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BioChar Burner

Discussion in 'Organics' started by Redbird1223, Jan 23, 2013.


    Redbird1223 Active Member

    So I found this guy on Youtube, his name is Bryan McGrath. He makes videos on all kinds of fascinating organic stuff.....he also redefines the words long winded. Its to a point were I'd rather chew off my hand than sit through his videos. so instead of putting you guys through that, I thought I'd re-introduce his ideas in picture form, but I want to make sure it's clear that I learned about this stove on his channel. he calls it a T-LUD, standing for top lit- up draft. I think that's stupid, so I call mine a biochar burner. you can call yours whatever you like.

    Ok first you will need:
    work gloves
    a metal coffee can OR paint can
    a 2 gal paint can OR one of those tin things you get at Christmas filled with 3 different kinds of popcorn, that's what I used
    a few sheet metal screws
    a 6" to 4" flange/reducer $7 at HD
    4' of 4" duct pipe $8 at HD
    a power drill
    a bit that will go through metal(little one and big one), a step bit would be best, but where there's a will, there's a way

    first you will drill some holes around the top rim of the inside can with the little bit, about an inch or so apart.

    then drill some holes in the bottom of the inside can. not too many, you only need about 15-20 holes in the bottom. i went overboard here. we don't want it to breath too easily. IMG_0497.jpg IMG_0498.jpg

    measure the hole in the inside can, that's how big the hole will be in the lid of the outside can.
    find the center and draw a circle as big as you measured, then cut out the hole. (PUT GLOVES ON!!!)
    next you will line up the two holes and attach the lid to the inside can with some sheet metal screws

    Ok now switch to the big bit or step bit and drill out six to eight holes in the bottom rim of the outside can, and one in the floor for good measure. done.
    IMG_0502.jpg IMG_0504.jpg
    with the same bit, drill six holes in the 6" side of the flange, and four holes halfway up the 4" pipe. this can be tricky, I used a 4x4 behind the metal and it helped. IMG_0510.jpg IMG_0511.jpg IMG_0512.jpg IMG_0513.jpg
    make sure everything is snapped tight and straight and your done!
    Oriah and POH Organics like this.

    Redbird1223 Active Member

    i need a smoke break and gotta get my kid off the bus in a bit, but i will be back later to explain what's happening and what i've learned about fuel choices and results.
    POH Organics

    POH Organics Member

    Incredible man, I always advice people to watch ever single of his videos. I doubt he knows how far he's reached into our community bongsmilie

    Phenomenal translation to text, excited to see your test results

    GreenStoner Member

    Hey guys,

    If you're not interested or able to make your own biochar kiln, check out this company re:char based in Oakland (www.re-char.com). They can sell you a pre made biochar kiln and ship it to you, or they can supply you with pre-mixed biochar soil. They have a bunch of tailored options that aren't on the website specifically for growers (just shoot them an email). I've been using their Black Revolution (funny sh*t) soilless growth media in pots with some harborside clones. I find I water them about half as much, and I'm saving the earth.

    Rrog Well-Known Member

    I've linked many of his videos in various threads. He's a good guy. Are you modeling this off his 2.0 video? BioChar is such a fantastic thing:

    Fun Fact: While compost (humus) and clay will bind the cations for us (K, NA, CA, etc) The anions (like N) are sort of floating around, not so tightly bound. You can wash away Anions like N, but the Cations are held more tightly to the Humus and clay. Well, Biochar holds anions very well. So not only a home for microbes, but an anion sequester also.
    Kind Sir likes this.
    POH Organics

    POH Organics Member

    I knew I was paying heaps for it for a reason :mrgreen:

    Rrog Well-Known Member

    I'll be building one. Plan to use the wood pellets also. That's a good size particle. I use spent carbon from air filter currently.

    Redbird1223 Active Member

    Ok, so whats happening here (or what we want to happen) is pyrolysis. This is when the gases in the wood get steamed out by the heat of the coal. Have you ever put a fresh log on a bonfire and 10 minutes later it was hissing and steaming out of one end? this is the same thing except lots of pieces of wood steaming all at once, and in a low oxygen environment. you will fill your burner with some sort of wood, then light a fire on top long enough to create some coal, then put the chimney on before the flame goes all the way out. the heat of the flame and early coals will rise up the chimney and pull air through the bottom of the burner, thus exciting the coals and creating more heat to steam out more gases and pull in more air....FOR E VER !!!!! be careful the burner gets EXTREMELY hot. mine is more like a death burner straight from the face of the sun! you will feel the heat from 5 feet away when its roaring (literally) so keep your kids back, pets back, don't walk away from it, please no accidents! to remove the chimney, Bryan uses some channel lock pliers that allow him to grab it from an angle and avoid burning himself. I don't own channel locks so I use a 3 ft wooden stick in the upper chimney hole, then gently wet it down with a hose sprayer or a bottle of water with your finger over it. beware of the steam, it is dangerous too.
    IMG_0549.jpg IMG_0550.jpg

    anyway as the heated gases rise, they will go past all those holes in the rim and be introduced to oxygen and ignite. for the most part, the flame actually hovers above the wood. so you're burning only the wood gases that are steamed off, leaving the carbon behind. also, no smoke!
    IMG_0518.jpg IMG_0519.jpg IMG_0520.jpg IMG_0529.jpg IMG_0521.jpg
    as mentioned in the first post, we don't want it to breath too well or the flames will chase down in the can, like mine. when that happens, it can actually burn the wood and leave you with ashes, which brings me to the next subject....fuel.

    for the initial light Bryan uses iso alcohol , you can use charcoal fluid sparingly if your out, or a handful of twigs, whatever
    IMG_0514.jpg IMG_0515.jpg IMG_0516.jpg IMG_0517.jpg
    fuel sources: Bryan uses wood pellets in his burner. I don't have any of those, maybe i'll buy some one day to try it out, but first i used just some chunks of wood from an old tree. For a full can of wood, i only got about a quarter can of char.

