On the Wednesday morning Barbara offered to do a charcoal burn with anyone who wanted to do one on their own but with supervision. I leapt at the chance! I have helped several times whilst volunteering but the only time I was involved in actually managing the process and deciding when to close the drum or let more air in was when all three tutors were away and us volunteers worked on our own. We ended up with a lot of partly burnt ‘brown ends’. Charcoal making is something I want to do at home with wood from the garden so I needed to be confident I can get it right. With Barbara’s help and reminders I loaded the drum and got it lit.
We needed to stay fairly close and keep checking that it didn’t go out so I did a bit more to my tenons on the swing bench until coffee time. By spending some time during lunch on it I got the third one finished and a start on the fourth. I also drilled a 1 inch hole in an offcut of shelving I had brought from home so that I have a guage for shaping the spindles. I took them home at the end of the day to shave them to size in my own workshop. I am concerned that I will not finish my project by the end of the course otherwise.
We checked the charcoal again before going to the plot after the break and Barbara knew from experience that it should be fine until lunch so I started felling another smallish tree and snedding it. Despite the wintry showers and cold by the end of the afternoon I had done 2. We are either hardy or masochistic depending on your point of view!
We checked the charcoal at lunchtime and decided that it was ready to close down. It was the first time I had put the band on to seal the top and the first time that I had made the final decision about when to do it although Barbara was there to advise and help. All I could do then was wait and see!
So my first job on Thursday was to open the drum and find out if I had been successful. I had! And whilst Stef began loading the second drum for his turn I unloaded mine, sieved and bagged it. I did as much of this on my own as I could because at home there will be no-one to help. It was very satisfying to see a bag of charcoal ready for sale and made by me.
|Charcoal, the finished product|
|Sue's smooth axe work|
Words and photos by Sue Laverack