Charcoal burner

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A charcoal burner on his charcoal pile
Charcoal burning in Grünburg near Steyrbruch

Köhler (also Kohler, Kähler or Kohlbrenner) describes a profession whose job it is to produce charcoal . To do this, wood is charred in a charcoal kiln. The associated craft business or activity is called charcoal burning .

In contrast to other trades, the charcoal burner is not a training profession.

Charcoal burning is one of the oldest handicraft techniques known to man. The knowledge and products from charcoal burning still make an important contribution to the industry today, for example, the Schwäbische Hüttenwerke in Aalen uses charcoal for hardening brake discs in cars, Daimler in Stuttgart uses the consistently long-lasting heat to repair molds in which Engine blocks are cast and Weleda in Schwäbisch Gmünd uses them to produce charcoal compretten against diarrhea. Due to their historical and cultural significance, the charcoal burner trade and tar smelling were included in the list of intangible cultural heritage in Germany by the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs in December 2014 .

History and technology

Since the Middle Ages charcoal is in kilns manufactured for iron smelting , but also for glass production and processing of precious metals . With the increased use of hard coal from the 18th century, the charcoal industry then declined more and more.

A charcoal burning near Sosa ( Ore Mountains )
The charcoal burner race in Paris, February 1904

In Europe, the non-industrial charcoal burning is only sporadically operated, in Hasselfelde (Harz) [1] or in Heidenheim near Aalen are probably among the last charcoal burners in Germany. In the areas around the Napf in central Switzerland , around fifteen charcoal burners produce around ninety to one hundred tons of charcoal per year and form the largest concentration of charcoal burners in Central Europe. Outside of Central and Northern Europe, the charcoal burning is still operated commercially. Only rudimentary in Europe, for example in Romania, otherwise in the tropical forests of South America and Africa. Until well into the 20th century, charcoal burners in wooded areas, such as in the Harz and the Thuringian Forest , used Hillebill (sounding beech wood boards) as an alarm and information instrument . The name of a mountain range in the Harz Mountains called "Hillebille" still reminds us of these times . Today, the tradition of this old craft is largely upheld by associations, including the European charcoal association and the Glasofen charcoal association.

In the mid-1960s there were still two charcoal burners in the Black Forest: one near Enzklösterle , which supplied the Pforzheim gold goods industry, and one in Langenbach in Untermünstertal , whose customers were nearby metal goods factories.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, charcoal has been increasingly industrially produced by charring. Production is mainly carried out by chemical companies such as Degussa , Bayer and Hoechst . The companies are less concerned with charcoal. They are more interested in the extraction of chemical products such as wood vinegar , wood gas and tar , which are produced during the charring process. Charcoal itself is used for filter technology or also for black powder production.

Environmental pollution

The charcoal burning process is associated with considerable damage to the air and soil. About a third of the dry weight of wood is emitted into the atmosphere in the form of pyrolysis products . Another part of the pyrolysis products that occur as liquids, such as wood tar , is responsible for soil contamination .

See also


  • Vincenz Dietrich: The whole of the charring in standing kilns or the so-called Italian charcoal burning, worked on after 30 years of practical experience and operating results in Hieflau and Upper Styria . Kienrich, Graz 1847 ( digitized version ).
  • Karl Hasel , Ekkehard Schwartz : Forest history. A floor plan for study and practice . 2nd updated edition. Kessel, Remagen 2002, ISBN 3-935638-26-4 .
  • Thomas Strauch: From charcoal burners, soot burners and resin collectors - historical forest professions related to wood processing. In the yearbook for the miners' calendar 2007, pages 173 to 180. Published by Deutsche Steinkohle AG.
  • Christoph Sager: The charcoal burning process as a source of emissions through the ages . In: Hazardous substances - keeping the air clean 75 (5) (2015), pp. 181–182, ISSN  0949-8036

Web links

Commons : Charcoal burning  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Hans Markus Thomsen: Köhler: The workers in the forest were regarded as gullible eccentrics . In: THE WORLD . April 22, 2004 ( [accessed June 29, 2020]).
  2. a b Markus Schleufe: The Lord of the Smoke Signals . In: The time . November 24, 2015, accessed July 22, 2020 .
  3. a b Peter Ilg, DER SPIEGEL: A strange job: Köhler makes charcoal by hand - DER SPIEGEL - Job & Career. Retrieved June 29, 2020 .
  4. Press release of the Standing Conference
  5. ^ Smokey Mountain in Manila ( October 29, 2012 memento in the Internet Archive ), accessed February 15, 2012.
  6. ^ The last Koehler von Romania, GEO report from March 2, 2013
  7. Köhler camps in Brazil ( Memento of 13 November 2013, Internet Archive )
  8. " ÖKO-TEST in June 2009: Charcoal from South America and Africa ( Memento from November 6, 2013 in the web archive )"
  9. Alfons Schäfer: History of the village Todtnauberg - from the medieval mining settlement to the modern health resort, Todtnauberg 1966, p. 38 f.
  10. Christoph Sager: The charcoal burning process as a source of emissions in the course of time . Hazardous substances - keeping the air clean , Volume 75 (2015) 5, pp. 181–182, ISSN  0949-8036
  11. ^ Johannes Welling, Bernward Wosnitza: Meilerverfahren . in: Martin Kaltschmitt , Hans Hartmann, Hermann Hofbauer: Energy from Biomass - Fundamentals, Techniques and Processes , 2nd edition, Springer Verlag, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-540-85094-6 , pp. 691-694