    So then I thought I'd try to make my own wood pellets from some branches that the neighborhood landscapers left in the field behind my house. that was a lot of work! and again not that worth it. the first 2 burns with homemade pellets retained 25%each time and 50% on the third burn. so after 4 or 5 burns, I had 1 gallon of biochar....
    IMG_0526.jpg IMG_0527.jpg IMG_0528.jpg IMG_0540.jpg IMG_0522.jpg IMG_0523.jpg IMG_0525.jpg

    I was a little bent because it wasn't that efficient. I decided to cut up some old pieces of 2x4 I had laying around, and that was the ticket. the wood is cut up the center longways, then cut every 1/2 inch or so, then arranged as tightly as possible in the burner. these cubes make excellent char that breaks up easily and uniform, and I retain about 85-90%
    IMG_0543.jpg IMG_0530.jpg IMG_0539.jpg IMG_0541.jpg IMG_0542.jpg
    random things I've learned:
    if you jump the gun and put it out too early, it will smell like wood. like a campfire. and the char will be smoky too.
    if you get a good burn, it will smell bad like sulfur and rotten eggs when put out, and the char will be almost oderless
    if you just wait, patiently, it will actually "run out of gas" and go out, that's a good burn.

    biochar is adsorbant, and will suck the nutes out of the soil it is added to. as a preemptive measure, Bryan recommends the biochar be charged and dried before adding to or under the soil. this can be done with many things like aact, kelp water, urine water, chicken poo tea, any em-1 solution or fpe's. I will be using an aact with a dash of bio canna.

    Happy Gardening!

    Attached Files:

    Kind Sir likes this.

    Redbird1223 Active Member

    yes mine is modeled after the 2.0 it was an ingenious modification imo, using the heat to create a pre-draft.

    spent filters, and campgrounds are great sources for extra char. I read somewhere that cowboy coal is basically biochar, but I only found 1 cowboy coal locally, and it was made by kingsford, so i passed.

    Redbird1223 Active Member

    He has one about making your own liquid calcium supp too. bbq's eggshells then dissolves them in balsamic or apple vinegar he's one clever dude

    Rrog Well-Known Member

    See the link in my sig for the dude that introduced the charred egg shells to the US. Gil Carandang

    Anyway, I think this is kick-ass what you're doing and posting. Thank you for helping spread the word. We need people like you.
    buckaroo bonzai

    buckaroo bonzai Well-Known Member

    ....thats why they say to 'treat' your bio-char with an N source before using---? Buddha Rrog :joint:

    Rrog Well-Known Member

    Hey BB-

    It's good to treat the char with N and also with microbes. Otherwise it might remove the N from the soil. This way the N becomes available later.

    Side note: Fresh Biochar holds anions better than older char. It has a positive charge at first. Char loses it's Anion-holding capacity over time, becoming increasingly negatively charged, but will then hold Cations.

    Redbird1223 Active Member


    I thought we where the only 3 mofos interested in biochar for a while...........(actually it's just us again huh, lol)
    Rising Moon

    Rising Moon Well-Known Member

    Biochar rocks!!!

    I just thought I would share my technique...

    I have a woodstove in my cabin that I found is great for making biochar.

    I just get a really blazing fire going for an hour or so...(smoke a few bowls and stare at the flames, one hour flys by..)

    And the throw on some small chunks I cut from the trunk of a huge old dead apple tree,

    (apple wood has one of the highest BTU's of any wood)

    At this point I "shut the stove down", meaning cut off the oxygen via the flue control.

    This will burn for hours and hours.

    The next day, everything is cooled and I have a really nice pile of biochar, and wood ashes for my compost pile.

    Ive taken to composting my biochar, or using it in rotation with green manures. (top dressing before tilling in)

    Rrog Well-Known Member

    That sounds like excellent char Moon- You inoculate with N before using?
    Rising Moon

    Rising Moon Well-Known Member

    Been mixing it with the litter from my chicken coop, then composting.

    So, yeah I guess so!

    I didn't even realize just what I was doing...

    But it sure as hell neutralizes some of that chicken stank!

    Thanks Rrog!

    Rrog Well-Known Member

    Really great stuff Moon- thanks for sharing with the group. The more that see it, the more will do it.
    buckaroo bonzai

    buckaroo bonzai Well-Known Member

    wen I lived in Jamaica I would help the rasta family I lived with make 'charcol' ....for cooking --no cutting trees there for firewood..

    we would get a huge pile of limbs donated by each household from all the neighborhood and make a big bonfire

    then when the wood was red hot and glowing they would throw water on it cooling it immediately and they would lay it out and sun dry it and then everyone would get their share to cook with...
    .folks have no idea how easy we got it to turn our stove on and cook....

    there were even little rasta guys that had little donkey carts they used to carry it out into the hills and sell it--

    charcol is easy to make--'bio' char to me is just "N charged" charcoal

    I always use good clean wood ash to finish my plants with a little top dressed....
    it seems to really harden up my nugz and I always wondered why the oldest growers I met said to finish with a little wood ash--

    the chicken shit innoculator seems like algreat no brainier and I am going to try it! ....I'm even thinking steer manure--lol :joint:

    ....wat about soaking it in some nice fish guts then sun drying...??......

    ....or a watered down solution of fish meal........?...even better?

    ----for all of us taking advantage of the great Michigan outdoors--

    ......how bout we talk about the amazing rich humus found within mich forest lakes and rivers....?...
    Rrog likes this.
    buckaroo bonzai

    buckaroo bonzai Well-Known Member

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