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5 gallon TLUD charcoal cooker


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#1 chuckufarley

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Posted 10 April 2016 - 12:41 PM

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to share my experience building a 5-gallon TLUD charcoal cooker. I have gotten most of my info from this site, but I did not see a dedicated build thread anywhere, so I decided to start one of my own and share my experience with all of you.


Materials:

1 or 2 - 5 gallon steel buckets (I use one for the cooker and one to hold the finished charcoal while it cools) -- free from scrap yard

2 Steel lids for buckets (remove the rubber seal before use!) -- Also free from scrap yard

1 8 steel ducting starter -- about $3.50

1 8 to 6 steel ducting reducer -- about $7.25

1 6 by 24 steel ducting pipe -- about $3.50

6 - #6 x 3/8 hex head sheet metal screws -- about $0.89 for 15

1 Big bag of cedar bedding chips -- about $7.50


Tools required:

3/8" drill

3/8" and 1/8" drill bits

Tin snips


Construction:


The first thing I needed to figure out was how many holes, and of what size to drill in the bottom of the bucket, and in the angled portion of the reducer. I would like to thank Dagabu for that info. He suggested 5% of the buckets area for primary air holes (bottom of bucket) and 5% for secondary air holes (in the reducer). The bucket has a diameter of 11" so using (pi*r2)*.05 I came up with 4.75 square inches. A 3/8" diameter circle has an area of .110 square inches. 4.75/.110 = 43.18 3/8" holes, so I decided to start with 40 3/8" holes more or less evenly spaced for the primary intake (much easier adding holes then removing them) and 42 for the secondary intake (just kind of worked out easier that way).

Once I had all the holes drilled, I took the starter ring and centered it on the lid. I traced the outline with a sharpie, dilled a hole just inside the line, and finished cutting out the circle with a pair of tin snips. The starter ring slid inside the hole, making sure to hold it tight to the lid, I folded over the tabs thereby securing it in place. I then fit the reducer over the starter ring, drilled three evenly spaced 1/8" holes through the reducer and the starter ring, and screwed it together using the sheet metal screws. Next, I inserted the pipe into the reducer and secured it with screws the same way as I secured the reducer to the starter ring. That is about it for the construction. It was a fairly easy build, taking about an hour (and a couple beers).


Now comes the fun part (Playing with fire!):


Once again using the advice of the more experienced members on here regarding wood selection, I decided to try using red cedar bedding chips. I found a big bag (expands to 5 cubic feet when uncompressed) at a local farm supply store, I heard good things about the charcoal from red cedar so I grabbed a bag to see how it worked. For the first run, I just dumped in the chips, leveled them out, put the lid/chimney on, and lit it up. Ignition using these chips could not be easier (a good size chip lit and dropped down the chimney) and it was roaring away in seconds. About 30 seconds into the burn it started making a howling sound (pretty cool actually) and was shooting flames about three feet out of the top of the chimney pipe. After about 5 minutes, the sound and flames died down, and I could tell the burn was coming to an end (the masking tape down the side of the bucket works great for this as well). I popped the lid/chimney off and quickly dumped all the hot coals into the other bucket, and secured the lid tightly. You can also use the same bucket you burned in, replacing the lid/chimney with a solid lid and placing the bucket in some loose dirt or sand to seal up the bottom holes. Basically, you just need to seal the coals off any oxygen otherwise; they will quickly burn to ash. After cooling for about an hour (probably longer then needed) I opened the bucket and had about 25% by volume of nice black charcoal chips that crushed to dust in my hand. For the next burn I wanted to see what would change if I packed the chips down tighter before burning them. I filled the bucket about half way with chips, then using my hands I very firmly compacted the chips into the bucket ( decreasing volume by almost half) I continued in this manner until the bucket was full to about 1 from the top. Ignition was just as easy this time, but I could tell right away that the burn was much less energetic. I had no howling sound and no flames coming out of the chimney, it also took much longer to burn down this time (maybe 30 minutes). After the burn was done and the chips had cooled, I was left with almost ¾ of a bucket of charcoal chips. Some of the chips from the bottom corners were not fully burned (I could have let the burn continue for another minute or two before sealing) but they should be easy enough to screen out later. I am still playing with the ideal compaction for good yield, but so far, it has been working far better than I expected for a first try.



