Living treasures of Dorset – Jim Bettle, Charcoal burner.


DorsetLife magazine published a nice article about Jim and the Dorset Charcoal Company on the 15th October 2015.



"You can’t hurry a charcoal burn; patience is required for perfection. As Jim Bettles puts it:‘try and rush any stage of it and it comes back to bite you!’

While waiting, you are in a beautiful wood, listening to birds, taking in your natural surroundings and getting on with a bit of clearing and chopping for the next batch, so it is not too difficult to wait for the kiln to work its magic.

The initial fire is started from the middle and spreads from the centre outwards below the wood, which is piled carefully. There are eight ports coming into the steel kiln. Sixteen sticks are laid on the bottom as runners, carrying a channel into the middle, and a little pile of charcoal from the previous burn is left. Then a raft of timbers is built over the top making a flat level, with some brash or light incendiary material, as a spreading layer, with the timber piled on top. The thinner, drier wood is put to the edge, the coldest part of the kiln. Thus everything has been built up round a chimney, leaving an access hole to a pile of charcoal where embers are introduced to start the fire. In time, 12-24 hours depending on the greenness of the wood, and with the correct restriction of the oxygen supply, charcoal will be produced. Charcoal is composed of 90% carbon, and 10% other chemicals, and is just the same shape as the wood from which it is formed.

Jim is passionate about his work and