Charcoal is going to be the primary fuel source for a lot of our future projects, as it has a much higher energy yield than normal, unconverted wood. Also, it’s got some other uses besides just producing heat. Thankfully, charcoal making is a very easy process. The idea is you want to heat wood to high temperatures without burning it, and the only way to do that is by depriving it of oxygen. This is where the pottery comes in.
Making your charcoal container is pretty simple, essentially it’s just a clay pot with a snug-fitting, thick lid. Your clay pot or lid should have one or two small holes to let gasses escape, but not so large that you risk creating airflow for the wood inside to ingite, there’s a risk of pressure building up inside the pot causing it to break and ruin your charcoal. Metal cans work much better, the best being a large oil drum with a locking lid, but this is what we’ve got to work with.
Fill your pot with relatively similar size pieces of fuel wood. You’ll want uniformity from your charcoal later.
Build a nice hot fire around your covered pot, young, tar rich pine and heavy hardwoods should do. It doesn’t take very long, but let it burn for a while anyway. Do something fun while your fire is burning, like learn a new song, or fill a rabbit with wildflower petals.
When the fire burns out, and your pot has cooled, you can transfer your charcoal to another container; it should be jet black and significantly lighter than it was as wood, but still substantial.
Down the road we’ll use charcoal to burn things, to filter water, and to make explosives.