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Charcoal from a felled tree


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Hey all how's everyone doing?



I have a ~18" Pine tree that the wind brought down in the yard the other day. It needed to come down anyways so I'm glad the wind saved me a day or two of felling.


I see this as the perfect chance to try making some charcoal for the first time. Which parts should I use though? As in, do I need to trim off the bark and needles? Only use the trunk or can I cook down the small branches too?


Also, I'm guessing that I need to dry and season the wood first? Or can you make good charcoal from green wood?


Thank you kindly

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If I make willow charcoal I use branches as small as I can debark and debarked wood any bigger. Don't bother with any branches thinner than a finger as there is too little wood for the amount of debarking effort required.


It uses less fuel if you can dry the wood but you can charcoal straight from standing live timber. If you have close neighbours then be careful that the wood is seasoned and dry because the moisture that cooks off STINKS

Edited by Arthur
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It's a lot like prepping wood for the smokehouse except you can do green wood for coal. It just takes longer. Strip bark and leaves, they can leave an "off taste" in the smoker and contribute to inconsistency in your coal. For my money, I'd start with the biggest pieces, less bark to remove but more splitting to fit and cook consistently.


I've missed the boat on wood twice. First time my daughter and s-o-l owned a pretty good piece of property with lots of hard (no, reaaaaly hard) maple that was already down and ready to race for the smokehouse. the last time they had a place with a mega crap ton of willow laying around. Unfortunately I did not capitalize on either one.


Oh well, I still know people.

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If I was harvesting the tree I would cut it into some four foot long long planks

and let it dry and cut into rocket sticks in another year. You could also cut some

bigger dimension wood billets and let them dry for several years and use a lathe to

turn them into case formers and other pyro tools. I use all of the shavings and sawdust

from my wood working projects and cook them into charcoal. The bark is chipped up and

used around trees and flower beds for mulch. Nothing goes to waste, if I have plenty of

charcoal I use wood scraps for late night camp fires at club shoots.

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Alright, thanks for the advice Arthur and Otto, will do.


Mikeee, I wish but I'm no carpenter and do not have a woodshop (let alone a planar!). You are welcome to take as much as you can haul off however ;)


I got a majority of the branches cut off today, took the afternoon to do it. I'll be going back with the chainsaw tomorrow but looks like I will have a good amount of charcoal (as much as I can handle) with the rest of the tree being turned into fire wood or going to the wood chipper for mulch.

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Folklore in the UK says good powder comes from fast growing wood that grows by water and use the bits from the thickness of a man's finger to the thickness of a man's arm.


Big trunk wood is better left for carpentry.

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There are people that buy billets and planks of wood that have been cured out and dried.

This is another option for financing your Pyro hobby if you have access to different types

of wood and want to make charcoal. Every community has a number of wood workers, wood turners,

craftsmen, tool makers, and artists that are always looking for good quality wood billets.

There are people that sell billets of wood on Ebay everyday, some of them make a full time

living providing these products.


There is value in the wood of a tree, you just need to determine how to maximize the potential

use of the wood in the tree depending on your personal needs. If the wood has good straight wood

grain it can make nice straight planks. If the wood has burls and knots the wood may have value

as an artistic piece for wood turning. If the wood has multiple branches at an intersection it

could have value as an artistic piece. Most pine is harvested for construction lumber, so very

little is processed into larger dimension billets. Wood turners are always looking for larger

pieces for making bowls, vases, tools (case formers), etc. I have a hard time finding larger

dimension billets for turning case formers, so I end up laminating muliple layers of lumber

together to make larger billets. This requires a lot of wood glue and time to put these together.

I am always looking for 4x4, 5x5, 6x6, 7x7, 8x8 billets 24 inches long if possible.

A 4x5x36 walnut billet of quality can bring several hundred dollars for high quality gun stock use.

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Any idea what kind of pine it is? White wood that is less dense will make fairly hot BP. Yellow wood that is denser and smells of resin probably won't make great BP but will make good spark producing charcoal.


At some times of the year sap and resin are produced more and will partially determine what it's best for along with size and species. If the lowest part of the tree looks to contain fat or lighter wood the tree will likely be best for spark production. You will know fat wood because it's almost rock hard and extremely fragrant when you cut a piece. If there is fat wood it will probably go a few feet up the truno and down into the roots. Keep it as it makes great fire starter and burns hot and smokey and you can see the oils and resin boiling out as it burns. You can sell small bundles of this as well if it's there but it isn't super common and mainly in bigger, older trees where the sap has settled and accumulated after many years. If the bulk of the wood is white or yellow will be the easiest way to tell what you have. But sometimes there is both and the very center is dark and the outer wood is light colored. Cook some up and try it out to see how it performs and what it works best for.


Whether you dry it first will depend on how you make charcoal. If using a retort you can put wet, green wood in but it will take longer to cook since the water has to be cooked out first. If using a TLUD style it needs to be fairly dry as it has to burn on its own without an external heat source. It is easier to debark and to split into small pieces while still green. I have always split wood into splits about 3/4"x3/4" and the length about the height of the can if using a retort or a little less than the width of can if using a TLUD. This will be a good size when packing the can. For a retort I try to pack as much as I can in and place the sticks vertically and jam it full. A TLUD needs some air flow for the up draft and stacking horizontally a bit randomly seems to leave enough air space.


Have fun and if you make and process a lot of charcoal get a decent half face respirator to keep it out of your lungs. Don't try to get away with the little paper masks. Those are for catching stuff coming out of your mouth during surgery and around sick people to help reduce spreading germs. They aren't meant to stop stuff from going in your mouth and nose.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hi all,


I too have access to a lot of wood. It's Oak. I was thinking of using clear (knot free) and debarked oak for black powder (both lift and break) but was wondering what effect the wood type has on the charcoal for powder. I will be ball milling it and plan to let it run for a few days for a fine powder. Any comments?


Is the prep and milling more of an effect than wood type? I would think so but don't know for sure. Is there a charcoal making thread?


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The type of wood is the most important factor. Oak makes slow powder compared to faster charcoals such as eastern red cedar, paulownia, or the old standby, willow.

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Do you think that Oak would produce an acceptable lift powder for larger (4" is my large) shells?

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