Having a few chunks of charcoal really helps get a stubborn fire going. Luckily for us, making charcoal is very primitive, though maybe a bit hard.
Anyone who knows how to make charcloth can figure out that charcoal is basically the same. You basically burn the wood, but quickly halt the burning process by smothering it, and letting it get heated to the point of becoming a mass of charred material. In Greece, and probably plenty of other places, it’s traditional to have a huge fire of hardwood logs, and then throw dirt over most of it after it catches. It takes a long time for it to become charcoal. It’s also possible to make it in containers, again like charcloth. Some inventive people even make containers that divert and direct the gases released from the wood in the charring process, and use that to heat it further.
Since I’ll be cutting a bunch of firewood this week to supplement my parents’ heating bill, I plan to try to make some small batches of charcoal in a ceramic container. I’ll let you know if/how it works out.