We are thrilled to be into our third season of charcoal making here at Underpine woods, we are one of only a handful of people across the country making charcoal the tradtional way as it has been done for hundreds of years. It is a long and laborious and enjoyable process starting with the trees growing in the woods.
We carefully select trees in the woods that are the best to be harvested for Charcoal wood, particularly Alder, Sycamore and Ash, hardwoods that can be coppiced and season quickly. We harvest our wood sustainably cutting only in the winter when the sap is low and the trees are dormant, doing this means we do not harm the trees, in the spring they simply wake up a lot shorter and within one season sent up dozens of new shoots, within 6-8 years are large enough to be harvested again. Doing this in rotation around the woodland means there is always fresh new growth, young growing coppice and lots of mature trees left to grow for decades to come. This ensures we always have a strong supply of wood and still provide an environment bursting with life for wildlife.
The wood is stored and seasoned for 6-12 months or more, where it is carefully cut and split by hand by Sam, all our charcoal wood is cut by hand and chainsaw, split by axe and stacked, stored and moved by Sam… it is a laborious process done with love and care!
When the wood is dry and seasoned it is stacked into our 6ft kiln, it takes ALOT of wood to fill a kiln, taking about 6 hours to fill the whole thing, on a clear and calm night with good weather predicted the next day, we get to do the most exciting part of the whole process and light the kiln. Safe to say it is a wild and smokey affair!
After cooling for 48hrs+ the whole kiln is unloaded, sorted and packed into bags ready for your BBQ’s. We use a grading system to sort the charcoal, the largest peices for cooking on, the smaller pieces for blacksmiths to forge on and the dust and finest pieces for biochar which can be used on gardens and even animal feed! But all these products are exactly the same thing, 100% wood, baked into pure carbon, just graded into the most suitable sizes for purpose. This final process can take up to 8 hours and leaves all involved looking like little Victorian children sent up the chimneys!
This amazing process is so exciting and rewarding and we are constantly fascinated by it all. We have documented the whole process on our Instagram stories which we have saved as a highlight on our profile. Head over to watch the explosive moment Sam shuts down the kiln!