The manufacture of charcoal in kilns was declared many years ago, after a series of experiments made in poorly constructed furnaces, to be unprofitable, and the subject is dismissed by most writers with the remark, that in order to use the method economically the products of distillation, both liquid and gaseous, must be collected. T. Egleston, Ph.D., of the School of Mines, New York, has read a paper on the subject before the American Institute of Mining Engineers, from which we extract as follows: As there are many SILVER DISTRICTS IN THE WEST where coke cannot be had at such a price as will allow of its being used, and where the ores are of such a nature that wood cannot be used in a reverberatory furnace, the most economical method of making charcoal is an important question.

Kilns for the manufacture of charcoal are made of almost any shape and size, determined in most cases by the fancy of the builder or by the necessities of the shape of the ground selected. They do not differ from each other in any principle of manufacture, nor does there seem to be any appreciable difference in the quality of the fuel they produce, when the process is conducted with equal care in the different varieties; but there is a considerable difference in the yield and in the cost of the process in favor of small over large kilns. The different varieties have come into and gone out of use mainly on account of the cost of construction and of repairs. The object of a kiln is to replace the cover of a meiler by a permanent structure. Intermediate between the meiler and the kiln is the Foucauld system, the object of which is to replace the cover by a structure more or less permanent, which has all the disadvantages of both systems, with no advantages peculiar to itself.

The kilns which are used may be divided into the rectangular, the round, and the conical, but the first two seem to be disappearing before the last, which is as readily built and much more easily managed.

All Varieties Of Kilns

Are usually built of red brick, or, rarely, of brick and stone together. Occasionally, refractory brick is used, but it is not necessary. The foundations are usually made of stone. There are several precautions necessary in constructing the walls. The brick should be sufficiently hard to resist the fire, and should therefore be tested before using. It is an unnecessary expense to use either second or third quality fire-brick. As the pyroligneous acid which results from the distillation of the wood attacks lime mortar, it is best to lay up the brick with fire-clay mortar, to which a little salt has been added; sometimes loam mixed with coal-tar, to which a little salt is also added, is used. As the principal office of this mortar is to fill the joints, special care must be taken in laying the bricks that every joint is broken, and frequent headers put in to tie the bricks together. It is especially necessary that all the joints should be carefully filled, as any small open spaces would admit air, and would materially decrease the yield of the kiln. The floor of the kiln was formerly made of two rows of brick set edgewise and carefully laid, but latterly it is found to be best made of clay. Any material, however, that will pack hard may be used.

It must be well beaten down with paving mauls. The center must be about six inches higher than the sides, which are brought up to the bottom of the lower vents. Most kilns are carefully pointed, and are then painted on the outside with a wash of clay suspended in water, and covered with a coating of coal-tar, which makes them waterproof, and does not require to be renewed for several years.



The kilns were formerly roofed over with rough boards to protect the masonry from the weather, but as no special advantage was found to result from so doing, since of late years they have been made water-proof, the practice has been discontinued.

The wood used is cut about one and a fifth meters long. The diameter is not considered of much importance, except in so far as it is desirable to have it as nearly uniform as possible. When most of the wood is small, and only a small part of it is large, the large pieces are usually split, to make it pack well. It has been found most satisfactory to have three rows of vents around the kiln, which should be provided with a cast-iron frame reaching to the inside of the furnace. The vents near the ground are generally five inches high--the size of two bricks--and four inches wide--the width of one--and the holes are closed by inserting one or two bricks in them. They are usually the size of one brick, and larger on the outside than on the inside. These holes are usually from 0.45 m. to 0.60 m. apart vertically, and from 0.80 m. to 0.90 m. apart horizontally. The lower vents start on the second row of the brickwork above the foundation, and are placed on the level with the floor, so that the fire can draw to the bottom. There is sometimes an additional opening near the top to allow of the rapid escape of the smoke and gas at the time of firing, which is then closed, and kept closed until the kiln is discharged. This applies mostly to the best types of conical kilns.

In the circular and conical ones the top charging door is sometimes used for this purpose. Hard and soft woods are burned indifferently in the kilns. Hard-wood coal weighs more than soft, and the hard variety of charcoal is usually preferred for blast furnaces, and for such purposes there is an advantage of fully 33-1/3 per cent. or even more in using hard woods. For the direct process in the bloomaries, soft-wood charcoal is preferred. It is found that it is not usually advantageous to build kilns of over 160 to 180 cubic meters in capacity. Larger furnaces have been used, and give as good a yield, but they are much more cumbersome to manage. The largest yield got from kilns is from 50 to 60 bushels for hard wood to 50 for soft wood. The average yield, however, is about 45 bushels. In meilers, two and a half to three cords of wood are required for 100 bushels, or 30 to 40 bushels to the cord. The kiln charcoal is very large, so that the loss in fine coal is very much diminished. The pieces usually come out the whole size, and sometimes the whole length of the wood.

The rectangular kilns were those which were formerly exclusively in use. They are generally built to contain from 30 to 90 cords of wood. The usual sizes are given in the table below:

 1 2 3 4

Length 50 40 40 48

Width 12 15 14 17

Height 12 15 18 18

Capacity, in cords 55 70 75 90 

1 and 2. Used in New England. 3. Type of those used in Mexico. 4. Kiln at Lauton, Mich.

The arch is usually an arc of a circle. A kiln of the size of No. 4, as constructed at the Michigan Central Iron Works, with a good burn, will yield 4,000 bushels of charcoal.

The vertical walls in the best constructions are 12 to 13 feet high, and 1-½ brick thick, containing from 20 to 52 bricks to the cubic foot of wall. To insure sufficient strength to resist the expansion and contraction due to the heating and cooling, they should be provided with buttresses which are 1 brick thick and 2 wide, as at Wassaic, New York; but many of them are built without them, as at Lauton, Michigan, as shown in the engraving. In both cases they are supported with strong braces, from 3 to 4 feet apart, made of round or hewn wood, or of cast iron, which are buried in the ground below, and are tied above and below with iron rods, as in the engraving, and the lower end passing beneath the floor of the kiln. When made of wood they are usually 8 inches square or round, or sometimes by 8 inches placed edgewise. They are sometimes tied at the top with wooden braces of the same size, which are securely fastened by iron rods running through the corners, as shown. When a number of kilns are built together, as at the Michigan Central Iron Works, at Lauton, Michigan, shown in the plan view, only the end kilns are braced in this way. The intermediate ones are supported below by wooden braces, securely fastened at the bottom.

The roof is always arched, is one brick, or eight inches, thick, and is laid in headers, fourteen being used in each superficial foot. Many of the kilns have in the center a round hole, from sixteen to eighteen inches in diameter, which is closed by a cast iron plate. It requires from 35 M. to 40 M. brick for a kiln of 45 cords, and 60 M. to 65 M. for one of 90 cords.

The belief that population in the West Indies is stationary is so far from accurate that, as Sir Anthony Musgrave points out, it is increasing more rapidly than the population of the United Kingdom. The statistics of population show an increase of 16 per cent. on the last decennial period, while the increase in the United Kingdom in the ten years preceding the last census was under 11 per cent. This increase appears to be general, and is only slightly influenced by immigration. "The population of the West Indies," adds Sir A. Musgrave, "is now greater than that of any of the larger Australian colonies, and three times that of New Zealand."