Why? 1. BBQ charcoal (the briquette stuff) sucks. Too much slag, doesn't burn very hot, and isn't very strong when hot either. 2. Wood works for the furnace, but won't in a cupola. 3. The reason for any of this stuff, MORE FIRE!!! :->
Here are a few websites on making charcoal:
A brief overview of these:
- Direct - simplest on equipment, but needs a little attention. Get a metal drum, poke some holes in the bottom for air, load it with wood, light it on fire, once it's burning good, put a lid on it to reflect heat back inside, and restrict airflow at the bottom by closing off some of the holes. Once the flames stop, it's all charcoal and can be sealed up to cool.
- Indirect - slightly more complicated, but from what I hear you <Ron Popeil>Set It And Forget It!</Ron Popeil> Requires a large container for holding the fire, and a smaller one to hold the charcoal, plus supports to hold the smaller inside the larger. Load the smaller with wood and seal it up good, except for some holes on the bottom side. Put the smaller in the larger on its supports, and build a fire under it. Fire heats the smaller one (the retort) and chars the wood inside. The smoke thus released shoots out the holes in it, which point down into the fire below, heating it more. Once it's lit it keeps itself burning, and cleanly; so basically you can set it up in the morning, burn it through the day, and harvest your charcoal in the evening.
- Mound - used historically for *large* production of charcoal. I mean whole acres of forest charred in these things. You pile your wood, large logs bottom center, thinner logs out from there, then cover the pile with leaves, then dirt or sod to form a mound. Leave holes around the perimeter for air, and a larger hole at the top for a chimney. Light from the chimney, and let it burn for about oh, two weeks... It needs constant attention as it burns, controlling the air (opening or closing vents) and whatnot. When it's done burning, you dig out your charcoal.
The bottom line, it seems to me, is this: for maximum efficiency, it should be burned out as cold as possible, with as little oxygen as possible. If you're getting a perky orange flame from your direct method most of the time, you're way too hot, and not rich enough; it should be redder and certainly smoky. Indirect seems pretty fool-proof, since the wood is sealed up nice in a can. Also good for making specialty types of charcoal; that used in black powder for instance. As for the mound, I get the impression it hasn't been used in a few centuries, so I have no idea what could happen there...
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