The GOOD, The BAD, The UGLY, WOOD for Charcoal Making

Put the charcoal spread out thin on black plastic or metal roofing. Now I am talking about 100°f plus hot sunny days here. I like it on a gentle slope too. It helps with the wet charcoal for the extra water to drain off.


This is some of the Tromell charcoal grinder that I did . It is a nasty blacke dirty job when you get finished.
There is still ash dust on the charcoal, and when handling it it is dusty. In the ash and fines bucket that was just a siple of what was under the Tromell.

Here is a 15’ by 10’ plastic with the charcoal I washed clean it is not classified like in the white 5 gallon buckets but with a leaf wrack it is easy to do. With the larger double flute just need to remove the big pieces. Making rocket fuel big and medium size.
A day of drying and it will be ready to bag up. I have a lot of diry charcoal that has not been washed. I might give it all a bath in my highbanker washer. It funny that I had never though of this before.
The ash in the box with my foot for size, is just a little that I removed from my highbanker container. The container was full of ash fines.

These barrels and car top carrier is empty. Looking for more dirty charcoal.


I store Charcoal in paper bags.
I place the bags in the attic of my shop where the heat dries it rapidly to near bond dry conditions.
I never weighed the product to to test but I am pretty sure when you bring down out of there it starts to absorb moister from the air again.
Not a problem I think it helps control the humidity in my shop.

My process is a bit different.
I use some synthetic cloth mess bags and fills these.
In summer I dip the bags in a large plastic pail and wash the fines and ash sand out…
The slurry is very good for the soil and I spread this around my yard to help enrich the soil as well as improve moisture content.

Winter the water freezes…
So I use snow.
You would be amazed how well snow will grab and hold the dirt you want to shake off.
This also lets you see what you are removing much better and you can see grains smaller than about 1/10 of an inch drop out the bottom of the bags as your shake them.

This leaves you with a lot of dirty black snow!
But the dust does not move it sticks to the snow and this is easy to deal with.
I just run the snow blower and make an even coating of the stuff around as far as I can shoot it.

Come spring or just warm sunning days you can see the snow rapidly melt too.
What comes to mind is all that soot in the air put by man that falls on snow all around me.
I wonder how we are changing the climate and water cycle just by darkening the snow.

Upside is this is captured carbon.
Once its into the soil its going to stay there and not return to the carbon cycle quickly


We have a law on the books in my city, that you cannot use charcoal or ash on the sidewalks to help melt the snow and ice. Most likely a legacy law from people using coal ash. And it probably has nothing to do with environmental, and more to do with someones shoes got black.


Thats quite interesting.

Ash was the main way people used to melt ice and snow in my home town.
When exactly large amounts of salt became the standard I can not say…

Fly ash from is not very nice stuff and its full of things you don’t want in the spring run off.
Today they are starting to worry about how much salt is building up in the water ways and causing a different kind of pollution…

It might turn out wood ash is not so bad after all.


I think the wood ash would be beneficial for the waterways, adds calcium and potassium. I bet the fish would enjoy a little calcium supplement in the spring.


Rule of return would suggest putting the ash back in the soil. I wonder if wood vinegar plus wood ash gets you close to neutral pH? CO2 is acidic (bubbled through water makes carbonic acid) so that part of the original wood fuel will still be missing from the products.

1 Like

No. It changes the pH of the water which affects the micro organisms in the water and creates MUCH bigger issues. It is Much better for the soil.

I have only thought about it in passing, but it looks like you can get to neutral pH with vinegar, and people use it as a fertilizer. I usually just dust the garden with it with the wind behind my back, but neutralizing it makes it far more useful.

It also makes me wonder about using vinegar instead of HCl for balancing the pH of activated charcoal. It is a slower reaction though.

Here is a whole thread with a link to another.

And here is the obligatory youtube video from a rose gardener.

If you really want some of the potash chemistry:


Vinegar is acetic acid which is a simple compound of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. It would be expensive to buy in bulk if your wood vinegar products weren’t enough neutralize the related wood ash produced.

I’d be cautious about using HCl to neutralize wood ash as a soil amendment. That chlorine ion is a rough one for plants biologically and I’d rather not add it to soil if I didn’t have to. Road salt is tolerated well enough by plants in areas that salt their roads I guess, and that salt is Calcium Chloride, so the chlorine can’t be that bad, just not ideal.

Phosphoric acid is only phosphorous, hydrogen and oxygen. It would leave behind phosphorus which would be beneficial and phosphoric acid is pretty cheap in bulk. It is added to root beer and coca-cola for flavor. Carbonic acid is only carbon, oxygen and hydrogen; it would leave nothing behind that wasn’t already in the soil. You can bubble CO2 through water to get carbonic acid. Carbonic acid is what gives carbonated water it’s “bite” and makes soda water hard on teeth.

Nitric acid would have the same advantage of only leaving behind things already in the soil, but it is a very powerful acid when concentrated and I would be cautious in its use, though I guess you can say the same about HCl/hydrochloric. Sulfuric acid is also a strong acid and would add Sulphur to your soil but that’s not biologically toxic and maybe even beneficial in some cases. Perhaps if used carefully these strong acids would work to neutralize a lot of wood ash but my instinct would be to use a weaker acid that is food safe.


I was thinking the same thing. but I was looking at weaker acids like peroxide. which would turn the calcium into CaO2 which is used as a seed coating and promotes germination. However, that might not be the brightest idea if you have a lot of weed seeds. :slight_smile:


Well I did a dumb thing with my charcoal washing using the high banker three days ago. I have washed the ash and small char dust out of the charcoal. It works great but I stepped into the water around the high bank not thinking. No I did not have my rubber boots on, just my light weight hiking boots and they got wet. A day later my feet were hurting, Yup. I stepped into lye water made from the ashes coming out of the high banker. It is like I sun burned my feet. I will not do that again, that’s for sure. All my charcoal is washed and dried now I need to bag it all up for my double flute gasifier. Oh yes you can call me a (Tender Foot) now. Lol. Meaning of the words is unmastered in doing something.


Lyewater is no joke, I can’t believe people used to wash their hair with it or do laundry without turning it to soap first.

I think Benjamin Franklin lost a sibling from tripping and falling into a Lye vat.


Consentrated lye is really bad. I stepped into watered down stuff. The ash that was put in the square frame was dug out of the catch container below the high banker. The ground is dried out around it now so I need to check to make sure the high banker is all right and the lye is not eating away on it as it is sitting there.
It sure does a great job on cleaning the charcoal up to shiny black.


You should sign up to be on Jeopardy, Cody. What’s a high banker, Bob?


It is a devise that is used for the recovery of gold from dirt and rocks with the use of moving water over a hopper box that separates the small debre from larger using a grizzly set of bars. Then running the finds over a sluice box with a mat that catches the gold. So it is like a river sluice box except it is put up on the bank and not in the water. It uses a small water pump to run it.


Everything I know about gold mining Bob, I learned from watching Deadwood on HBO, so nothing. I was hitch hiking through Northern California in my youth and a guy picked me up and for some reason wanted to give me a lesson in the area history, so he drove me around showing me these big brass nozzles that I guess were there for show and tell. He explained how they used to run water through wooden sluices of diminishing sizes until they got to these nozzles with enough velocity to blow trees off the sides of the mountain. Pretty interesting engineering.


Hydralic mining was done here too at a much small scale. Very destructive type of mining. They outlawed it for good reasons.