Conclusion:

I am very happy with this method of making charcoal so far. I have to admit I've never made charcoal before by any method so I cant say if this is better then other methods or not. I was planning on making a retort, until I saw some info on TLUD's. I really like not needing extra wood for the process, and the almost complete lack of smoke during the burn (I am sure my neighbors do as well). The parts were cheap, the wood chips are cheap, and the build was easy. It is also a lot of fun seeing it burn and working so well.

If anyone has questions or comments about my build please feel free to respond. I am glad I got a chance to share something of mine on here, after getting so much knowledge on here from all you folks I hope that this might help someone else wanting to get started making charcoal.

Have fun,
Charles

Edited by chuckufarley, 10 April 2016 - 09:03 PM.

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#2 Blackthumb

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Posted 12 April 2016 - 06:03 PM

Want some awesome fast bp....char wine corks...natural of course....


"I split the heavens with the thunder of man..

I vanquish the night with the stars of my hand."

Volume 75, Chapter 15, Verse 10

 

 

Blackthumb

 

 


#3 lloyd

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Posted 12 April 2016 - 07:09 PM

Yep... I love a TLUD.  I have a 32-gallon one, built from a discarded well-pump accumulator tank.

 

LLoyd


"Pyro for Fun and Profit for More Than Fifty Years"


#4 chuckufarley

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Posted 12 April 2016 - 07:15 PM

Wine corks? Interesting might have to start drinking more wine.

I almost used one of those as well Lloyd. We always have a few around the scrap yard, just thought I'd start out small and see how it worked first.


P.s. I'm working on getting pictures up here just having some issues loading them

#5 blitzfike

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Posted 05 June 2016 - 08:35 PM

Sounds like a good first effort. I have considered doing charcoal for my forge as well. Coal makes such obnoxious smoke that the neighbors hate it when I start smithing. Propane has been my mainstay for forging but there is just something about using a good bed of coals to work the metal. I'd have to use something more substantial than the wood chips for forging, but for making BP for the mortar this sounds like a really good choice. How well does the cedar charcoal perform in the BP mix?



#6 OldMarine

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Posted 05 June 2016 - 08:56 PM

Sounds like a good first effort. I have considered doing charcoal for my forge as well. Coal makes such obnoxious smoke that the neighbors hate it when I start smithing. Propane has been my mainstay for forging but there is just something about using a good bed of coals to work the metal. I'd have to use something more substantial than the wood chips for forging, but for making BP for the mortar this sounds like a really good choice. How well does the cedar charcoal perform in the BP mix?

 

Eastern Red Cedar rates among the fastest just shy of red stem willow in speed according to a couple of comparisons.


Come on! Name one other hobby in which you cheer as your money and hard work go up in smoke!

#7 chuckufarley

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Posted 05 June 2016 - 09:02 PM

Eastern Red Cedar rates among the fastest just shy of red stem willow in speed according to a couple of comparisons.

Blitz,

That what I hear as well, though i have yet to make bp with it, so I have no personal experience (my ball mill's not quite done).

It is a cheap and easy way to start making charcoal for bp. If thats what your looking to do i say give it a try.

#8 OldMarine

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Posted 05 June 2016 - 09:12 PM

Eastern Red Cedar rates among the fastest just shy of red stem willow in speed according to a couple of comparisons.

Blitz,

That what I hear as well, though i have yet to make bp with it, so I have no personal experience (my ball mill's not quite done).

It is a cheap and easy way to start making charcoal for bp. If thats what your looking to do i say give it a try.

I've made all of my BP with ERC thus far and have no complaints! I've just received several lbs of the willow coal and will be testing it soon.


