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Home made charcoal


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Thought I needed a little project to keep me occupied and as I missed out on the clearance charcoal bargains at the local garden centres this year ( buggers brought out the Halloween stuff too early ), I thought I'd have a go at turning some of my endless piles of hardwood logs into charcoal.

After a bit of web surfing, I decided that the retort method would seem the best way to go and as I could get my hands on a free 47kg propane bottle, I decided to base it around that.

Basically I welded up an L shaped centre flue and welded it inside the propane cylinder. The design would need to have the opening at the bottom, so I decided to mount the cylinder on a stand which would let it pivot for filling and emptying.

I knew the setup would benefit from some insulation and I had glassfibre available, but nothing heatproof to clad it with, to protect it from the elements. I went ahead anyway, but insulation is definately required.

The pivot stand worked well and some indexed holes allowed me to lock the cylinder in different positions just by sticking a pin in the appropriate hole !

There was quite a bit of steam coming from the wood even though it was below 15% moisture, after about an hour, the steam turned to wood gas which you could ignite, at this point I blanked off the top vent, this redirected the wood gas into the fire tube and helped sustain the burn.

I reckoned it would take about 3 or 4 hours to complete the process, as it was, it took nearer 5 hours which I think was totally down to the lack of insulation as the cylinder side facing the oncoming wind hadn't completely converted.

The only expense in the build was some glass fibre stove rope used to seal the base, i had the cylinder and the tube, the stand was made from the chassis of an old trailer and I resurrected the trailer tailgate clevis pins to hold the bottom in place with steel wedges, an easier method than nuts and bolts I thought.

I filled three 5kg briquette bags with the charcoal, the wood on the cold side had only partially converted and some near the top of the cylinder was a bit overcooked. When I tried it in the Webber, it lit with one sheet of newspaper in the chimney and was ready to go in under ten minutes. it did burn down quicker than I expected, but I can adjust for this the next time I use it. I did some pork souvlaki on skewers and had it with a Greek salad.

Once I get some thin steel for cladding, I'll give it another fire up and see how it goes.









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