Biochar & Charcoal

Finding land, working a small plot or anything else countryside related
Tora
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Post by Tora »

Zasso Nouka wrote:
Tue Nov 24, 2015 7:15 am
take5.jpg

This method can produce really large quantities and is only limited by the amount of bamboo you can pile up, it's the easiest and quickest method I've found so far but as mentioned before the biochar produce is a little soft. Not a problem if you are using it as a soil improver but less good for domestic applications.

Another method is to exclude oxygen during the burning process and for this we'll need a drum can (oil drum) that has been cleaned and had a ring of holes drilled in the bottom.

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The holes are to allow wood gas to escape during pyrolysis, the production of wood gas at this stage makes the process self sustaining once it gets up to temperature. With the drum can method you'll need something to enclose the drum can with, concrete blocks work well but anything non flammable and sturdy you have around will do.

So, raise the drum can up on a few blocks as you'll need to build a fire underneath it and surround the drum can with the concrete blocks or other material and pack it full of cut lengths of bamboo.

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And seal the drum can with a lid

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Then light your fire underneath the drum can.

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This will heat up the drum can until it reaches the correct temperature for pyrolysis to take off and by take off I mean it goes like a rocket. Once it hits the right temperature and wood gas is being produced inside the drum can that escapes through the holes drilled in the bottom and ignites when it hits the flames of the fire burning underneath. Giant flames shoot out the top of the enclosure like a rocket engine.

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At this point the fire below the drum can is no longer needed and the whole thing becomes self sustaining with the wood gas driving the process. Once production of wood gas ceases due to all the bamboo being turned to charcoal the fire goes out, at this point you can either pop the lid open (if you have a sturdy pair of gloves as obviously it's going to be pretty hot) and douse the inside with plenty of water or leave the whole lot to cool down but be aware that if some of the charcoal is burning inside the drum can it can burn the whole lot into ash so I prefer to put it out at this stage.

And here is a drum can full of nice hard charcoal.

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Out of the two methods the drum can one is the most spectacular method to watch.

I’m making a drum can for charcoal so I have something to keep me warm when I’m escaping the wife and kid’s tv programs in the name of making charcoal.
Do you remember what diameter holes you used or have a recommendation?

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Zasso Nouka
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Post by Zasso Nouka »

I'm thinking it's somewhere between 8 - 10mm, just be careful of carbon monoxide production if producing in a confined space.

Outside it's actually quite a fun process and makes a roaring sound like a rocket taking off with dramatic flames shooting out from the base.

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Post by Tora »

Thanks Zasso!

I started with about 20 6mm holes around the base. I may try that before going bigger. I think I have up to 13mm bits. It will be outside. Just gotta scrounge some blocks or repurpose some of the concrete I’m breaking up to clear a place to build a workshop.

I’ll do the burning outdoors in the field down below. Really give the neighbors something to slow down and gape at. Btw, how long does it usually take you to char a drum full of bamboo or scrap wood?

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Post by Zasso Nouka »

It's been a couple of years since doing a charcoal burn in a drum can but between 1 - 2 hours all told from lighting to finish I think. The more you can confine the flames and heat inside a concrete/block layer the quicker the inside of the drum can gets up to temperature and maintains that.

When it's working properly it can get quite dramatic, maybe have some marshmallows on hand to toast while watching it burn :lol:. Then once the flames petter out spay the whole thing down with a hose and prise the lid off to wet down your charcoal inside.

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Post by donguri »

I have yet to venture into making my own biochar, but I did recently acquire a few bags of kuntan. Is now the best time to apply it? IS there a best or appropriate time to apply?

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Post by Zasso Nouka »

Now is a good time to apply kuntan, either dig it in, turn the soil over or just lay it on top and let the worms mix it in for you, whichever is your preferred choice. But you can apply it at any time of the year really.

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Post by donguri »

Thanks Zasso!

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Post by Eric in Japan »

Recently I have been making bamboo charcoal (soft) in a half barrel with NO vent holes in it. I fill the barrel haphazardly, light it, when the flames die down I add more to the top. When I get tired of it, I wait for the flames to disappear, and douse it with a bucket or two of water.
Then I dump the water and charcoal onto my garden. I figure the water is going to be full of potassium and phosphorous, so why waste it?

The theory is that the open flames are eating most of the O2, so the red-hot bamboo coals in the bottom are not burning, just off-gassing. Works like a charm.
"... so, the cucumbers said to the cabbage, `Lettuce Go.`"

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Post by Zasso Nouka »

Eric in Japan wrote:
Wed Feb 24, 2021 7:56 am
The theory is that the open flames are eating most of the O2, so the red-hot bamboo coals in the bottom are not burning, just off-gassing. Works like a charm.
That's a pretty neat idea Eric, I might give it a go. Do you think it would also work with a full barrel ?

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Eric in Japan
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Post by Eric in Japan »

Zasso Nouka wrote:
Thu Feb 25, 2021 7:33 am
Do you think it would also work with a full barrel ?
It is worth a shot. Worst comes to worst you have some brown ends and wet bamboo.

If I had a full sized barrel, I would put a momi-gara kuntan cone in it and make a rice hull charcoal. All nicely contained, easy to put out and control... You can bury some bamboo cups and objects (pierce the nodes), pinecones, and interesting wood knots and they will come out charcoaled and in the same shape. My neighbor used to make bamboo charcoal vases that way, and some guy up the mountain a way made a charcoal pineapple. Very delicate though, If you go that way, it is best to use a lid to extinguish it rather than water.
"... so, the cucumbers said to the cabbage, `Lettuce Go.`"