Primitive Technology: Making Charcoal (3 Different Methods)
Date : April 6, 2023

Primitive Technology: Making Charcoal (3 Different Methods)
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About This Video:
With more iron smelting experiments coming up, I demonstrate 3 different methods to make charcoal, ranked easiest to hardest.

The first method was in a simple clay lined pit where a pile of wood was neatly stacked over and lit from the top down. The pile then completely carbonizes without turning to ash. When the sticks at the bottom burn the coals fall into the pit and are extinguished with water. This method is the easiest and takes the least time. But the charcoal is wet and smaller pieces are made as it tends to over burn before extinguishing.

The second method is the mound which involves making a conical pile of wood and coating it in mud leaving openings around the base and one n the top. Again the pile is lit from the top and the fire burns back down against the draft carbonizing the pile. The fire is then snuffed out by closing the openings. This method produces better quality charcoal of larger lumps with less fines. But it takes more time and labor to make as the mound is demolished each time a batch is used.

The final method was the charcoal kiln. This was a cylindrical furnace with holes in the base that was filled with wood and only the top was covered with mud. It works the same way as the mound method but instead of coating the whole mound with mud each time, only the top was covered. This makes good quality charcoal with less labor once the kiln has been built.

About Primitive Technology:
Primitive technology is a hobby where you build things in the wild completely from scratch using no modern tools or materials. These are the strict rules: If you want a fire, use a fire stick – An axe, pick up a stone and shape it – A hut, build one from trees, mud, rocks etc. The challenge is seeing how far you can go without utilizing modern technology. I do not live in the wild, but enjoy building shelter, tools, and more, only utilizing natural materials. To find specific videos, visit my playlist tab for building videos focused on pyrotechnology, shelter, weapons, food & agriculture, tools & machines, and weaving & fiber.

#PrimitiveTechnology #MakingCharcoal #Charcoal

Category: Far Away | Far Away | Fun | Survival


  1. Jérémie Herard

    Thank you once more John, for still uploading and experimenting things after all these years.

    • Don't Read My Profile Photo

      !Don’t read my name,•,•

    • Ek

      @Don’t Read My Profile Photo cool I won’t.

    • Nunya Business

      @Ek neither

    • Notsia Lebouf


  2. SAWhowhatnow

    Yes, the fire and furnace experiments are my favorites! I’d also love to see another shelter project soon.

    • Bellwether Trucking

      Idk. He doesn’t really need a new shelter and it doesn’t get much better than his video of the fired brick hut with concrete mortar and terracotta roof. His goal is to get into primitive metallurgy.

    • Younes Layachi

      anything made of clay and bricks are my favourites too

    • SAWhowhatnow

      @Younes Layachi he makes me very badly want to dig for clay in my yard and make my own stick-fueled kiln!

    • Bellwether Trucking

      @SAWhowhatnow me too.😆

    • Neo Game Center

      @SAWhowhatnow Me too. I’m going to buy a offgrid homestead, near by a small stream or creek. So, I can do what he did. It’s awesome.

  3. Snek

    What’s interesting about charcoal is that it’s wood that hasn’t been completely burned. The more volatile parts of the wood have been burned off, but what’s left behind is almost pure carbon. Carbon burns in air at a very high temperature, this is why it was used for smelting things instead of regular wood

    • Unspecified Multicellular Organism

      From what I learned, coal is formed by dead trees being covered and sinking into the ground over millions of years, which then causes geothermal energy to get rid of the volatile parts.
      Basically, making charcoal is a sped up version of how coal formed.

    • Please Stand By

      @Unspecified Multicellular Organism And the coal formed because mushrooms hadn’t yet evolved to eat the wood, so it had time to become buried

    • Morgan

      ​@Please Stand ByPeat forms similarly. It doesn’t degrade because the plants sink into a bog or other standing water and get mummified. Fossil fuel is one thing, but they use tree mummies to flavor whiskey.😂

    • Dave Dopson

      @teebob21 In practice, it’s rather difficult to completely melt iron using a charcoal fire, nor is that desirable in most ancient metalworking techniques. For example, blacksmithing works by heating iron to make it 2softer and more ductile, but not actually melting it to the liquid phase, as that would destroy the part the blacksmith is working on (it would lose shape and run down into the coals).

