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Muddy Faces

Making charcoal

How to make charcoal from pieces of willow.

Art & Creating

Introduction

Charcoal is a lovely resource for artists and even better if you can make some yourself. It's amazing how quickly the willow transforms!


Key Features

Useful items from our shop

Item available from our shop

Environmental Considerations

Consider the environmental impact of preparing, carrying out & completing this activity. Could this impact be reduced? Specific considerations for this activity could include:

  • leave no trace
  • smoke from fire

Health & Safety Considerations

Follow your usual operating procedures and carry out appropriate risk benefit assessments.
Some considerations particular to this activity include:

What you'll need

  • bypass pruners
  • finger-width, freshly-cut green hazel or willow sticks, about 5cm long
  • tin with hole in the lid (hammer, nail, tin)
  • calico/cotton sheet/paper
  • fire glove
  • campfire

This activity has been provided by



Light your campfire and let it burn down to embers.

Prepare a tin that is big enough to fit your pieces of green wood in (a used travel sweet tin is a good size).

Make a hole in the tin by hammering a nail through the lid: place the lid on a small block of wood and hammer the nail through the lid into the wood, then pull apart; this will stop the lid deforming.

Art & Creating

Step #1

Using secateurs, cut your willow into lengths (approx. 6cm). Allow for some shrinkage in the diameter.

Top tip: Cut a selection of widths to increase the chance of a good fit if you are going to place it inside an elder pencil.

Art & Creating

Step #2

Place your green wood in the tin and replace the lid.

Don’t overfill the tin as the pressure of gas could force the top off the tin.

Art & Creating

Step #3

Place the tin in the hot embers.

Art & Creating

Step #4

White smoke will come out of the hole in the lid.

The smoke will then change to a vapour that is likely to burn as a flame out of the hole.

When this flame no longer appears remove the tin from the fire and let it cool.

This whole process will probably take a few minutes.

Art & Creating

Step #5

Remove the lid and take out the charcoal sticks.


Take it further:

Use a piece of elder to make a holder for your charcoal – see our elder pencil making activity.


Disclaimer: Muddy Faces cannot take any responsibility for accidents or damage that occurs as a result of following this activity.You are responsible for making sure the activity is conducted safely.

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