I got an old oil drum from the local garage to try my hand at charcoal making.
I cut out the bottom of the barrel and also cut a large circular hole in the top to feed it with.
Here's a trailer load of raw material. Mainly birch and hornbeam, which I have plenty of.
First I got a nice little fire going, then I put the drum on top of it. I filled it up with the logs, whilst maintaining air holes at the bottom to feed air to the fire.
This is just after filling it up, the white smoke, actually steam, is beginning to come off.
Twenty minutes later, it was going well.
Its now an hour after starting it up and its still got lots of white smoke. However, I think that I have banked up the base too much.
When the wood gas burst into flames after an hour and a half I was a bit alarmed and started to close it down. I left it to cool and returned a couple of days later to check the results.
As you can see, I obviously closed it down too soon. Also, some of the logs I used were a bit fat. I got a sack of charcoal from the burn but there was also a large quantity of "browns" left over. These will go into the next burn.
The next post will show what happened the second time.
Having looked extensively on the internet it seems that a retort would be more efficient and would require less monitoring as it is burning. So, I've started work on one! This will consist of a large gas cylinder laid horizontally with the bottom cut off to provide a door and a burner pipe welded onto the top, which then passes under the cylinder so that the wood gas given off will ignite and continue to cook the charcoal. The whole lot will sit within an oil drum to contain the heat. More information and pictures to follow.