Sarah’s Charcoal Project

In the Spindle Tree, Sarah encourages her little brother Packy to develop his skills at art.  Packy loves using charcoal as an art medium.  In early 1960’s Ireland, willow charcoal would not have been available in the shops in town, only in the large cities like Dublin and Cork.  In time she discovered a method in a magazine which gave Packy an endless supply of charcoal.  Packy drew a portrait of Sarah by the haycock and it later disappeared mysteriously.  For those of you who are interested in this, simply follow the directions below.

Warning- This project should be carried out with adult supervision only.

Step 1  Use an old pea can or any similar tin. Do not remove the lid, but leave it like this.


 Gather enough dried willow twigs.  They should be no thicker than a pencil. 45213306_187622248788983_1933685570484043776_n

Fill the can with twigs and close the lid leaving a small space for gases to escape.  The secret is to prevent oxygen from reaching the twigs.  All other gases escape leaving just carbon.


Place the can in a fire.  A stove is ideal.


Leave the can in the fire for at least an hour.  In this experiment, it was in the stove all night. If you need to move it use a tongs.  Do at not attempt to open the tin at this stage or the charcoal will burst into flames.  It is best to let it cool down to room temperature.


Open the tin to see the charcoal.


It is now ready for use.


In the story Packy spent a lot of time making charcoal drawings. This is how this charcoal experiment worked out.  Ignore the artist’s impressions, maybe he should stick to writing.  Follow Sara and Packy’s adventures in The Spindle Tree by Danny Dunne