The Making of Charcoal:
Any wood can be used except for resinous woods like pine. Oak, ash, and hickory are the best.
Wood is split into 4 foot pieces, 1-4” in width (lapwood), or 4-7” width pieces known as billets.
A pile of wood forms the kiln-Pieces of wood are placed on a leveled ground in a dome formation, 40 feet in diameter. Leaves are placed around to cover the pile.
A Fagan, or center pole 4” in diameter is surrounded by 18” split wood pieces to create a triangular chimney.
On the day of the burn the pile is covered in sod and leaves to control the burn, and the chimney is filled within a foot of the opening. The pile is usually lit from the top, and the burn continues down and out. Then the charcoal is raked out with a long tined rake.
If the charcoal makes a tinkling noise as it is raked, it is a good batch.
Usually 35-45 bushels of charcoal are obtained from one burning.
To ensure an even burn, sometimes colliers(people who make the charcoal) have to “jump the pile”, in which they climb on top of the pile to check how it is burning, etc.