How to make charcoal for kindling [step-by-step guide]

Self-made charcoal is perfect for kindling. To always have some with you, make it yourself before heading into the wilderness.

from Martin Gebhardt | Survival | reading time 1 Min
Updated on 29 May 2023 11.690 views 100% found this guide helpful
How to make charcoal for kindling [step-by-step guide]

Martin Gebhardt

From Martin Gebhardt. Check out my “About me” page.

👉 The key facts from this guide

  • Self-made charcoal is perfect for kindling in the wilderness
  • Use old wood for the best results, as it quickly turns to charcoal
  • Cut the wood into small finger-length pieces
  • Place the wood in a metal can with a hole and put the can in a fire
  • Let the can cool for at least 15 minutes
  • The self-made charcoal will glow perfectly and is easy to transport

You need to have tinder in stock.

Otherwise, it can happen that you can't find any when you urgently need it.

Self-made charcoal is perfect for this.

With your fire steel, you can create embers in just a few seconds.

Today, I will show you how to easily and quickly make charcoal.

1. Search for wood for charring

First, you require your starting material: wood for charring.

Old wood from a tree stump is particularly good because it is airy and quickly charred.

An old tree stump
An old tree stump

Make sure that the wood is really dry, otherwise the charring will take longer.

Other woods also work. However, I have had the best experience with this soft and airy wood (also known as punk wood).

You should cut the wood into small finger-length pieces. The larger the pieces, the longer the charring takes.

2. Pack the wood into a tin can

Now you require a durable tin can with a hole. This hole is necessary, so you must not forget it.

The vapors escape through this hole during the charring process.

If no hole is present, the vapors do not escape and charring does not occur.

Because no oxygen reaches the wood, it does not burn. The heat chars the wood.

3. Place the can with the wood in a fire

Then you make a fire and place the can directly in it.

It looks something like this:

Can with hole in fire
Can with hole in fire

As you can see, white smoke is coming out of the hole (in the center of the lid at the top).

Turn the can several times and let it get really hot.

The charring is only finished when no more smoke or steam comes out of the can.

The charring process takes at least 30 minutes, depending on the type of wood and the thickness of the wood.

When the charring is finished, remove the can from the fire and let it cool for at least 15 minutes.

Attention: If you open the can right away, the charred wood can ignite due to the fresh oxygen. Leave it closed for now.

Before-after comparison

Here you can see my result. On the left is the charred wood. It is slightly brittle, but easy to transport because it is light.

On the right, you can see my starting material: wood from a tree stump.

Wood before and after charring
Wood before and after charring

The charring was finished after about 30 minutes. After it had cooled down, I tested it immediately with my fire steel.

As you can see, the self-made charcoal glows perfectly. That's what I call good starting material for a later tinder nest.

Charcoal glowing
Charcoal glowing

Also check out my instructions for charred cotton. If you're looking for the ideal tinder, you won't want to miss this.

And in my book "The Fire Primer" you will find my collected knowledge about fire.

Now I would like to know from you, what kind of kindling do you prefer to use?

Or have you already made your own charcoal?

Take care, Martin
Martin Gebhardt

Martin Gebhardt

Hey, I'm Martin. On my blog, you will learn the basics and numerous details about living in the wild. I think survival, bushcraft and the good life in nature are the keys to happiness. Find me here on Instagram or on YouTube. You can find more about my mission on the About Me page.

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