DIY Charcoal

2 minutes


Charcoal is a common drawing material, used all over the world, found everywhere between ancient rock art and contemporary art galleries. This recipe will show you how to make your own which you can use immediately or can be crushed or ground and added to a medium to make paint or mixed with wax to make your own crayons.
We use willow for our charcoal, in sticks no more than 1cm in diameter. You can use other wood but willow is ideal as it is common along water ways, grows in long straight branches and the bark peels off easily.


•    Freshly cut willow sticks
•    Dry wood and matches to make a small fire


•    Secateurs
•    Knife
•    Sturdy clean metal tin
•    Hammer and nail
•    Fire Pit or safe place to make a fire


  1. Gather some long, straight sticks from the tree cutting them carefully with your secateurs.
  2. Trim off any leave and debark your sticks by scraping the up and down the length of the stick using the dull edge of your knife.
  3. Cut your sticks to size so that they fit the height /with if your tin.
  4. Fill the tin with the debarked sticks, making sure they fit tightly in the tin. There should be no room for them to move and rattle around.
  5. Pierce the centre of the lid with the hammer and nail 2 -3 times, making some small holes to allow the gasses released by the wood out when firing.
  6. Put the lid on the full tin, making sure it fits on tightly. You may want to secure it with wire as if it comes off in the fire, your sticks will be flooded with oxygen and catch fire, they’ll burn to ash, not charcoal!
  7. Set your fire, like you would a small camp fire and put the tin in the middle of it.
  8. Light the fire and allow it to burn around the tin.
  9. You may need to put more wood on it to allow it to burn for about an hour, to ensure the sticks inside the tin get hot  (400 degrees Centigrade) right through to the centre.
  10. Enjoy the fire!
  11. Allow the fire to go out and the tin to cool down completely before opening it. If the sticks are not cold and oxygen gets in when you open the tin, the sticks might ignite and burn away.
    Open the tin, get using your charcoal!


You can make charcoal in your fireplace or stove at home as your fire.