History Of Retorts

My interest in charcoal started when I visited a self build eco house. At the end of the tour the house owner said that his next project was to build a gasifier. I enquired what was a gasifier and was told that you basically heat up wood, clean the smoke and the feed it into an engine as fuel. This engine then would be attached to a generator and produce electricity. When I got home I started to research gasifiers and how they worked.

During my research Biochar kept on being talked about as a by product of gasification and how it is a good soil amendment. Biochar is a important part of Terra Preta which is a dark fertile soil found in the Amazon.

As a person who enjoys gardening and grows a few vegetables I like the idea of adding biochar to my garden to improve the soil. Not wanting to buy in charcoal made the other side of the world I set about seeing how I could make it. I started of small by building an ‘Anila stove’, but found out that it produced very small quantities of charcoal. I enlarged it and made my “smoke free biochar retort”. Then wanting to make larger quantities I built a ‘barrel in barrel’ retort. I was still fairly small quantities of charcoal. Then I came up with the concept of the Hookway Charcoal Retort. Over the years I carried on refining the design until I came up with the the stainless steel retort.

The main goals I had when designing the retort were

  • Portable.
  • Easy to use.
  • Environmentally friendly.
  • Easy to build.

The Hookway charcoal retort is now being built all over the world.

Hookway Retort | Charcoal Making