Birch tar and charcoal

Birch tar is an important ingredient in my artwork and its great fun to make so I do it fairly regularly. The problem has been getting enough good birch bark which will peel off easily so this is an experiment to see if birch sticks will work and leave me with some birch charcoal instead of just carbonised bark at the end. Firstly get two tins, a large sweet tin and a bean can size tin. Pack the large tin tightly with sticks cut to length and of widths that would make good drawing charcoal. Use a nail to pierce a hole from the inside of the lid of the larger tin before sealing it. Denting it from the inside allows the tar to flow easliy down the hole.

Next, sink the small tin into the ground up to the rim at a suitable site to light a fire.

Place the large tin upside down on top and secure with dry stones or masonry. Stones that have moisture in them may explode so either reuse stones you know are dry or collect them from high ground.

Build a fire all around the tins. Windfall birch is great fuel with all the offcuts of the sticks making good kindling.

Build it big enough to burn for about two hours and rearange it as it burns down to ensure and even heat.

Once its burnt out allow to cool and carefully sweep away the ashes.

Time to open it up and see what we got.

It produces slightly less tar than the bark method but theres a whole tin of good quality charcoal where there would have been just carbonised bark before. I use the tar for the black on my parchment work, see the artwork section.