Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Charcoal Burners

A Charcoal burner is someone whose occupation is to manufacture charcoal. Traditionally this is achieved by carbonising wood in a charcoal pile or kiln. As an occupation it has almost died out in the first world countries.
Charcoal burning is one of the oldest human crafts. The knowledge gained from this industry still contributes to the solution of energy problems today.
Since the Iron Age, high temperatures have had to be produced for iron smelting, for glassmaking and for the working of precious metals. Charcoal has been used to do this for centuries and, in order to produce it, entire forests were felled. With the increasing use of stone coal from the 18th century, the charcoal burning industry declined.

 Even in ancient times, charcoal was manufactured in kilns. Logs were arranged in a conical heap (a charcoal kiln or pile) around posts; a fire shaft was made using brushwood and wood chips and covered with an airtight layer of grass, moss and earth. The pile was ignited inside the fire shaft and, at a temperature of between 300 and 350 °C, the carbonization process began. 
The process took six to eight days - in large kilns several weeks - during which time the charcoal burner had to control the draught (by piercing small holes and resealing them), being careful neither to allow the pile to go out nor let it go up in flames. By observing the smoke exiting the kiln, the charcoal burner could assess the state of the carbonization process. If the smoke was thick and gray, the wood was still raw; thin, blue smoke indicated good carbonization.
In earlier times, charcoal burners led an austere, lonely life. They had to live near the kiln, usually in a charcoal burner's hut. During the Middle Ages, charcoal burners were ostracized. Their profession was considered dishonourable and they were frequently accused of evil practices.

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