Creating charcoal using the mound method

I found this magnificent video by one of my favourite vloggers, Primitive Technology about how charcoal is made using the mound method. I decided to start my iron bloomery project by making my own charcoal.

One of my main “thought plays” is to think how far in the past could I travel to build as complex machine possible. Eventually, all of my issues were related to the fact, that I had no knowledge on how primitive iron was made. The whole thought chain of from ore to product is a long and winding thing, that I’m bound to write more than one posts about.

I happen to have a huge amount of alder available to me. It’s not the best wood to be used, as it’s light and not quite dense enough. However, that’s the stuff I used.

I started by piling the wood into a mound, bigger logs in the middle and smaller twigs outside. I then covered the whole thing with fern leaves and and clay (it started raining so I had to hurry, hence the poor quality). I opened up a whole on top and about eight holes at the bottom of the mound. It was time to light it up.

Lower air holes clearly visible
Lower air holes clearly visible
The mound after lighting up, burns like a charm

After few hours of burning, the fire had reached the bottom and I could plug the air holes. A note to self, keeping a small pilot flame alight artificially at the top of the mound will reduce CO, CH4 etc emissions and significantly reduce your headache if standing next to the “smokery”).

Once the fire was visible at the bottom air intakes, I plugged all the holes and the extinguished the fire
The next day, I cracked open the mound and picked up the charcoal
The finished product, brittle and dry

About the iron bloomery, more will follow.

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