Modern Peasant Mar 29, 2023

By Modern Peasant.

Charcoal, oh charcoal, useful as can be, A fuel for the fire, so hot and so free.


Charcoal has been used as a fuel for cooking and heating for thousands of years, and the history of charcoal making can be traced back to ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians, Greeks, Britons and Romans. In the past, charcoal was made by burning wood in a low-oxygen environment, which resulted in a fuel that burned hotter and more cleanly than wood. This method of charcoal production remained relatively unchanged until the 19th century, when large-scale commercial production began using retorts and kilns. Today, charcoal is still widely used for cooking, grilling, and heating, and sustainable methods of charcoal production are being developed to reduce the impact on the environment.

Modern Charcoal Retort


  1. Poisoning treatment: Charcoal is commonly used in hospitals to treat poisoning and drug overdoses. It works by binding to the toxins in the digestive system and preventing them from being absorbed into the bloodstream.
  2. Digestive health: Charcoal supplements may help relieve digestive issues such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea by adsorbing excess gas and toxins in the gut.
  3. Teeth whitening: Activated charcoal can be used as a natural teeth whitening remedy. Its abrasive properties help remove stains and plaque from teeth.
  4. Skin care: Charcoal face masks and cleansers can help draw out impurities and toxins from the skin, leaving it feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
  5. Water purification: Charcoal is a natural water filter and is commonly used in water treatment systems to remove impurities and contaminants.
  6. Air purification: Charcoal is also used in air filters to remove pollutants and improve indoor air quality.
  7. Composting: Charcoal can be added to compost piles to help absorb excess moisture and odors, and to provide a source of carbon for beneficial microorganisms.
  8. Soil improvement: Charcoal can be used as a soil amendment to improve soil structure, increase water retention, and provide a slow-release source of nutrients.
  9. Sustainable energy: Charcoal can be used as a renewable energy source for cooking and heating, particularly in areas where wood fuel is scarce or expensive.
  10. Wildlife habitat: Charcoal production can help create new habitats for wildlife, as the charcoal kilns and piles provide shelter and nesting sites for birds and other small animals.


During the 18th century, charcoal played an important role in the development of the British iron industry. At that time, wood was the primary source of fuel for iron furnaces, but it was becoming scarce due to deforestation. As a result, iron producers began experimenting with other fuels, including coal and charcoal.

Charcoal Retort

Charcoal proved to be a popular alternative to wood because it produced hotter and cleaner-burning fires, resulting in higher-quality iron. However, producing charcoal required large amounts of wood, which was still in short supply. To solve this problem, iron producers began building charcoal kilns that were more efficient and used less wood.

One notable figure in this history is Abraham Darby, an iron-master who is credited with developing a method of using coke (a derivative of coal) as a fuel for iron production.

Abraham Darby, looking forlorn. 

Darby's innovations helped to pave the way for the transition from charcoal to coal as the primary fuel for the British iron industry, which was a significant factor in the Industrial Revolution.




Wisssht! Lads had yor gobs; An aa'll tell ye aall an aaful story