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Made some Charcoal

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Since I have a ton of live oak on 3 different brush piles I decided to made some charcoal. Using a 55 gal drum and the indirect method with scrap brush as a fuel source; first try did not turn out too bad. 

Need to modify method and insulate the drum a bit more.

Ended up filling 2 1/2 large RO bags, 3 plastic Kingsford  charcoal storage containers and filled both grill.

A bit of modification and I think it should work well. 

Overall cook took about 6 hours yesterday.     





Edited by 3547fl

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@3547fl I see the discharge pipe routing under the barrel. Once going is the discharge gasses enough to keep the fire going or do you have to refill with fuel wood every so often?


How long did the burn last to make 55 gallon of charcoal? 


This is a much better system than the one I had. Might have to try again this summer. 


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The design is something I found on the web, it really needs to be reworked. The process is, once the barrel is filled with wood. Apply the top and light a fire underneath. What should happen is as the barrel gets hot white smoke pours out the top cap seal and the pipe routed under the barrel. That section of pipe has a series of 1/4" holes drill about 2" apart. After about 2-3 hours the white smoke (moisture burning off) turns lighter and that is the gas burning off the wood inside. At this time the leak around the lid will catch fire along with the bottom pipe with holes. 

This will burn for another 2-3 hours and the gas will stop coming out. That's when it should be close to being done, I just let the outside fire burn out and wait until the next day to open. If you open it up too soon it will relight and burn up. 


Needed changes:

The pipe is 3/4" and should be bigger maybe 2" or 4" small stove pipe. 

The barrel should work better laying horizontal to get to temp quicker.

Needs better heat shields on the side and top to hold the heat and not use as much burn material.

But trying to make it portable, using the space where my fire pit is located by the outdoor grill space. This is right behind my shop where I can keep an eye on it. I really don't want another burn area back there as it look a bit redneck:)


I am using larger material inside 4"-6" dia. live oak, most use smaller material to speed the process. I'm on 26 acres and during the last 2 years has lost quite a few Live oaks so have quite of bit of wood to work with. I used scrap brush to fuel it with, still lying around the surrounding woods. So picking up loose material and using it right away, kind of a two-fer. Using it long term I would need to make it more efficient. It does pout off quite a bit of smoke so depending on where you are located at it might not be the best thing to do. 


The barrel does not have any holes in the bottom, to keep oxygen from coming in but several  other designs do have holes at the bottom that get covered up with dirt after it gets going. Just look up Charcoal Retort and quite a bit will come up. 


Here is a video of the gas burning off.              


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Good video. If you have any more please post them. 


Interesting design. I have a barrel inside barrel retort. It definitely doesn't produce as big of a batch and probably takes the same amount of work. 


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Yea, I was going the barrel in barrel route and it seemed like a bit of work for the amount of charcoal produced. Plus I like the larger finished size. Going to make a rack out of some scrape heavy box tube I have to place it horizontal, scrape metal roofing as sides and roof and a larger burn space underneath. But I have a good months supply so it will be a future build in a couple weeks or so. 


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