Here's a checklist of things you need to consider when planning a biochar burn:
- You need a water source, first of all, both for safety and for quenching the char.
- Several shovels and rakes for spreading and cooling the char when it's done.
- Old steel roofing material is helpful for spreading and cooling the char without getting dirt or other contamination.
- Dry wood. A moisture meter is helpful. It's not very efficient to use wood that is more than 20% moisture.
- Safety - Helpers should all have leather gloves and wear cotton or wool clothing that won't melt. These piles can put out a lot of heat! It is good for at least one person to have a fire helmet and a face shield.
- You may need to get a burn permit from the local officials.
- Ignition - I use a propane weed burner type torch for ignition, but all you need is a match if you have plenty of dry kindling. Light it on the top.
- Make sure the kindling is somewhat densely packed so it will sustain a flame and allow the flame to move down to the lower layers. It seems slow to start but pretty soon you'll find the whole pile is ablaze.
- Use a wind screen if conditions are breezy. Even if wind is not a factor, a wind screen will help hold in heat for a safer and more efficient biochar burn.