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Homemade Paint Can Charcoal


Fire Starter
Joined Mar 21, 2010
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.
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Smoking Guru
OTBS Member
Joined Sep 25, 2007
Awesome, I have made some lump as well, but using a 55 gallon drum in the city was a bit too much!


Legendary Pitmaster
OTBS Member
Joined Jul 16, 2008
Cool , Greechneb. Thanks for the tutorial , good Q-view.



Meat Mopper
Joined Jun 24, 2013
I did some in a 205 litre drum, it's just so painfull watching all that good timber go up in smoke, to get a measley amount of charcoal at the end.



Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
Joined Feb 23, 2009
Thanks very much for doing this. Maybe we can get a more thorough presentation (not saying what you showed and typed up was not perfect) and make it a sticky.

Just an idea.

Great work!


Joined Mar 21, 2014
Hi Ya'll

Here is my homemade charcoal Propane burner setup. I use a 50 gallon drum and in the bottom of it I have a turkey fryer burner that I cut the legs off of. The burner sets in the 50 gallon drum then I place a 30 gallon drum on the burner. Cap it with a 50 gallon drum lid with a vent hole to allow the gasses to escape and light up the turkey fryer burner. This process takes about 3 hours and cost about $10.00 in propane. At completion I have a 30 gallon drum of perfect charcoal. Here are some pics so you can see how it is set up. Check out the last photo that shows the completed charcoal, ready to use on the grille or in my egg....


Wood is starting to gas off after only 15 minutes on the burner

The best thing about using a propane turkey fryer burner is that I can regulate the temperature inside the wood drum. I have found that Hickory wood best converts into charcoal at 500 - 525 degrees and the propane setup allows me to raise / lower the internal temperature as needed.

After 2 hours the pyrolysis process has started and the gasses are burning off. I let it burn for about an hour and then shut down the burner, cap the pipe vent on the wood container drum and let it cool for 24 hours

24 hours later and here is the final product ready to be used. So it takes time, but what the heck - my time cost nothing, and it keeps me entertained and out of trouble. All I use is free hickory wood, ten bucks of propane, and I get the best darn charcoal I have ever used. And just think, If I went and paid for this charcoal it would only cost me about 16 -20 dollars. But there aint no fun in buying it when I can make it myself !!!!!


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