(Writers note: This is my first instructable so I'm open to constructive criticism. If you see something that needs to be added, please let me know and I'll keep things updated. Thanks for reading!)
This instructable will show you how to make your own charcoal for grilling out or using in a smoker. In essence, what you are trying to do is take standard hardwood and taking the wood gas out of it which will cause the wood to burn more slowly and at more of a smolder. The wood gas is the part of the wood that makes it flammable so once this is removed, you have your charcoal.
This homemade charcoal will not burn as long as standard store bought charcoal. This is due to all of the additives they put in them at the factory. The homemade charcoal will burn cleaner and is more "green" than store bought charcoal. One batch will make quite a bit of charcoal. The wood will burn up some and reduce the amount you have, but it won't reduce a whole lot.
You use this just like you would regular store bought charcoal. Lighter fluid or charcoal chimney will get it started. I make my pieces larger because I typically use it for smoking rather than just on the grill. You can make the pieces as large or as small as you want.
Are you ready? Lets get started!
Step 1: Getting started
The biggest thing you need to get started is finding a source of hardwood. I have a friend who has an almost endless supply of rough cut walnut and oak that is used in shipping doors. Using soft wood is NOT advised. This wood will burn fast and probably won't burn long enough to cook a hot dog. Sources could be saw mills, construction sites (be sure to get permission and DO NOT use treated lumber), or cutting your own.
Basically all you need is the wood, a saw to cut the wood, a metal barrel with a lid, and a place to store the finished charcoal to keep it dry.
You will also need some smaller burning material to start the fire with in the barrel. You need to get a good fire burning to start with so have more than just a few twigs on hand. If your barrel had contained oil or other dangerous fluids, be sure to do a quick burn in the barrel to burn off all the contaminants or clean it out good.