Ya know when you start a new world and can't find any coal. It starts to get dark and you think about hiding in a little hole and waiting out the night like a scared baby.
If I can't find any coal during the first (or more) days in minecraft, I found a trick where if you have a furnace running (heating cobblestone with wood or something), you can place your bed next to the furnace(if in an enclosed space), and sleep without being disturbed.
Yes as all these people said you could make charcoal, but many people like me tend to turn every single piece of wood they have into planks and don't have anymore wood to turn into charcoal.
Using a furnace as a torch in that situation seems easier.
There is something That has not been said. You could build a house at sun set. With no torches. Then when it turns dark use the furnace to make charcoal and for light. Then when it goes out make torches. If you dig a hold for a house you could use the furnace for light while you dig your home then when you get the torches you can then dig a mine. I rather like this idea. I might start doing this now.
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A wise man understands that he understands nothing. A wise man does not sound much different then me.
Cool, yeah I forgot about charcoal when I did it, but if you're just using it to sleep and pass through the night, it is much more efficient to only use 1 sapling or one stick while you place a bed and sleep there.
I didn't know if this had been suggested before, but it seemed like a rather strange idea to find. Glad to see that it is somewhat helpful.