We recently began a 4H group in our area which has opened up some new opportunities for us. One new opportunity is primitive studies. Charcoal making initiated the series. One of the fathers of the group taught the class. Everyone had a can filled with a various type of wood-MDF, plywood, pine, oak, black maple, cedar, cherry and cotton (not a wood, but we did make charcoal with it). We placed them in the fire and waited…and waited…and waited. Initially, we only saw the steam come out of the containers.
Next, the wood went through pyrolysis.
Finally, the wood turned into charcoal.
The class was absolutely fascinating. We saw how tar is a byproduct of burning (and had a lesson on how tar can coat your lungs from a burning cigaret). We are looking forward to using the coal to smith some iron next!!