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Charcoal kiln bolts again

by Rod Kebble

Smoke billowing from all four chimneys of the kiln. In fact, the fire was burning a little too well...

The kiln puffing away in the autumn sunshine. Later we found it had been puffing a little too well…

The saga of our new charcoal kiln continues with the news that, for a third successive time, the contents of the kiln were burnt to ash — though this time there is a little usable charcoal that can be salvaged.

The problem seems to be that although we were able to make very good charcoal in the homemade kiln crafted by Mike Clear and Conway Churchill from an old diesel tank, our new factory-made kiln is a bit more of a thoroughbred and requires more skillful handling.

Brian Lavers and Martin Boag recognised that perhaps there was too much air in the kiln and this time packed it tighter than before, using a couple of the chimneys as “motty pegs” — columns around which the wood can be tightly packed but are then removed to leave a narrow shaft down which lit material can be dropped to ignite kindling at the base of the kiln. The billets of wood were also cut shorter than on previous occasions, in order to more tightly follow the curved sides of the kiln.

All in vain, alas.

Having spoken to someone with more experience of charcoal-making, the next attempt will see the chimneys removed during the burn, in order to prevent them acting as air inlets, as this might have been the cause of our earlier failures.

To be continued…