Now to the essence of how to make charcoal, which really is very simple once we understand what it is.
Charcoal is made by heating wood in the absence of oxygen and driving off all the moisture and impure volatile gases to leave a near pure form of carbon. This burns much hotter and cleaner than wood and has been used since the Iron Age for smelting iron, amongst many other uses over the centuries.
You can use any wood but I prefer oak, hazel, maple or any hardwood as they burn longer than softwoods and make a better grade of charcoal. Fruitwoods or hickory are fun to try as they will add extra flavour and aromas. Experiment with what grows locally to you.
Either split some dry well seasoned logs into 1” to 2” strips and pack tightly into the Kadai Charcoal Maker keeping any air space to a minimum. Or better still go foraging to gather some dry, dead but not rotten, branches about 2” to 3” in diameter from woods or hedgerows (do ask permission first), collecting enough for the Charcoal Maker and your fire as there is always a good feeling about natural local free fuel. Approximately 1.3kg of charcoal will be produced from around 6.5kg of wood.
Build up your fire in the Kadai to get a good bed of hot embers going and when ready nestle your Charcoal Maker into the middle of the fire trying to get the charcoal maker as low in the Kadai bowl as possible.
It will take a couple of hours for the process to be complete so maintain a moderate heat during this time.
It will start off with the moisture been driven off in the form of steam coming out of the two funnels on the Charcoal Maker
then a yellow flame will appear after an hour or so from the funnels and around the seams of the end caps. This is nothing to worry about as the seal around the end caps is not air tight and the gases need to escape.
After 2 hours once the gases have been burned off the process is complete and you will have your own home made charcoal.
If you intend to have a long evening, the Charcoal Maker can be removed from the fire with the Kadai tongs or left in the Kadai.
DO NOT be tempted to open the Charcoal Maker until the following day when it has completely cooled as hot charcoal is very volatile and will self combust in oxygen and so handle very carefully when hot.
Normally I leave the Charcoal Maker in the Kadai until the next day as it is quite safe there.
I hope that you and your family have lots of fun making your own charcoal and share the joy of turning a piece of ordinary wood into a soft, brittle, lightweight material that has been used for centuries and is infinitely more satisfying than a bought bag of charcoal from the garage that is probably made from endangered mango forests in Malaysia and does not burn properly.