Last night and today I worked on a project I have been wanting to try since I learned about the process a few months ago. If you look up charcoal sticks on any art supply website you might be surprised by what they want to charge you for a few sticks. I figured I could produce them for practically nothing at home and I was right. After reading a few articles and watching some YouTube videos I had the process basically figured out.
Step 1: Cut some fresh tree branches about 1/2 to 3/4″ in diameter, remove the leaves and bark (if possible).
Step 2: Find an empty can (I used empty bean can) with a lid.
Step 3: Cut the branches into lengths that will fit snugly into the can while still allowing you to put the lid on.
Step 4: Fill the can and wire the lid into place. (I wrapped the steel wire around the top and bottom of the can). Make sure it’s not a perfect fit, because the can needs to breath.
Step 5: Get a good fire going, you need lots of flames. Put the can of sticks on the fire.
Step 6: Watch the can to make sure that the steam and other vapors are escaping from the can (some of the vapors may burn, this is normal)
Step 7: After a couple of hours the sticks inside should be done charring, remove the can from the fire (DO NOT OPEN THE CAN!)
Step 8: Allow the can to cool completely, then you can open it. Inside should be some shriveled up black charcoal sticks.
Step 9: Rub the sticks gently to remove any loose particles like bark, the center of the stick should be somewhat firm. (This all depends on what type of wood you used, the harder the wood the harder the charcoal, I used some very soft wood and the small pieces broke rather easy.)
Step 10: Draw and Enjoy!
I went a step further and made charcoal powder from the pieces and particles that were removed from the sticks rather than just throwing these out. Using my kitchen mortar and pestle I ground the pieces into a find powder. I then used an empty pill bottle to store the powder until I need it.