Wood briquettes are an economical alternative to charcoal or firewood logs. They are made of highly compressed wood trimmings, sawdust and other woodworking waste. They can burn for hours, making them a good choice for materials that would otherwise be thrown away. With the right equipment and a little know-how, you can make your own wood briquettes at home.
First, you'll need a briquette press. There are many different makers and models from which to choose. For most homes, a small briquette press is adequate. Though initially expensive, a briquette press is an investment that could eventually save you quite a bit of money in firewood expenses.
Briquette presses can also be made using a kit, briquette mould, and wood shop equipment. Manuals for building briquette presses can be purchased online.
Next, you'll need to collect the briquette materials. Sawdust, wood shavings and small, dry wood trimmings can all be used. Make sure that the materials have not been chemically treated or varnished. Nearby wood and carpentry shops likely will be happy to donate or sell you their sawdust for a nominal price.
You can press the material as-is, or char it beforehand, particularly if the material is comprised of larger scraps or wood trimmings. Charring the material will give it a more charcoal-like aroma when lit and will also make it easier to ignite. You can char material in a Dutch oven, kiln, or other stoneware receptacle. According to BlogJamDC.com, the material is charred at 454 to 510 degrees Celsius.
Commercially made briquette presses are usually operated with a switch, and some require preheating. Turn the machine on, and load the material into the feeder. If your press has a cooling or smoke removal system, activate it as instructed. Home-built presses may be operated with a vice or a crank. Always follow your equipment's instructions, and never feed more material into the press than the manual states.
Wood briquettes can be stored easily due to their uniform shape, size and weight. To keep them ready for use, store the briquettes in a dry place, away from open flames.
Always follow the instructions when operating dangerous equipment, like a briquette press. Check your local sustainability groups for workshops or seminars on creating and using your own wood briquettes.
Some wood briquettes, depending on their material and compression, burn much hotter than coal or firewood.