How to Make Charcoal

Ever wonder how to make charcoal on your own? Now you can, no matter where you live, even if it is in the suburbs. We will give you a detailed description on how to make charcoal at home.
Sheetal Mandora May 13, 2019
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There are two methods for making charcoal―the natural way and man-made. The natural way of making charcoal takes a longer time; it starts when a tree falls (naturally or cut down) and it gets buried deep under the ground where it decomposes. Even after decades, the tree doesn't decompose completely, but in turn, takes the form of charcoal.
Under high pressures, charcoal also turns into raw, natural diamonds. This kind of charcoal is extracted, usually, from mining. The natural form of charcoal is used for generating electricity and in various industries like blast furnace as it is one of the fossil fuels.
Artificial charcoal is man-made where the log of wood is placed in a vacuum chamber which has an external heating source. In this process of heating the log, specific amount of oxygen is released into the chamber to form charcoal.
Since this technique is done in a controlled environment, the quality of the artificial charcoal is better and the loss is negligible. This is a faster process as compared to mother nature's course.

Produce Charcoal from Wood

Make sure you're working in an open area, and are away from any human settlement.
  • Clear all the vegetation away from your location, and dig a pit. It should be large enough to fit the wood that needs to be burned.
  • Choose which type of wood you would like to use in making charcoal. There are different types of wood that produce varied grades of charcoal.
  • Place paper and the inflaming wood at the bottom of the pit, and light it with matches; both will catch fire slowly. Now sort the branches and wood according to their sizes; place the large pieces first as the wood at the bottom will burn the longest.
  • Add the entire stock of wood in, with placing small space between each log; fill the pit completely.
  • Place soil and dirt around the edge of the pit as the fire picks up heat. Keep 4-inch gap in the center of the pit for good airflow.
  • You will see white smoke coming out in some time. This will indicate you that the charcoal is forming. Make sure all the wood burns evenly and keep turning the logs from time to time. Be careful while you're doing this.
  • Once the thick white smokes changes to thin, blue smoke, add more soil in the bottom of the pit.
  • Get something metal sheets to cover the pit and make it airtight. You can add more soil around the open edges.
  • Before you can take the charcoal out, you have to wait for at least 4 to 5 hours. This will give it time to stop burning. The cooling process takes about a day or two.
  • Empty the charcoal from the pit on the metal sheets. Once the charcoal is cool, store it in large plastic tubs.

Produce Charcoal Powder

If you don't have access to wood, you can purchase some planks from a hardware store.
  • First of all, chop up some pieces of wood that can fit in a tin can. Make sure the can has a lid.
  • Puncture three small holes on the lid with the help of a nail and hammer. Place the wooden pieces inside the can and tightly place the lid on top. Bang on the lid, so it doesn't pop up or get loose.
  • Now it's time to start the fire. Once the fire is red hot, put the can in the middle of the fire. Keep it in for at least an hour and half.
  • You will notice that the smoke starts to pour out after about 10 minutes the can has been inside. Perhaps you're wondering if this is necessary, well, it is. The smoke needs to get out of the can and it should come from the three holes we made earlier.
  • Once it's time to take the can out, do so and place a damp cloth over the holes to prevent air going in and turn the charcoal into gray ash.
  • Leave it to cool down for about 45 minutes. Make sure the can isn't hot before you touch it and take the lid off carefully.
  • You have your charcoal ready. You can use about anything to crush it into a powder form. You can put the chunks in a plastic bag that doesn't have air inside it. This will prevent the bag from bursting as you hit it with a hammer or any heavy tool.
Always check the local burning regulations of the area you are working at with the fire department. Keep a hose or buckets of water near the fire in case of any emergency. Fire is always unpredictable and can get out of hand.
If you have bought planks of wood from a hardware store, avoid buying pressure-treated wood. Because when you burn it, it lets out toxic gases that can kill you. And, the best time to start your project is when the weather is hot and humid.