Instructables
I have been involved in a local school (Portland Waldorf School) which has a blacksmithing program. There have been complaints about the smell of the coal burning and so I found out that charcoal can be used as the fuel instead of coal/coke. So I am building this charcoal maker so that the children can see how to blacksmith without coal.
There are health benefits too! Coal produces sulfer when burned which can combine with water in your lungs creating sulfuric acid (acid rain) as well as the water in your sweat. If this helps someone have a better experience blacksmithing, I will be happy.

Here I describe how I made a charcoal retort. This is also known as the "indirect" method of making charcoal. Basically you take a metal container and cook it until all of the volatile gasses leave the wood.
 
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Step 1: Make the container

I decided to go ahead full bore for my first charcoal attempt. Many online sources indicate that they started out with small metal containers, but I figured a 55 gallon drum would be the best bet. So I found a recycled drum merchant on craigslist, paid $25 for a drum and proceeded to cut into it.
I took some 3 inch round steel tubing and made the retort tube.
This is a tube which takes gasses from the wood as it is heated, and redirects them to where they can be burned to add to the heat for charcoaling the wood.
You can see from the image that I made the bends using miter cuts. If you don't have the tool to make these cuts, you can use Black Pipe and fittings. That would increase the cash outlay, and since I had this stuff waiting for a use, I used it.

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servant747 months ago

Charcoal, ground fine, is also used in concrete as a 'black dye', etc. It is basically a great way to have 'manufactured coal' for uses from 'deodorizing air', black coloring, in making black powder, agricultural purposes, and even water filters. When used as a filter (for air, water or whatever, it is just capturing the aeromatics.) It is just carbon (with a few impurities).

Kiltear1 year ago
Do you buy refractory in sheets like that, or do you have to make a form and pour it like concrete?
mmorpgs1 year ago
Interesting method. I have seen it here another way. I can also confirm seeing blacksmiths using charcoal for smithing, and using an electric or sometimes hand-cranked repurposed blower to keep the air fuel on the charcoal. Of course you will need to keep adding charcoal to the fire to keep it hot enough to work with.

The charcoal method I have seen involved using burning logs and then submersing good looking pieces in water (not too long), then removing them to dry for use later.
zacker1 year ago
how does the charcoal work? would useing harder wood like maple or oak be better?
zacker1 year ago
Didnt the Indians show the pilgrams about weed burners? Yeah... that and the produce section at the grocery store..oh and they also introduced the pilgrims to on line dating... lol
nice charcoal maker... awsome!
butcherboy5 years ago
If you were to forego the chimney and the gas retort/burner and instead routed the gas into a basic distillation apparatus you should get primarily methanol, which, I think, could probably yield a more efficient return of energy to the system (in regards to a supplemental heat source).
I do not think that is correct, butcherboy. With all due respect, I believe the primary outputs are carbon monoxide and hydrogen gas, both of which are highly flamable. They can be collected and used as fuel, or can be redirected as fuel for the carbonization as done here. I guess it depends on the goal of the process.
Good point, though IMHO, if not redirecting the gases for system efficiency, distilling the methanol might be easier to accomplished than gas storage for the purpose of getting a second fuel product, at least as far as a backyard charcoal set-up is concerned that is. A simple reflux still vs. pressurized tanks is the scenario I'm envisioning.
Sorry, but I think I was unclear. One of my points is that I do not think that methanol is produced in pyrolysis. I think some methane is produced, but I could be wrong. The reason I want to be sure about that is methanol can be used to make biodiesel, and I would not want any of our biodiesel making members to think methanol can be produced by pyrolysis. Again, I could be wrong, but I have not found any references to methanol production in the literature. I do like your points about either using a reflux or a pressurized tank. I wonder if armature pyrolyzers can produce more gas than is needed. That would be great!
Actually methane is the main volatile released during pyrolysis. Most of the CO released occurs during gasification, which actually occurs after combustion (which occurs after pyrolysis given an oxidizing agent). Methanol is also known as wood alcohol because it used to primarily be produced in a still similar to the charcoal set up. The key was sequestering the wood from as much O2 as possible and thus minimizing combustion and allowing the volatiles to be distilled. Another useful product of the process is of course charcoal, which is essentially the remaining carbon matrix of the wood (less O2, less CO, more C...carbon that is!)
So is there a way to make moonshine (for fuel purposes) at the same time we are making the charcoal?
Theoretically, perhaps, but not in an economically feasible way to my knowledge.
LMWAO, I understand, but while we're making charcoal, wouldn't it be more feasible to bottle the spirits of the ummmmm, vehicle, or not? Just wondering, I am not able to make charcoal as of yet. Something in the lease at the apartments that say no making of charcoal on the grounds or something, lol. I was just wondering, thanks and have a great day.
Moonshine production is still highly prohibited in most areas! That said throw some pears in there and use a mason jar like a real shiner... Awesome ible by the way.
I just might have to do that, lol, thanks.
I believe that is not correct in this case. Maybe the word "moonshine" should never have been used. Methanol is not the stuff that gets you drunk, methanol is the stuff that makes you go blind and kills you. So, if you tried to make moonshine this way. you would end up with something far more toxic with very little to no drinking alcohol in it. So it wouldn't technically be moonshine.
On top of that, we are not talking about drinking it at all, we are talking about using it for a fuel, which further reduces its similarities to moonshine.
Now, making moonshine is unconditionally illegal in all 50 states as far as I know. However, I believe it is 100% legal to distill alcohol IF and ONLY IF it is being used exclusively for fuel purposes.
prushik prushik3 years ago
Oh my goodness, I'm so so sorry!
Allow me to make a correction: Making moonshine is unconditionally illegal in all 50 states of the United States as far as I know, I have no knowledge of other countries' laws however.

