Picture of Making Your Own Charcoal Powder
A simple step by step tutorial on how to make your own charcoal powder in your back yard.
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Step 1: The Art of Charcoal Making

Picture of The Art of Charcoal Making
"char-coal" definition: a black or dark gray form of carbon, produced by heating wood or another organic substance in an enclosed space without air. (Encarta - World English Dictionary (c) 1999)

For thousands of years men have manufactured charcoal from all manner of trees, but experience taught them that the harder the wood the better the grade of charcoal. In the picture below, taken on the Isle of Crete, you can see one traditional method of charcoal making. Several piles of wood prepared for the next bonfire, a half-excavated charcoal pyre, and sacks filled with charcoal ready for sale, describe the age-old art of charcoal making. Great piles of wood are carefully arranged so that once the fire is set the heat that is generated slowly "bakes" the wood, boiling off the moisture, leaving behind the hard black crusted charcoal.

Today, charcoal is commonly produced from any number of materials including sawdust, bamboo, coconut shells, olive pits, pecan shells, besides hardwoods. In fact any organic material can be used to start with.

Step 2: Raw Materials

Picture of Raw Materials
Con bought a copy of our book and read a short description on how to make one's own charcoal powder. He decided to adapt the procedure to what he had available - wood pallets, the tub from an old washing machine, the top from a portable bar-b-que, a sack, a hammer, and a kitchen blender. Con sent us some pictures and consented to us posting them to inspire you to try making your very own "hand made" charcoal powder. Con writes:

"As the photos show, you need some type of fire pit. I found that the best hardwood is old pallets. They are seasoned, very dry, and burn very well. Also they don't have any paint on them, and you can pick them up for free. You get a lot of charcoal for the small amount of wood."
admin6 years ago
This is a great Instructable, but you need to add a main image of the final project to the intro step. Please do that and leave me a message when you have so that we can publish your work. Thanks!
I think if I burn my pencil and do the same procedure I would get the same results right?
is this stuff flammable
nebraska (author)  BombermanBob6 years ago
Yes, it is considered flammable but really only as a dust in air. Combustion temp. around 300 degrees C. Flash Point - N/A
what is this good for???
Well, if your an artist, or doing drawings with charcoal, this will be very useful.
tristar642 years ago
Pallets often are chemically treated. I personally will avoid the use of pallets unless I am positive they were not chemically treated. :( Be careful out there folks!

I would Agree

Hey Nebraska, hope all is going well. Are you familiar with charcoal dust painting? I've been meaning to try it, would be cool to make all my media.

How fine does it come out from the blender?
This method leaves quite a bit of ash in your final charcoal. A better way to do this is you take a barrel, cut a hole in the top and stick a pipe in. Using fittings, route the pipe so that everything that comes out exits directly below the barrel. Prop the barrel up on concrete blocks, start a fire with wood under it, and let it burn. Once the wood in the barrel starts to turn to charcoal, flammable gases come out of the pipe, heating the barrel, and the cycle continues until the wood all turns to charcoal. It only needs a small wood fire under the barrel to start the process.
fork me36 years ago
what if one would like to make charcoal out of newspaper? i say this because i need far more softer charcoal for my black powder and newspaper is ideal
nebraska (author)  fork me36 years ago
Why not try?! Charcoal is made from all kinds of waste products, from pecan shells to waste paper pulp. As for softer charcoal you can use softer woods such as pine or spruce. Because paper ignites so easily you will need to come up with some metal or ceramic box that has a decent seal. If it fits in your kitchen oven you may want to try and use that. Set the oven to 450 degrees. Since there is not much moisture in paper it won't take as long as regular wood to carbonize. I have no idea how long. But, let us know what you do and how it works out for you.
lol i used a milo tin and put it on a bbq. seemed to work really well smelt wierd but worked. when i made it into black powder it burnt at a really decent rate so im quite happy with it.
Do you use a ball mill for your BP? If so, just chuck some not so fine charcoal in for a day or two. It will be ultra fine when it comes out.
o yeah, nutsandbolts_64 (were best friends) told me he made carcoal out of newspaper and it stinked so bad
I'll tell you how I made charpaper (to use as tinder, for lighting fires with a magnesium stone). - Get an empty metal can (I used an empty boot polish can) and drill a hole on top (not too large, it is only meant to stop the gases formed inside from popping the lid off); - fill the can with paper, shredded paper if you want it; - toss the can into a fire, watch the smoke coming out and wait for it to stop; - take the can out, let it cool; - done. Take the same precautions as when making charcoal.
sharlston5 years ago
you can buy lumps of charcoal and grind it up in a homemade ball mill ill post a ible if ya want me too
Hi sharlston Please do that 'ile of a ball mill for grinding charcoal.
ok it should be ready in about 3 week as its my birthday tomorow so ill be a bit busy ill do my best
Did you post this ball mill? I would love to know how to make granulated charcoal as my main interest in this is water filtration.
BtheBike3 years ago
i'm trying to break my Act-Char from granules to dust/powder fine .
Will a blender do this ?

I may go on down the goodwill and get 1 if so .power has 100's of time the surface area .
jfairchild3 years ago
Can this charcoal be used for home remedies like the Medicinal USP Activated Charcoal powder for sale on ?
Qcks5 years ago
Just some things to note:

The volatile things that boil off can be recaptured and used. Methanol is a primary constituent of the gaseous by product.

The grey and white dust is an oxide layer composed of alkali material that won't evaporate. it's a good idea to try to get rid of this stuff as it can be dangerous. adding water to this layer can create sodium hydroxide which isn't safe to injest.

Finally, activated charcoal varies slightly from ground charcoal. Activated charcoal has hot distilled water (sometimes in the form of steam) pumped through it to dissolve an impurities... like sodium oxide or potassium oxide.
so wait, ground up charcole is extremely flamable or can be used like black powder?????
nebraska (author)  Sparkythehappygirafe5 years ago
No, ground up charcoal powder does not ignite easily unless it is airborne as a fine dust. The MSDS for charcoal powder says the Flash Point is N/A.
sharlston5 years ago
nebraska (author)  sharlston5 years ago
Hi. Yes, I copied all of it from I am the editor of
Hi, This is a great project which takes me back to my childhood firework-explosive making days. They were the days, when children could be children without fear of getting murdered or of being accused of being a terrorist and before almost every last local green space had been built on. We never had no computer games or internet, mum would just buy me a large bag of Saltpetre and we were happy for days. Anyway, we would spend hours bashing up Charcoal in mums old roasting tin with dads lump hammer, then we would sieve the powder out, we never thought about a blender, and i doubt if we could afford one either. But my tip for producing small amounts of Charcoal powder, with no hammering or blending, is to take an old biscuit tin, fill it with fine sawdust, punch a small hole in the lid and then burn the whole thing in a fire. The wood gases escape and burn off via the small hole, and if you have burn't the thing for the right amount of time, the sawdust will now be fine charcoal powder.
that washing machine thing is great......I would never have thought to do something like that.....
i have one in my backyard from the last owners and im going to do this