An ancient country craft
Before the smelting of iron with coke was invented at Ironbridge in the late 18th Century, starting the Industrial Revolution, wood charcoal was used for the process. Given that charcoal is also a vital ingredient of gunpowder, there would have been neither ploughshares nor cannon without it.
Charcoal-making is an ancient country craft that went into decline in England in the 20th Century but with the increasing awareness of green issues, it has returned. Now most charcoal goes to the BBQ market, but it has many other uses, such as in ground-keeping for top dressing and drainage, in horticulture compost, in specialist metal smelting and for bell-casting (as used by the famous Whitechapel Bell Foundry).
How E-Co Charcoal is made
Any tree species can be made into charcoal but the best is made from grained hardwood species like ash, oak, beech, hornbeam and hazel. E-Co Charcoal’s wood is obtained from coppiced or pollarded woodland in a sustainable and carefully-managed way.
After the trees are felled the wood is stacked and left to season for a year to get rid of the moisture. It is then carefully loaded into a kiln or ‘retort’ – a large metal cylinder like a giant oven with an airtight door.
Once the temperature reaches around 450ºC, the controlled ‘burn’ begins, taking 6-7 hours over which time 3.5 tons of wood is converted into around 800 kgs of charcoal, which is about 95% pure carbon.