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Primitive Technology: Making Charcoal Has Many Applications for Do-It-Yourselfers


Charcoal has a slew of uses for the outdoorsman, including to make metal, as an ingredient in black powder, and filtering your drinking water. 

Charcoal is a seriously useful product for anyone interested in the technology of smelting ore or blacksmithing. It also has a ton of other applications, including in cooking and in water filtration and purification systems, as a necessary ingredient in black powder, and even in certain medicinal applications.

Here is how to make lump charcoal in a primitive yet still highly effective manner.

Charcoal is the end product of burning wood or other organic material in a low oxygen environment, a process known as pyrolysis. This process removes undesirable, volatile compounds and moisture, leaving an almost pure carbon end product.

As a result, charcoal burns more efficiently than raw wood, with less smoke and flame and at a significantly higher temperature than wood alone. These qualities make it a unique and more desireable fuel.

The format employed by our friend in the video, of carefully stacking raw wood into a neat, compact mound and covering the whole thing with mud is known as a clamp.

He controlled the burning of the wood by controlling the oxygen intake of the mound through air holes at the bottom of the clamp and a chimney hole in the top center.

The resulting charcoal had the features he was seeking for his forthcoming explorations in primitive technology of early humans:

The charcoal that was made was hard and shiny. When broken open it had the ray structure of the wood preserved. When moving the hand through it the charcoal sounded tinny, like coral on a beach being moved by waves. These are signs of good quality. Bad charcoal is soft, breaks easily and has a muffled sound.

This man intends to use the charcoal he made to smelt ore into metal, perhaps to fashion primitive tools or weapons.

No doubt the videos he produces of those projects will be as educational and entertaining as each video in his wonderful series on primitive wilderness skills. We will be sure to share those with you as soon as they come online.



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Primitive Technology: Making Charcoal Has Many Applications for Do-It-Yourselfers