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Charcoal Burning

We have been producing artist's charcoal from left over willow stems for a few years now, but wanted to
develop things a little and on a bigger scale to make use of materials from woodland thinning or coppicing

Our original method for the artists charcoal was the indirect method, where a sealed container is placed
within an oil drum and then a fire burnt within the drum and around the tin continuously for a couple of hours or
so. This allows quicker cooling with the use of a hose and is suitable for small diameter sticks but the real
problem was that the wood being burnt was not the resulting product and therefore there was a lot of wood
wasted in the production of relatively small amounts.


We decided to attend a charcoal burning course to develop things a little further and luckily we stumbled upon
details for Charles Stewart, a charcoal burner in Cumbria, who ran a wonderful short course, which gave us
valuable experience to ugrade things slightly. On the course, we had experience of horizontal drum, 4', 6' and 8'
diameter ring kilns, loading, unloading, sieving, bagging, preparing wood, health and safety and just about anything else we
had a question on! Please contact Charles at ibeinn@btinternet.com for further information on his excellent course.



With this experience, we started to pursue some kit! subsequently, we agreed with Kilmarnock College to modify several
steel drums donated by Caledonian Bottlers in Cumnock, into small charcoal kilns.

They modified some drums into horizontal kilns and also a lovely scaled down prototype of an upright kiln, complete with
vents, chimneys and lid.


Community Liaison officer, Mark Davies, tried the horizontal kiln for the first time, at home, early one saturday morning!
Though there was a bit of trial and error with the first burn of a new kiln, it yielded 13kg of lovely charcoal, when
sorted, sieved and bagged. The resulting charcoal was much more in quantity than weight as it had a minimal moisture content.


Immediate plans include the first burn of the upright kiln and development and preparation work at our charcoal burning
site at Craufurdland Estate and hopefully progress to a 4' or 5' diameter kiln.


The next stage in our developments is to offer a small amount of charcoal as part of our forest school
and traditional crafts promotion at fairs and events. This will include small sacks of barbecue charcoal,
packets of chardust for horticultural use and small packs of 'one barbecue' charcoal.


Our operation is at an early stage at present, until we can sort a semi-permanent site to develop things
a little further, though offering charcoal products at local events will help us to gauge how popular
locally produced charcoal can be in our area.