Collecting Carbon, Part 3

March 30, 2010
photograph by Teresa Tamura


This is a photograph of my house, located deep in the mountains outside of Walla Walla, Washington. It is a log cabin that was built in 1931 and sits not all that far from a very famous siting of Bigfoot. I have been trying to collect enough Bigfoot hair to make a calligraphy brush. The hair is hard to untangle and clean, however, I am almost there.  But, here I am off on a tangent before I have even begun. 

During the winter, I heat my house with a wood stove. And every year in early summer I climb up to the top of the house and clean the chimney. In the process, I collect a big bag of soot. The chimney is sort of an accidental carbon trap. It was while cleaning the chimney, that it occurred to me that I should use it to purposefully capture carbon. I could burn what I wanted to heat our house AND AT THE SAME TIME capture carbon that is otherwise unavailable. For instance, larch black, lodge pole black, alder black, locust black, fir black.

This time, I was after pine black (松煙)—the most celebrated black used in Chinese painting and calligraphy. You can buy pine black ink sticks, but I haven't found a source for the raw pigment. I designed my two-part wire mesh carbon trap so that it would fit on the top of my chimney.  I then burned pine firewood for several days and captured my own pine black.

In this photograph, you can see me standing on the roof with the carbon trap in hand.  I have taken the rain cap off of the chimney and am preparing to attach my carbon trap in its place. Typically, I engage the catalytic converter on the stove which burns the remaining unburned amorphous carbon from the fire so that very little smoke escapes out of the chimney. In this case, I turned it off to enhance the polluting effect as well as the quantity of amorphous carbon. As I was installing my carbon trap, a neighbor drove by.  He stopped and watched me for a while, then drove on without ever saying a word.



Want to start at the beginning of this series of postings on carbon traps? Click here.