Make Your Own Charcoal at Home (Video)

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Introduction: Make Your Own Charcoal at Home (Video)

About: One of a kind nifty gadget reviews | Life-changing hacks | Weird facts and news.

In this project I'm going to show you how to make your own charcoal from junk wood at home for free.

If you don't prefer to read, you can skip it and watch the video instead where I have explained all the steps in detail. If you do, then continue reading the written steps along with pictures in the following steps.

Step 1: What You Need

1) Wood - I'm using some junk pieces of 2 by 2 and a wooden dowel chopped into small pieces.

2) Empty metal can - Paint cans seems best because their lids fit very tightly and can withstand a lot of pressure which will come in handy.(Make sure your can is thoroughly washed out and there are no traces of paint remaining as their fumes can be toxic. Alternately, you can buy new empty paint cans at a hardware store.)

3) Fire - Again, I'm using junk wood for this to keep with the spirit of the hack being free of cost.

4) Safety equipment - Make sure you have at least some gloves, safety glasses and a fire extinguisher at hand.

That's all, now lets get to work.

Step 2: Stuff Your Can

- Stuff your can to the rim with your wood pieces.

- Close the lid shut.

- Make a hole in the lid with a nail and hammer.

- Light your fire, and once it is roaring, Place your can of wood in the center.

Let it cook for a while.

Step 3:

- After a while, you'll see smoke shooting out through the hole in the lid. If you light a match to this smoke, it will put it out.

- When the jet of smoke reduces in pressure, then it will ignite if exposed to a flame. when this flame goes out, try reigniting it again. If it is not reigniting easily, it's an indication that the coal is ready.

- Remove the can from fire and set in on the side to cool.

- Once completely cooled, open it up to reveal a can-ful of perfectly made charcoal.

- A quick test shows that it burns just like the commercially available stuff as you can see in the above picture.

That is it. you have made your very own batch of free charcoal. Move on to the next step to see the big scale trial.

Step 4: Going Big Scale Now.

After a successful small scale experiment, I decided to ramp it up with a one gallon tin of paint filled to the top with scrap wood.

- Following the exact same steps as for the smaller version as you can see in the pictures above and after and hour and a half of waiting, I had a much bigger batch ready for use.

So next time you plan a barbecue or a camping trip, instead of buying charcoal, grab some wood, a paint can and make your own on the spot for free.

I hope you like this project and let me know if you try it out. Dont forget to share it with your friends and family.
I do all kind of life hacks, tech hacks and science projects on my youtube channel along with gadget reviews and facts videos, so make sure you subscribe and let your friends know as well. You can also check out my other instructables on my profile page

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    72 Comments

    whats the virtue of using charcoal in my fires over wood ?

    2 replies

    Woodfires burn giving off 14-18 joules of energy per ounce {depending on what type of wood is used for the fuel}, while Charcoalfires burn giving off ~30 joules of energy per ounce! Charcoal ounce for ounce also burns longer than Wood. Therefore with a Charcoalfire the user gets a hotter fire as well as a longer lasting fire!!

    Hi! I found this to be very interesting, but I guess I need an explanation why one would "use up" wood to make a fire to create charcoal when one could just use wood in the first place instead of charcoal to cook or perform whatever task one needed. It seems wasteful to me, though I did think it is a cool instructable. Does charcoal burn hotter than wood for purposes like using a forge? I do not intend to say a person should not do this, just trying to understand why one would not want to just use wood.

    16 replies

    If you use wood in a forge for blacksmithing the heat comes from charcoal as the wood burns into charcoal in the fire. The drawback is the woodsmoke, which really burns your eyes and lungs, and that for a large fire you need a large pie of wood burning to coals. There is a very nice commercial forge you can find a link to if you put forging with wood into search engine. The recommend burning charcoal for hammer welding. Charcoal takes experience to use for forging, but it was preferred for forging tool steels as it doesn't have sulfur as an impurity as most coal does. Coal is used by solid fuel smiths because it is cheap and works well, but it needs to be a high BTU, low volatility coal with as little sulfur and phosphorus as possible. Pocahontus #2 is considered a decent standard for blacksmithing coal. As with wood, coal smoke is bad to be around. Charcoal and coke, the equivalent of charcoal made out of coal, need to be used with good ventilation,as the carbon monoxide from them is hazardous and can easily kill or damage you. Wood or coal also has carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide results from incomplete combustion of carbon, will burn with a flame with oxygen, and then turns into CO2. In your body it ties up hemoglobin,which is the same thing cyanide gas does.

