7 Steps To Make Charcoal From Two Metal Drum
- The Main Applications Of Charcoal
- How To Store Charcoal
- Wrapping Up
What Will You Need To Make Charcoal?
You need the right tools, equipment, and wood logs to make charcoal. The following is the detailed list of requirements.
Tools for making charcoal include an ax or chain saw, a metal drum with a lid, and a tree to cut. Collect all these materials to make your own charcoal.
Find And Cut The Wood
You have to find the right type of wood, depending on the type of charcoal you want to make. Lump charcoal is the most common, however, you can also consider briquettes. What is the difference?
For lump charcoal, you will need hardwoods such as oak, hickory, beech, and others. The formed charcoal is characterized by irregular shapes.
The burn time depends on the sizes of the lumps and they can burn less evenly.
Charcoal briquettes are often made from wood by-products such as coal dust, wood chips, coconut shells, groundnut shells, etc. However, they are less common because they produce less heat when burned.
You will need to cut down a mature tree and chop it into about 4-inch pieces. If they have wider diameters, then you are encouraged to split them.
Chopping and splitting the wood logs facilitate faster burning when making charcoal. The wood should be well-cured to make the charcoal-making process very effective.
Locate The Fire
You can choose your backyard for charcoal burning or choose another location permitted by law. Check your local regulations before actually setting up the site.
If you choose your backyard, time the direction of the wind. You do not want the smoke to come flying straight into your house through the open windows, do you?
Choose an appropriate location where the wind will carry the smoke generated during wood burning away from your some.
4 Steps To Make Charcoal From One Metal Drum
One drum is sufficient to make lump charcoal. In just 4 steps, you can have your products ready for use. These steps include the following:
- Fill the drum with the prepared wood.
- Cover the barrel and pile firewood around the barrel.
- Burn the bonfire continuously for hours.
- Finishing up and remove it from the barrel.
You need to keenly follow the steps for a guaranteed result. Charcoal made this way is rich in energy and can be used in different applications, including grilling and stoves. But you need hardwood for that to be true.
Fill The Drum With The Prepared Wood
We presume you have your logs of wood or chunks of wood ready from the previous section. Now it is time to stack them into the metal drum.
Pack the drum tightly with wood, leaving as few air spaces as possible. Fill it with wood pieces up to the top and proceed to the next step.
Cover The Barrel And Pile Firewood Around The Barrel
The drum is covered with a lid to allow the wood to burn under a limited oxygen supply.
Ensure it stays in place but not airtight because we need the gases to escape and less oxygen to sustain the process. If you do not see steam from the drum, it means it is airtight and should be loosened.
Burn The Bonfire Continuously For Hours
Gather extra dry wood for heating the drum or lighting the bonfire. Light fire under the drum on the outdoor fireplace prepared earlier specifically for the purpose.
The fireplace should have just a big enough hole at the top to fit your drum. Light the fire and let it burn for three to five hours, depending on the size of the drum.
Finishing Up And Remove It From The Barrel
Let the fire completely burn out and cool down before touching the drum. Remove the lid and appreciate your work. High-quality lumps of charcoal will be left in the drum, which can be used for the purposes mentioned.
7 Steps To Make Charcoal From Two Metal Drum
The two drum techniques, as the name suggests, require the use of two metallic drums. In this case, one should be about half the size of the other.
For example, you can have a 60-gallon drum and a 30-gallon drum. The smaller drum will be inserted into the bigger one and leave just enough space for heating.
The following steps are involved in charcoal making using two drums:
- Cut/punch a fuel hold in the larger drum.
- Drill holes in the bottom of the smaller drum.
- Fill the small drum with prepared wood.
- Make a stand at the bottom of the larger drum.
- Cover the smaller drum and place it on the stand.
- Build a fire inside the big drum.
- Remove the charcoal.
Let us see what each step entails.
Cut/Punch A Fuel Hold In The Larger Drum
You need a fuel chamber in the larger drum. Using a metal jigsaw or any other appropriate tool, cut a 12-inch by 20-inch area near the base of the drum.
