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  • #17352
    Robin
    Robin
    Survivalist
    member8

    I know there are a ton of websites that tell you how to make charcoal but was hoping to find someone on this forum that has hands on experience. I will need A LOT! Will be using it to treat drinking water. Thanks
    Robin

    #17377
    Malgus
    Malgus
    Survivalist
    member8

    Robin,

    I’ve only ever made charcoal – and charcloth – small scale. But I don’t see why you can’t scale up the operation to get the amount you need.

    Since I don’t know how much “a LOT” is, you might want to be a bit more specific.

    In the old days, they would dig a big freakin’ hole or trench, fill it with hardwood, light a gawdawful big fire, then bury the whole mess. Leave it sit for a few days, then come back and dig up your charcoal.

    However, if you could come up with a clean 55 gallon drum – empty – with a lid, you could spare yourself the digging part. Fill the 55 gallon drum with hardwood chunks – no softwood. Punch a hole in the lid somewhere in the center, then put it on the drum. Make sure it seals up good around the edges. The hole is for the smoke and volatiles to escape and burn off. No air will get in (hopefully) going the other way. Stack more wood around the drum teepee fashion and light it.

    The wood in the drum should char, the volatiles and smoke should vent/burn off and when the smoke stops issuing out the hole, the wood should be done charring. DON’T OPEN THE DRUM TILL EVERYTHING COOLS DOWN. If you open the drum while everything is hot, it will combust. So, don’t do that.

    I would go through the new charcoal and pick out the bits that are not totally charred. Put those bits in the second run.

    Or, and I don’t know why you don’t do this, just go to a Big Box store and buy a couple dozen bags of hardwood charcoal… same result, less effort. Maybe lay in a supply of that bagged stuff and keep back your charcoal making drum until you need it. Run it once – a shakedown run – for proof of concept and to work out the bugs.

    The wicked flee when none pursueth..." - Proverbs 28:1

    #17387
    Profile photo of 74
    74
    Survivalist
    rnews

    Pick the wood for the charcoal based on the end use. Fine grained wood produces less porous charcoal. Also use smallish diameter pieces of wood. 3 or 4 inch diameter pieces will char more easily all the way through then a large log. I was told by a Maine Dept of Forestry agent long ago that alder makes great charcoal for BP.

    #17388
    Malgus
    Malgus
    Survivalist
    member8

    74,

    Alder is indeed a good charcoal for BP. While any charcoal will make useable BP of varying grades and qualities, I’ve read that the “best” wood for making BP is actually cotton, followed by balsa, followed by willow…

    “Which charcoal is best for Black Powder? There have been debates over the centuries to this question. Some might answer it by saying the best available, given that different materials were to be found in different geographic locations. Generally, there seems to be agreement that for really fast powder, the following are preferred:

    – cotton charcoal
    – balsa wood charcoal
    – willow charcoal

    Charcoal made from cotton is reckoned to be the fastest, followed by balsa wood charcoal, then willow charcoal. Making charcoal from cotton or balsa wood is very expensive. Willow charcoal was the charcoal of choice at the historical du Pont mill at Brandy Creek. One reason for its popularity was its abundant supply in this region.”

    - Black Powder Manufacture Methods & Techniques, Ian von Maltitz, pp. 26-27

    Reasonable BP has even been made from bags of charcoal you buy for grilling steaks. Since I can’t see your post as I write this, I can’t quote you directly, but you mentioned porosity. Porosity of charcoal for the purpose of making BP is of little concern, as it will be ground up and then mixed with sulpher and potassium nitrate with alcohol in a wet mixure, then caked and screened…

    More later… wife calling… brb

    Back.. unless I miss my guess, he needs the charcoal for water filtration, not making BP. Best of my knowledge – and I’m no water filtration guru – he would be better off with charcoal made from hardwoods in his area, not softwoods like pine (way too much resin).

    Heh.. check this out. Found a sketch of an “Oil drum kiln” on page 103 of the same book… lemme see if I can find an image online to save and post.. it’s perfect for what OP wants… lots of charcoal, easy to build, etc..

    Here.. this is pretty close. Instead of one drum, it has two. Pile up rocks or cinderblocks underneath, fill the drums with your wood, seal them. Then build a fire. Where this one shows a formal structure around the drums, the one illustrated in the book shows earth heaped up and covering it. Light your fire, let it get rolling good, then seal it up. Blow town for cornflakes. Come back when it’s cooled down and TA-DAAA! you gots charcoal.

    The wicked flee when none pursueth..." - Proverbs 28:1

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    #17403
    Profile photo of MountainBiker
    MountainBiker
    Survivalist
    member10

    I’ve never made charcoal (but have set a bunch aside in my preps) but I do know that in colonial days where I used to live that they made beehive shaped kilns out of stones (what we have in abundance in New England), sometime big enough to walk in. After filling it with wood and starting the fire, the entrance would be sealed until the process was done.

    #17420
    Robin
    Robin
    Survivalist
    member8

    Thanks folks. The charcoal will be used to filter drinking water.
    Robin

    #17430
    Profile photo of 74
    74
    Survivalist
    rnews

    Robin,
    If you have poplar trees in your area they probably would work well for your purpose.

    #17455
    Leopard
    Leopard
    Survivalist
    member8

    Hi, Robin

    Have a look at Activated charcoal made from Coconut shells. That is what I’m planning on using to make air and water filters.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Activated_carbon

    http://www.buyactivatedcharcoal.com/making_charcoal

    #17459
    Robin
    Robin
    Survivalist
    member8

    74, never thought of poplar. Thanks
    Leopard, thanks. The picture of the washing machine drum gave me another idea. The tip about pallets will work also!
    Robin
    PS: The picture is of the Eastern Side of Diego Garcia taken in 1982. At one time that was the main house of a copra plantation.

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    #17467
    Profile photo of matt76
    matt76
    Survivalist
    member8

    Something to add to the 55 gallon drum design. Make a sturdy metal frame for the drum so it can be layed on its side and about a foot to foot and a half off the ground. Maybe out of welded pipe. Put an exhaust pipe out of the top but route it back under the length of the barrel. Drill several quarter inch holes in the section of exhaust pipe under the barrel and cap the end of the pipe. The smoke and gases coming off the wood you are making charcoal out of are flammable. When it gets hot it will act like a blow torch coming out of the holes. You will use less wood for your fire. You can also stack cinder blocks around the barrel increasing efficiency as well. Just remember to leave a space to feed your fire as needed.

    #17474
    Profile photo of ronym
    ronym
    Survivalist
    member5

    i think processing wood just for charcoal are not the best option we have
    rather we can make wood gassifier unit to make “wood gas” as main product… and charcoal as by product
    so we can get “wood gas” for cooking, heating, etc ( important thing for our daily use )
    and use charcoal as by product for purify water or use it as alternative fuel
    .
    this way we are not “wasting” energy in wood just for making charcoal

    #42493
    Profile photo of 74
    74
    Survivalist
    rnews

    Robin,
    I was wondering how you made out on this project and what were the results?

    #42495
    Profile photo of 74
    74
    Survivalist
    rnews

    Ronym,
    You haven’t been around in a long time. Did you build a gasifier unit I’m curious what design you would use to pressurize the system. I thought a water column fed into a bladder style expansion tank could work well. The Shrader valve could be removed and the gas side of the system could tap the air side of the tank through that opening. Messing around with flammable gases is hazardous though. How did you envision setting up a gasification unit?

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