    Sounds like you're talking about the Whitlox forge. I got one a little while back. As soon as I finish getting my anvil stand built, I'll be able to give it a spin.

    Another use for charcoal is to make black powder.

    I definitely forgot about that use. I just don't don't know if I'm ready to scrape the ammonium nitrate off poo yet.

    PattyP17

    I don't use wood fires to make Charcoal, I use my Coleman Stove, or Propane Stove. I make my Char Clothe the same way, it's cheaper and easier as well as faster.

    Ah! Great idea. Now if my husband hasn't sold the camp stove, I'm in business.

    Charcoal can be used to BBQ food such as burgers, chicken, fist etc where wood cannot. Converting it to charcoal removes toxins and odors that could affect the safety and taste of the food.

    Also charcoal can be used in art, medicine and deodorizing etc.

    Uh, the numbers being kicked around nowadays suggest that about 70% of home grillers use a gas (usually propane) grill, about 30% use charcoal, and the under 1% of us use wood for outdoor cooking. I'm pretty sure MANY more meals have been prepared throughout history (and pre-history, for that matter) on indoor and outdoor WOOD fires than on charcoal burning devices! As some others have stated in the comments for this instructible, there certainly are poisonous woods that should not be used for cooking, and I'm pretty sure if you turned them into charcoal by the method shown here, the charcoal would STILL be poisonous! Wood burners unite!

    Maybe where you live this is true but that's hardly a standard.
    In the Philippines where I live less than 1% use gas burners for BBQ and we make charcoal in exactly the same way, just on a slightly larger scale. Furthermore most families have a BBQ at least 1-2 times a week. We also cook with wood fires but not in a BBQ, only convection cooking is possible with wood fires.

    Evolving wood into safe charcoal takes 30-90 minutes (depending on the size of the hopper and the altitude)
    All volatile substances either in the wood or the hopper are gassified at around 350C to 500C and as wood burns at 593C (in the presence of oxygen) the charcoal will have no noxious chemicals.
    For industrial use there are flash burners which heat the biomass to just 350C for 30 minutes, this is not safe for cooking with and can be identified by it's brown tinge, heavy weight and crumbly formation. For cooking with charcoal it should be brittle, black and lightweight.

    The percent users of gas(propane vs charcoal grillers are, of course, for USA users (and, by the way, I can hardly stand the concept of gas grills). I'm a little dubious about all poisonous substances in woods being "volatiles", but maybe. You comments are interesting, to be sure.

    I certainly have to agree with "jsawyer", below, who states that charcoal is a lot easier to get and keep an even temperature on than wood. Cooking over wood is definitely more of an adventure! I do it partially because we have several large hard maple trees in our yard and it seems just often enough to keep me in fuel, a large branch blows down or my wife wants another one cut off because it's shading her flowers too much! We've lived in this house for more than 30 years and have never sprayed the trees with any kind of pesticide, so I'm not worried about issues like that in the maple wood.

    The toxins your tree picks up from the surface is only a fraction of your problem. What lurks below the surface is what you do not know about? How close to a Gas Station do you live? How close to a major storm drain do you live? What kind of businesses are there around you? Have you ever treated your lawn with pesticides? You have to ask yourself, is there any way that toxins within a mile from my house in the last 30 years been spilt or dumped? If you answered NO to all these, you might be ok.

    I'm surprised you can even cross a road. You're talking about homeopathic quantities of compounds which exist in thousands of times more concentration in every park and garden. Maybe we should all wear a hazmat suit when we have a picnic my the river but until a significant risk is scientifically identified I'm going to take my chances with charcoal made at home!

    Yes, Wood Starts to burn at 451f according to several sources
    But Now that you have sent me on a research mission...
    Well there goes my high school Chem/physics classes!
    Thanks for the info.

    You'll go a long way in life with truth as your master, you're one of the lucky few ;)

    agee,
    I thought wood burns at 451F or 232C not 350

    Check you numbers

    No need to burn the wood. You're just driving off the volatiles and water.