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11 – The Forest in Nivernais – Coalmen – Combustion

11 – The Forest in Nivernais – Coalmen – Combustion

The eleventh postcard of the series “The Forest in Nivernais” depicts a coalman on a kiln to control its combustion. The biggest constraint with a charcoal kiln is to prevent its ignition or a quick combustion which could burn wood too fast. 

According to the Dictionnaire de la culture des arbres et de l’aménagement des forêts written by Bosc et Baudrillard (1821), “a big charcoal kiln burns during five or six days, depending on the wood, the season, the coalman’s ability.” When the combustion is over, the size of the charcoal kiln has greatly decreased and is flattened.

Achille Millien verses corroborate the care and attention with which the coalman must act during the kiln combustion: “Au centre du fourneau l’on a glissé le feu. / Il vit, se communique à l’entour ; peu à peu / L’ardeur se développe et la masse échauffée / Entre en incandescence et cuit à l’étouffée. / Mais il faut charbonnier, y veiller nuit et jour : / Un instant d’oubli peut tout perdre sans retour.