      The other major example is a bloomery forge, which gets much hotter than a typical blacksmith’s forge and has been demonstrated on this channel: pour alternating layers of charcoal and iron ore into a cylinder with clay walls and then bellows air in from below. After several hours of this, someone will poke a hole in the bottom and something molten and liquid runs out and it’s easy to be confused into thinking that’s molten iron, but it’s not; it’s “slag” made from the non-iron elements in the ore. In bloomery forging the iron never melts; instead the Fe2O3 in the ore is “reduced” by the Carbon Monoxide in the exhaust gasses, which steal oxygen atoms, turning it into pure iron. All this happens in the solid phase without the iron melting. And a bloomery forge is close to the maximum practical temperature for a charcoal fire without using much more modern techniques and tooling.

    • teebob21

      @BlackWolf42 Yes. Coke is “charcoaled” coal.

  4. WexMajor82

    It’s always a good day when Primitive Technology posts a video!

  5. David Moede

    Me and my wife have been watching your incredible movies for years. Multiple states, jobs, kids, houses etc.. we just found out your videos have closed captions and youve been talking to us for years. We are both in our mid 30s and literally threw insults and curses like children. Thank you 1000x times for your posts. Even if theyve been more silent than intended 🙂

    • David Moede

      @Infernal Disdain It’s been a treat to be honest.

    • D H

      Wow, I also had no idea! The videos are done so well I never thought anything was missing.

    • Jason

      To me it’s more fun to watch them without the first time. If I’m curious about what’s going on, I’ll turn them on after.

    • Scott C

      Nice! Now you can enjoy them all over again with the cc on. 😊

    • Notsia Lebouf


  6. DrFoggyPants

    I like these videos, cause they give me a false sense of self confidence that I would not expire almost immediately if I was left in the wild.

    Also they’re chill as hell

    • nobody special

      @Matthew Trevett Any place that has centipede’s that size is someplace humans were never meant to go.

    • Jeff R

      After watching this I think I’ll have to try making some charcoal this spring.

    • John Raasch

      @Matthew Trevett Just a centipede chilling with his scorpion friends, it’s all good…

      Yeah, no, at that point I’d be experimenting to discover an organic versions of Bifen IT.

    • Nick Donellan

      😂 same here

    • Gargoyle364

      Perhaps the best advice to have to ensure your survival would be Don’t Panic.

  7. Rippertear

    Thinking about it, this is probably one of the purest YouTube channels I know. You simply record yourself doing an interesting thing you love doing, edit the clips together, and upload it. No ad reads, no sponsors, no clickbait. Not even any commentary, unless you turn on the captions. Just fascinating primitive technology and the beautiful sounds of nature. 10/10, wonderful work, keep it up!

    • Thomas

      @Nathanael Newton I know there is but I somehow always forget turning them on before I’m 5 mins into the video. Wish he would put text that reminds one to turn em on in the beginning but I guess that breaks the standard.

    • bosk0ne

      I’ve been watching this channel for years, and I still have no idea what he sounds like.

      I’ve seen other channels try to imitate the formula (at least the silence part), but none worked. I think Hand Tool Rescue is the closest I’ve seen, but he does talk on occasion.

  8. The Mechanic

    What a legend. Easily one of the highest quality creators on YouTube.

    • Notsia Lebouf


    • Neo Game Center

      Yes, he is. I think he’s the pioneer when Youtube or social network is not popular like nowadays.

    • dentroy 7

      What are some other Youtube channels of this level of quality

  9. AllWork NoPlay

    I really love how he researches everything that he shows us to make sure he is staying true to the way things used to be done.

    • hamjudo

      He always uses primitive materials, but he has made videos showing experiments with technology with no ancient precedent. The most recent example was filtering water through plant stems.

      Also watch the video where he makes a centripetal blower out of clay. Make sure the captions are turned on. He wrote about the lack of precedent.

      A historically accurate technology would be leather bellows. That involves hunting or farming large animals and tanning their skin. That is not going to happen.

  10. SerPurple

    It would be interesting to see you make your own water filter using a charcoal method. Love your videos! I sometimes go back and watch your older ones whenever I’m feeling down or want to relax.

    The irony of me getting electrocuted earlier and you uploading a video today is something else lol

    • Random Voice ie. Ian Tan

      That would truly be the next step in off grid living, how to have consistent clean water. Might even help in places where clean water is hard to source.

