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MFA# 28.636


A black, porous carbonaceous material. Charcoal is the Carbon containing residue from burned wood (e.g., Willow, Maple, Beech, Linden or plum) or other organic containing materials such as bone, plants or animals. Charcoal contains 80 to 98% carbon with some ash and moisture. Charcoal has been used since ancient times as a drawing material and pigment (see Charcoal black). Charcoal is also sold commercially as a fuel, abrasive, sorbent, filter media, and decolorizer.

See also Activated carbon, and Charcoal crayon.


Synonyms and Related Terms

trækul (Dan.); negro carbón (Esp.); carbón vegetal (Esp.); Holzkohle (Deut.); charbon de bois (Fr.); karboyno (Gr.); carbonella (It.); carbone (It.); carbo ligni (Lat.); houtskool zwart (Ned.); carvão vegetal (Port.)








Fire risk. May ignite spontaneously in air.

Physical and Chemical Properties

Microscopically, tiny wood splinters may be visible.

Density oak=0.57; pine=0.28-0.44

Additional Images

Resources and Citations

  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971 Comment: p. 182
  • Ralph Mayer, A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1969 (also 1945 printing)
  • R.D. Harley, Artists' Pigments c. 1600-1835, Butterworth Scientific, London, 1982
  • CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, Robert Weast (ed.), CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, v. 61, 1980 Comment: density for oak=0.57; pine=0.28-0.44
  • Richard S. Lewis, Hawley's Condensed Chemical Dictionary, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 10th ed., 1993
  • Random House, Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Grammercy Book, New York, 1997
  • The American Heritage Dictionary or Encarta, via Microsoft Bookshelf 98, Microsoft Corp., 1998

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