That is the place you will use for feeding the firewood into the drum to keep the contents hot.
Drill Holes In The Bottom Of The Smaller Drum
A space is needed to allow heat transfer from the firewood into the smaller drum to burn the pieces of wood. Drill about five to six holes of about half an inch in diameter at the bottom of the smaller drum.
Fill The Small Drum With Prepared Wood And
Pack the pieces of wood into the smaller drum to the top, leaving fewer airspaces as possible.
Again, only hardwood is preferred here for making lump charcoal. Cover it but leave spaces for moisture and gases from inside to escape. You can create cracks for that or simply not make it airtight.
Make A Stand At The Bottom Of The Larger Drum
The smaller drum and its content need to be raised from the bottom of the larger drum for easier heating. For that, make a brick stand consisting of two blocks high.
Choose a design of your choice, provided the smaller drum will be lifted from the base of the larger one, and feeding the firewood is easier.
Cover The Smaller Drum And Place It On The Stand
If you have not covered the smaller drum, this is the time to do it but do not make it airtight. Place it on the stand inside the bigger drum.
Some people prefer doing that before filling the drum with wood pieces because it can become relatively heavy for you to lift off the ground.
Choose what works for you, provided the smaller drum and its content symmetrically rests on the stand.
Build A Fire Inside The Big Drum
Use firewood as the source of fuel for heating the smaller drum. Light a fire beneath it and continue to heat for about seven or eight hours.
You need to achieve the highest temperature possible. So, continuously feed dense wood. Do not allow the temperature to drop because the fire gets low.
Remove The Charcoal
After 8 hours, your lump charcoal will be ready for collection and storage. Do not approach the drums when they are still hot.
Allow everything to cool down before touching or disassembling to avoid possible burns. Transfer the charcoal to a storage container for later use.
The Main Applications Of Charcoal
Lump charcoal has many uses at home. There are many uses of charcoal, but we will only mention the main ones. As an off-gridder, you can use charcoal in the following ways:
- Grilling: If you are the type that enjoys barbecues, then the appropriate fuel to make it is charcoal. Whether it is from a hunt or livestock slaughter, you will enjoy the best of the grilled meat there is.
- Cooking: You can use charcoal-fueled stoves for cooking. It is much more effective than using raw firewood since charcoal does not produce smoke.
- Home heating: Temperatures can significantly drop during winter. And since you might not have HVAC systems in your off-grid home, you can use charcoal stoves to provide heat for warming your home.
How To Store Charcoal
It pays to have a stock of charcoal so that you never run out of fuel, even if the weather becomes hostile. Charcoal storage is simple.
Place it in a container and store it in a cool and dry place away from direct sunlight. You can store charcoal in the basement but ensure to remove excess moisture using dehumidifiers.
Charcoal should not be allowed to get into contact with water or moisture. It has pores that will absorb the water and become soggy. Soggy charcoal cannot burn, but you can still salvage it through sun-drying.
To ensure your charcoal never gets wet, store it in an airtight plastic container and away from water and moisture.
NUUK 20 LBs Charcoal Storage Bucket
What is the best wood for making charcoal?
Any supply of hardwood is the best choice if you are looking for high-quality charcoal lumps.
Consider oak, walnut, ash, fruitwoods, and any other tree in this category. Avoid softwoods such as pine and cedar when making charcoal.
How long does it take to make lump charcoal?
It will take you three to four hours to make charcoal using one drum and seven to eight hours for the two-drum technique. It also depends on the size of your drums and the quantity of charcoal you want to make.
Is charcoal made from coal?
Charcoal can be made from a range of materials, not necessarily coal. Apart from coal, you can also consider wood, pea, coconut shells, groundnut shells, among others.
What you choose depends on the type of charcoal you want to make.
It is easy to make lump charcoal, as we have seen through the steps provided in this article. You can use the same techniques to save on the high cost of buying the same at a local store.
If you are interested for other Charcoal topic. We also have a topic about how to make activated charcoal.
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