Thought I'd show the process of making a little batch of homemade charcoal. I didn't get any pictures of the beginning, but its pretty easy to explain. Take a paint can (thoroughly cleaned) and fill it full with scraps of wood, then tightly put the lid on. Punch some vent holes in the sides (two or three nail holes is all it takes). Then throw the can in a fire. Simple enough, right?
Here's my two cans loaded up, and the fire started:
As you can see in the first picture, it's in the first stage of heating up. You'll notice the steam and smoke starting on the right can. The can on the right is pine scraps, the can on the left is oak scraps from wood working projects. The softwoods go faster than hard woods. Keep adding wood to get the fire going, and you'll start to hear the steam venting harder out of the cans, and evenually the wood gas will exit and you'll have flames shooting out of the holes. The cans are under the pile here.
As I said, the wood gas really vents out, and you will have flames shooting. I tried to get a good picture. At the best point, the flames were shooting out almost a foot, and sound like a torch. In this picture, notice the flame circled, that is from the hole in the can.
Once the flames stop coming from the cans, the process is pretty much done. If you want to, pull the can from the fire, and let it cool, preferably overnight. Do not open while it is hot, it will ignite!
And here is the finished product:
The can on the left is the oak, the can on the right is the pine. I'm just doing some small scale testing right now, I plan to ramp up to doing a 35 gallon drum at a time.