DIY: Homemade drawing charcoal

I wanted to test using drawing charcoal with my drawing machines, and decided to try to make my own instead of buying from eBay.

Charcoal is made by burning (cooking?) wood in an oxygen-starved environment.

I took a tea-leaf tin (bought in Tokyo many years ago, sad to see it go), and punched a small hole in the lid. For my first test I used cuttings from a blackcurrant bush that has been left to dry outside for a few seasons. I looked for fairly straight pieces, cut them with garden shears to fit in the thin, and put the lid on. In the evening, I made a fire in the wood stove, and placed the tin in the flames. I just left it there until the next morning.

The result turned out really great, and I especially liked that all the fine delicate details of the twigs stayed intact, even most of the bark stayed in place. I was also surprised that none of the twigs snapped. Even the thinnest came out perfect!

What’s next? You can see my first test drawing towards the bottom of this page, and I’ll update this page with other drawings later. I’m especially looking forward to testing charcoal made from different trees and shrubs, to see if there are differences.

Update: If you are an artist and want to test my charcoals I’d be happy to send you some. Send an email to morten.skogly@gmail.com. I’d love to get your feedback on how they work compared to commercial drawing charcoals.


Green tea leaf tin


Punching a small hole in the lid with an awl.


Twigs cut to size with garden shears


Snug as a bug.


Pretty pieces!


Charcoals pensils in all shapes and sizes.

Elise, Charcoal
First test using charcoal with my drawing machine.

We must be kind. Original artwork drawing in charcoal.
We must be kind. Original artwork drawing in charcoal.