Hey Dave, the retort is sitting on a tiny stand, which I wanted to keep low to make it easier to do something with the flue gasses. I want to eventually site this thing on a hillside, and then build some sort of drying barrel that gets blasted with all the waste heat from the afterburner.
I ran another batch today, and it was modestly successful. I put in maybe 20-25% more wood, and used more wood to get it going. I suspect that the moisture was higher on this batch, as I used some old firewood that had been sitting out under sheet metal. It took maybe 2.5 hours to get smoke that was dry enough to light. I managed to contain the leaks around the chimney, and the larger steam vent prevented the fire from being choked, but the leaks around the lid are still a persistent problem. Here is a video of it once it starts burning off gas.
shortly after this point, I lit the smoke coming out the chimney, and it burned off pretty good for the rest of the run. I spent a lot of the time today thinking about how to best deal with the leaks coming from the lid, and what to do about the steam. I came up with a few ideas:
Route the smoke from the steam vent into the chimney to try and flare it.
Build a finned tube to put on the steam vent that condenses out steam, and allows it to drain out through a trap.
Make some sort of removeable shroud around the lid that can be filled with ashes to prevent leaks.
While this horizontal method is easy to empty, I wonder if that is outweighed by the difficulty in achieving a proper seal. The smoke is not really a problem in and of itself, but since the retort needs to be tended pretty regularly, it gets rather irritating. I welcome any input, but I am considering maybe experimenting with a vertical setup more akin to the original Hookway retort.