I did not mean to assume that everyone here is American, my mistake.
macvrem prushik2 years ago
Making Moonshine is not "unconditionally" illegal. I have a legally purchased fifth of Midnight MOON with Junior Johnson's signature. It is produced and bottled by piedmont distillers in Madison, NC. Like any other distiller, they applied for and received a license, and pay the taxes. I can personelly atest to the fact that this is 'not' wood alcohol. http://www.piedmontdistillers.com/
prushik macvrem2 years ago
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moonshine
A moonshine-like beverage is not illegal if it is produced legally, with registered and licensed stills at a properly licensed distiller, however, since moonshine is by definition illegal (the definition of moonshine is an illegally produced and distilled alcoholic beverage), any moonshine-like beverage is not moonshine, although it may be chemically identical to moonshine, whether or not it IS moonshine is dependent on whether or not it was produced illegally.
So yeah making moonshine is unconditionally illegal, the same way that crime is unconditionally illegal.
This type of definition is not unprecedented in the world of alcoholic beverages, many types of spirits and wines are named after their content AS WELL as how and where they were produced, Champagne and Tequila and Bourbon being three good examples.
Yes moonshiner is totally 100% illegal in all states,because the government can't regulate it well enough to be able to tax it. It is money and keeping us slaves to their every whim. But I, OF COURSE AM A LAW ABIDING SHEEPLE AND WOULD ONLY WANT IT FOR FUEL.
According to this site that I found: http://homedistiller.org/legal.htm
It is legal to own a still if it is under 1 gallon, and you only use it for distilling water and extracting oils from plants.
Producing distilled alcoholic beverages requires some serious paperwork and fees (I looked into it, they are substantial). Distilling alcohol for fuel still requires permits and paperwork and fees, however, as long as you don't produce over a certain amount per year, and it never leaves your property, then you do not need to pay taxes on it, nor does it need to be denatured.

So, basically, its much easier to just do it illegally, they make doing the right thing unfeasible.
Yes they do, as they do everything, anytime the feral gub'mint gets its hands in it, it is harder for the citizen to do anything.
Wood alcohol (i.e., methanol, not ethanol) is deadly poisonous. If it doesn't kill you, it will permanently blind you. So, if you want to be blind drunk (without the drunk part) for the rest of your life, have at it.
most definately yes!

All you really need to do is route the exhaust gases from the fire, to the under side of your kettle.

The rest of your moonshine setup is as normal.
Just using one fire to do 2 different kinds of work.

If you are thinking about trying to make ethanol(aka NOT moonshine) from the wood byproduct... then the simple answer is no.
Ethol and Methol aside, it is quite legal to distill your own consumable alcohol as far as the federal government is concerned, as long as you fill out the proper paperwork and pay taxes on it. My uncle did this for a few years. (As far as I understand, beer, wine and cider are exempt for this. Only distilled spirits are at issue.) Likewise, it is quite legal to produce biodiesel. If, however, you use this biobiesel for vehicular transport (tractors may be exempt) you must fill out the proper paper work and pay taxes on it. You may also be subject to state taxes. (Some people claim that this is untrue, but the federal government says that you must.)
It is my guestimate that there are more modern people avoiding the revenuers via biodiesel than moonshine.
jokoh2 years ago
Too much heat loss,
Derin5 years ago
You do not have to use a miter saw to make those mitered ends.Any saw that can cut metal and some skill and common sense can do the job when combined. :)
You are correct, but the instructable only says miter cuts; it doesn't mention needing a miter saw. However, for the best weld possible, a miter shop saw would come in very handy. Not that this particular project needs any sort of certs.
I didn't that the indians in the old days had propane.
That's what they want you to think...
onepiece943 years ago
i have a question : can i make charcoal if i wrap some wood in aluminum foil and throw it on a fire
The charcoal can be an awesome additive for compost & gardening, see terra preta on Wikipedia. You would need to soak the charcoal in urine, or compost tea or something (grey water?) and then work it into your soil, supposedly it will start a natural carbon capture / sequestration cycle that lasts hundreds of years.. Also might look into having the gases escape the cooking container downward so they get burned in the fire & contribute to the fire energy - good news -instead of offgassing into the atmosphere - bad news. I wanna try using an old 275 gal oil tank (like a pig smoker) as the outer fire box, and have (2 or 3) 55 gal drums inside it with feed stock. I would like to use wood chips from tree trimming for the feed stock, as it is in plentiful free supply. i would like to rotate the drums out of the fire box as soon as cooked and insert newly filled ones to keep the process more constant. any comments appreciated.
I'm not sure if this would work, but try making a rotating stand with about 3 55 gal drums. As the wood burns, it releases gasses, making the resulting charcoal light than wood. The heavier weight of the wood on top would rotate it down into the burner.
That's a good idea, all that would require is the weighing of the wood put in each barrel to be the same, and then just stand back and let it do it's thing.
cody3163 years ago
this is kinda new to me so tell me if this is stupid... could i just put some of my scrap 2x4s in my 55 gallon drum and throw it on my fire pit and BLAMO i got charcoal??
discowhale4 years ago
Cool idea. I'm filing this one for my TEOTWAWKI knowledge. . . It's a good way to get charcoal to work and forge any metal. And it would be a good way to make a product for bartering in a survival economy.
Esmagamus4 years ago
$25 for a steel drum. Are you mad, dear Sir? I saw a lot of thick walled 55 gallon drums in a factory today. I asked a worker what they did with the old drums and he said they gave them away.
wow 25$ for a drum i paid 5$ for a water tank at the dump which is almost twice as big and made of thicker steel
how nessecary is it to keep the heat in
abadfart6 years ago
you also use charcoal in black powder
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