Locating Scraps for Charcoal

Advice on finding sawmill offcuts and byproducts for use as feedstock for a charcoal kiln. October 3, 2009

I am running a small kiln to burn various hardwoods into solid lump charcoal. I am looking into the possibility of obtaining scrap pieces from sawmills for my operations.

To the sawyers out there: What are your thoughts on this? Would you be interested in getting rid of some of your scraps and waste? To me, hardwoods, especially hickory, are the most useful. But I can make use of softwoods as well. I am located in Indiana, and right now obtain most of my wood either from my own shop scrap or from fallen trees and branch wood.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor A:
Here there is a charcoal plant and it makes charcoal out of hardwood slabs. They cook it in large kilns and then scoop it out with wheel loaders. They pay about $10 a bundle which is about 4 ft in diameter and 8 to 10 ft long. Most mills that make railroad ties will have cut-offs and many sell them for firewood. I have cut offs from boards that come out of the kiln and we S4S them and trim.

From contributor T:
If it's not too far, then consider the train loads of broken limbs and downed trees caused by the recent once-in-a-lifetime ice storm that hit southern Indiana, northern Kentucky (near the Ohio River) and parts of W. Virginia. People are piling the debris along the road right-of-ways. The local government crews are picking this stuff up, but I don't know where they are taking it. The first round of cleanup will probably take 3-4 months. Everybody wants it gone. This is not a buyer's market - it's a taker's market. The prevailing attitude is: Oh! You want to take it? Let me help you load it. Can you come back for more?

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the responses. No, Southern IN and Kentucky aren't really too far for me, so that might be something to check into. We actually have quite a bit of ice and wind damage up here too (though not like they have). These supplies will all last for a little while, but I am looking into a consistent supply for the future.

From contributor S:
The bigger sawmills and concentration yards that upgrade their lumber by cutting off should be a good source for this material. If you want strictly hickory, check with some local loggers. If you can pay cash and pay a little more a ton than they are getting for pulpwood, you can probably have truckloads of small to medium size hickory delivered.