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Looking for two items here in Thailand

1/ 55 and 30 gallon drums for making a BIOchar reactor.
2/ A shredder (gasoline) which can handle full sized palm fronds for making mulch.

Any help would be much appreciated.

P.s. Here is a nice video on the BIOchar reactor build:

  1. I got a metal barrel / drum from a motorbike repair shop. I forget how many liters it holds, but it is big, like 55-gallon drums. The mechanic at the shop just gave it to me saying he had more than he could use. He gets drums of motor oil. I’d think auto repair shops would be at least as likely to have those barrels that they’d be more than happy to just give away.
  2. I was thinking to ask the local tech college if they could make one. In the end, I’ve decided to ask a friend to make one for me. I want mine to be able to accept biofuel, like spent cooking oil.

I watched the video. I noted that there aren’t many dislikes, but there are lots of negative comments, some of them fairly detailed. I’m wondering what about this method appeals to you.

I know very little about biochar, charcoal, and the various processes for making them, but wanna make some. You know charred rice husks, yeah? (แกลบดำ / แกลบเผา) Pretty common here in Thailand. I wonder how that compares with other things as a biochar.

Thank you for your reply. I did more research and found a much nicer presentation with excellent information on the history and uses of Bio Char. Here are the two videos if you would like to see them:

The build seems easier and more achievable. I am not so concerned with finding the common 55 gallon drum after reading peoples advise, but the smaller inner barrel could be tough here in Thailand. If anybody happens on this thread and has seen them for sale please let me know.

I project my way forward as:

1/ Buy a chipper and create lots of mulch to help build my soils.
2/ Make biochar and inoculate with EM solution.
3/ Spread liberally on my mulched grow areas.
4/ Build up the richness of my soil and swing the soil more towards 6.2 (most is in the high 5’s at the moment) with lime etc…

My learning curve here is harder and action is much slower. Like walking in syrup. With language and my location being challenging.

Any input or ideas are always welcome.

Thank you


I managed to make some good biochar with a single 55 gallon drum but it was old and the burn accelerated it’s demise. I just sealed most of the holes with clay, put some old tin roofing around it and made a big fire around it. Getting two drums that fitted inside each other etc seems a bit difficult in remote Philippines when you don’t speak the language etc. It worked ok but you use more wood. I try to encourage composting and not burning everything but that’s what they tend to do here.

Like your plan Simon :slight_smile: Do you know of Matt Powers? He’s doing some great videos, and has worked with some excellent teachers and experienced farmers to make his own videos and courses. He’s worked a lot with Elaine Ingham, who I think is awesome :slight_smile:

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Hello and sorry if my English is a bit hard to understand but here goes.

If you want to build one yourself than you can ignore my message.
So I have bought wood chipper from this website before and it work fine enough for me.
They have different size that might suit your need. Also they will delivery and demonstrate on site free of charge.

Example video:
S: 1 - 2 inch in diameter of hardwood (Bamboo, Mango branch etc)

M: 1.5 - 2.5 inch in diameter

L: 2 - 3 inch in diameter

XL: 3 - 4 inch in diameter

XL (Connect to Tractor) : 3 - 4 inch in diameter

XXL: 3 - 4 inch in diameterเครื่องสับย่อยอเนกประสงค์

Also on the Biochar barrel you might be interest in making wood vinegar from condensing the smoke that came out of burning the wood have a lot of benefit you might be interest in as well.

PS: If you need help in translate Thai or ask any question than please pm me.
PSS: Have you try cover crop for mulch as well?

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This is a mulcher we use at our ecosystem restoration project in Uthai Thani. We have the CM95420K from Truyard (key start). It has proven useful for hard woods as well as softer and thinner materials like water hyacinth. Palm fronds should be no problem.

Truyard Brochure CM95.pdf (338.8 KB)

you could use bricks to make the outer chamber, if you’re having trouble finding 2 barrels of appropriate size. I also saw a method using one barrel that was cut with an opening on one side - about 15-20% of the barrel. Then you just keep adding wood so that the lower wood gets starved of air. It produced less waste and ash.

Thank you for your very helpful reply, I will probably buy one of these once I build a structure to keep it in. Looks really good.

I like the simplicity of the burn style that James suggested but do agree with Palm that wood vinegar is a good thing, so using a style that condenses the smoke is a good idea. Myself, I’ll probably do without the wood vinegar for the time being. Just wanna get started. Thanks Simon, for starting this thread, and to the others for contributing :slight_smile:

An afterthought … it’s easy to find a place selling charcoal. I can get a full sack of bits and finer powdery stuff for 50 baht. If I were to inoculate it with a microbial solution, would there be any difference, aside from the value of DIY and being self-sufficient?

I saw your post. I can not help you locate either of these items but if you bypass the BIOchar preparation and just put charcoal fines in the planting hole and using the Farming Gods Way planting station method you will get the nutrition out of the charcoal in time slow release and the other benefits of the charcoal. This may save you quite a bit of time and energy. I am not sure BIOchar has a lot of extra advantages over just adding charcoal fines to the planting holes which is much easier to do and you can get a lot more planted or do something else more productive with your time in the time you use to make BIOChar

This article could be helpful to you to put the whole issue into perspective. I think of BIOChar as a fad but that is my personal perspective as an agriculturalist.
Also regarding your shredder need. You may not need to shred the palm leaves if you just build your raised beds over them. They will break down in the raised bed or in the compost pile in time. Also I put older material, the stems once the leaves have decomposed in a Zai trench where I am planting vegetables closer together and where I can use the same trench for many years. The stems will turn into humus in a year or two in the trench when soil is placed over the top. Since I don’t bother to spend any extra time with organic matter that is what I do with smaller sticks and rotten wood and older pieces of palm stems. They just go in the trench or even just fallen in the raised bed. I will have fertile soil for many years there.

Hi Dan,

Your answer is very interesting and I want to thank you for taking the time to show another perspective. I have read the black carbon article carefully and see your point. As for Zai, are they suitable for a tropical climate; during rainy season I could see the roots of the crops becoming water logged? You mentioned just burying the palm fronds in raised beds, that is something I will experiment with, but not tropical woods as most of them are full of growth inhibiting compounds. Tried that two years ago and was a failure, although a good lesson. So I try with burying organic matter, adding composted manures and worm castings with a nice thick mulch (keep the weeds down and for the prevention of runoff during the heavy rains)… Thanks once again.

I have never put large logs in the raised bed but sticks and other things that are too small to become appropriate fuelwood. I do use any rotten log or wood material I find. I do know that the fresh bark has antifungal and antibacterial properties in it, Eucalyptus has some allelopathic effects and other trees do too in their leaves. You can get a growth-inhibiting effect from microbes competing for nitrogen as a large amount of organic material breaks down but I generally don’t because I use human urine and it is available to me in large quantities so I can always more than make up for any N that gets tied up by the microbes and the microbes slow release it later. Human urine is a major key to success when using large amounts of organic matter. It is a perfect compliment and then it goes right into the humus as you add it every week or two. I for the purpose of reducing social stigma do not put it on the plant and I put it on in rain events where it washes into the soil and the salt leaches out and it is cloudy weather. In a raised bed you should not get soggy soil as much if you use the Zai holes in the raised beds but if the soil is well drained then you can leave a divit in the Zai hole or if not well drained then you can mound the hole some.