How to make Charcoal
How to char Wood (Char-coal) for your Burger Grill or art work.

You can make Charcoal by digging a fire pit in your back yard, or by getting a 55-gallon steel barrel, or by using a 1-gallon metal Paint Can.

If you're like me, you don't relish digging a pit, or wrestling a 55-gallon Barrel. And who needs 55 gallons of Charcoal, anyhow? So let's explore an easy method that most people can have fun with, and save a couple bucks in the process.

A 1-gallon Paint Can can make as many Charcoal Briquettes as a 55-gallon Barrel can; but it takes 55 days to do it. So what ! Unless you need them this weekend, what's the hurry?  Sit back and relax, while your fire does the work.


There's MUCH to be said for the gallon metal Paint Can. It's probably free, and you may even have it in your garage with a half-cup of dried paint in it. It's easy to store. And best of all; preparing and using it in your Fireplace or Stove is easy and fun.

First, clean it out as good as possible. Then burn newspapers in it (outdoors) until all signs of whatever it contained is reduced to ash. Don't breathe the smoke. Then remove the ash with a Putty Knife, or by filling it with a pint of small Stones, and shaking them around inside(with the Lid on).

Then drill or punch two opposite holes in the Lid and adjacent sides. If you use it with the Lid on tight, it's very difficult to get off. If you have the Lid on loosely, it may fall off and the contents catch fire. So we will fasten it with two short wires, which will allow steam and smoke to escape, but keep Oxygen out.

Now for the wood. Dry hardwoods are best. Shop scraps are great. 2" x 2" x 1" or 3/4" is fine. Thicker wood takes longer to char, but they also last longer in the Grill. Do not use painted or pressure treated wood. You don't want these compounds in your Buns or Burgers.

If you are artistic, and want to make Charcoal Pencils, then cut 3/4" x 3/4" x 6" pieces(with the grain lengthwise). Try several species like Cedar, Redwood, Sumac, Willow, Poplar, Birch, Maple and Oak, to discover the different characteristics.
You may have scraps of Wooden Dowels that will make perfect Pencils.

Fill the Can with the wood pieces. Then shake it to settle the pieces so you can add more. Fasten the Lid snugly with the two wires. Add a wire tether, so you can retrieve it from the fire. Then put the Can in your Fireplace, Stove, or Campfire (with one of the Lid holes at the top) . . . and wait.

Depending on the moisture in the wood and how hot your fire is, it may take twelve hours or more to finish the process. To test it, cut  the thickest piece in half. If it's black in the center, you're ready for the next batch. When your first batch is finished, you'll know about how long the next similar batch will take.





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