Come on! Name one other hobby in which you cheer as your money and hard work go up in smoke!

#9 chuckufarley

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Posted 05 June 2016 - 09:17 PM

I plan on trying the pine as well, since i can get cheap shavings of that also. Might be good for rockets,(slightly slower, more tail effect?) that's my first real goal for a pyro project.

Edited by chuckufarley, 05 June 2016 - 09:17 PM.

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#10 OldMarine

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Posted 05 June 2016 - 09:27 PM

Dammit! There's a fully composed reply dying out there somewhere. I cook a couple of lbs of SYP when cooking just for the excellent sparks. Now that I'm building rockets I find it's superb for fiery, sparky tails!


Come on! Name one other hobby in which you cheer as your money and hard work go up in smoke!

#11 chuckufarley

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Posted 05 June 2016 - 09:31 PM

Dammit! There's a fully composed reply dying out there somewhere. I cook a couple of lbs of SYP when cooking just for the excellent sparks. Now that I'm building rockets I find it's superb for fiery, sparky tails!


Sounds like a good reason to fire up the TLUD again and experiment!

#12 blitzfike

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Posted 06 June 2016 - 08:50 AM

I see a TLUD in my future, buying the animal bedding stuff ought to be a good starting point. We are over run with Western Red Cedar here, it has been declared a nuisance plant here. If I could find one of the tree trimming trucks working the power lines where some of the cedars are, I could get all the chips free that I wanted. 



#13 chuckufarley

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Posted 06 June 2016 - 10:07 AM

I would just make sure you dry them out really well if you get fresh chips. The stuff I used was all kiln dried pet bedding. Not sure if you could get wet chips to burn very well in a TLUD setup, maybe if you mixed them with dry chips, but I've never tried that.

#14 blitzfike

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Posted 06 June 2016 - 07:52 PM

Drying chips is not much of a problem around here in Oklahoma in July and August, not much rain or humidity, Now the other parts of the year would be kinda iffy.  I've been playing with solar reflectors and that would be an interesting experiment to see if I could turn the chips into char with solar heat.



#15 chuckufarley

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Posted 06 June 2016 - 08:00 PM

Blitz,

To be honest if you can get the city(or whoever) to supply you with free chips, id just get a Bunch and dry them this summer. You'll be able to get alot of charcoal stocked up pretty quick.

Make enough for the off season, they'll be back cutting more come spring. 😀

#16 starxplor

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Posted 06 June 2016 - 11:04 PM

I would just make sure you dry them out really well if you get fresh chips. The stuff I used was all kiln dried pet bedding. Not sure if you could get wet chips to burn very well in a TLUD setup, maybe if you mixed them with dry chips, but I've never tried that.

 

I can confirm from experimentation that wet/fresh chips will not work well, or even at all in a TLUD. I have some willow chips from last summer and they are still not dry enough here in SE MI for a TLUD. I just use them in a retort I set in the bonfire when we are already running that.

 

I also use a set of 3 1gal paint cans for my TLUD. I can fill all three with pet bedding, cook one after the other, and clean up everything but the cooling cans in about half an hour.



#17 Visco

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Posted 02 December 2016 - 07:08 PM

Will these only work with wood chips or will they work with small pieces of wood? If so how big of pieces will they cook uniformly?

#18 chuckufarley

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Posted 02 December 2016 - 07:12 PM

I have only used them with wood chips. I have heard that they work well with small sticks, or small chunks of wood as well though. I think the main thing is to keep a fairly small, uniform size and be sure the wood is dry. In sure more people on here have more experience with them.

#19 OldMarine

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Posted 02 December 2016 - 10:05 PM

I've used 1/2" splints of wood but you must be sure not to pack them too tightly and to add a bit of smaller stuff on top to get it going.


Come on! Name one other hobby in which you cheer as your money and hard work go up in smoke!

#20 Tim1877

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Posted 06 May 2019 - 09:16 PM

Where do you drill the primary holes and the secondary ones im making one of these tomorow


Tim




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