    • SerPurple

      ​@Random Voice ie. Ian Tan​absolutely! He did a video in the past where he did this siphoning water purification method, but the canes he used got clogged and eventually needed replacing. But I bet it would be a lot quicker and less resources using a charcoal method. Maybe even build something like the water powered monjolo he did a while back and make it somewhat automated. He’s pretty clever, so I’m sure he could come up with an idea!

  11. Primitive Technology

    I need more charcoal for smelting and metallurgy. These are the 3 methods I’ve used so far. The pit is the quickest and easiest to set up. But the mound and kiln produce better quality and larger pieces. All charcoal from these methods will work in smelting and forging but the 2 later methods make better fuel. The advantage of the kiln over the mound is that it’s re-useable and takes less effort to set up per batch than the mound does (less exposed wood to cover with mud). Also, I’ve started sieving the charcoal so all pieces used are over about 2.5 cm/1 inch. The larger lumps work better in furnaces because there are larger gaps between them that allow air to pass more easily through the fuel bed. This especially important in natural draft furnaces for smelting.

    • Lorenzo Pacheco

      Would it be possible to pack wood into lidded earthenware vessels and then heat those in a furnace or even just a pit fire to pyrolyze them?

    • Gaming TV

      We need quality rather than quantity

    • Undead ExoTitan

      My question is, what is your goal or “endpoint” for your survival practice? Are you planning on eventually going fully into the Iron age if possible? I would imagine finding enough iron ore to do so would be the limiting factor.

    • Joe D

      @Primitive Technology Just straya things

    • Midas Keyboard

      Hello primitive technology, I just wanted to let you know that you are an inspiration to me, and I’ve been watching your videos since I was a child when these videos first started rolling out, you’ve helped me learn and grow not just in life skills but as a person. I’ve done a lot of research about the man behind this channel and I appreciate how much work you put into your videos. I’m very glad you’re back on the platform, as your absence gave me a scare! But I love to watch you do what you love to do while teaching us in the process 🙂 good day ❤

  12. Chauncey Lockwood

    I learned how to make charcoal from one of your older videos and I’ve used it for my Biolite stove ever since! It’s so legit to just throw in a ziplock and go for a camp. It burns hotter and longer just like you said! And I did a little tiny batch in my backyard

  13. LordHonkInc

    I am most likely never going to need the information I’ve learned in this video, but god damn if it isn’t just incredibly fun to learn it. This channel really is one of the peak examples of what makes Youtube a remarkable platform.

  14. Benjamin Jones

    Until yesterday, I didn’t know you were posting again. I’ve binged every video since you’ve been gone. It’s been better and more relaxing than ever.

  15. Oskar

    I love how he warns us to be careful of venomous insects as if we are following along at home in our homemade brick shelters 😂

    • Edward L.

      @Eggo Slayer It’s living with the scorpions now.

    • Eggo Slayer

      @Edward L. yeah lol. I love how he dropped that so casually. “Also there’s a bunch of scorpions in the roof by the way” lol

    • tinareilly

      @Eggo Slayer Wonder if that’s why he built the smoky fires inside the hut & said the smoke fumigates the house?

    • Eggo Slayer

      @tinareilly Yeah hopefully lol. I mean, it feels like a problem you really should solve instead of just let it happen lol

  16. Motivating Philms

    I’ve been watching your videos for 7 years, it has been amazing watching your journey and it always makes me happy to see a new video of yours!

  17. Breaking Barriers 2 DIY

    I love the style with how these are put together. Such great content so well done.

  18. ChaosPotato

    I absolutely love that despite proving a thousand times you can light a fire with the stick spinning technique, you still do it every time. 100% commitment, no shortcuts. Except maybe the pants but Youtube wouldn’t like you to take them off I guess

    • Tristan Ridley

      That’s how I describe this channel to friends. “Everything you see he made in a previous video. He started off in the woods with his own bare hands and pants. And he only has the pants for our benefit, never uses thread from them to cheat or such.”

  19. Tunality

    Never have I been more grateful to live where the scorpions and centipedes stay relatively small.
    I love that this channel is about more than survival skills. I love the varied glimpses into how our thousands of years worth of ancestors must have lived, you know, just day-to-day. The effort, time, innovation and plain hard work that went into everyday living before the modern world is amazing. Thank you for researching and sharing these skills and knowledge.

  20. J.L Bigboote

    I always love to see a new video from you. The channel is a favorite for a variety of reasons, but their serene nature, the care given and the passion in what you’re doing are a big part of it.