An open-letter aplology to Mother Earth News

For my birthday I treated myself to a local area released (Old-man death) collection of the original Mother Earth News Magazine.
I got #37 thru ~#105.
About 1975 thru ~the late 1980’s.

So now I do have a volume, by volume evolution of how The MENS plans system came about.
This is detailed out in volumes #67, 68, 69, 70, 71. Published released January/February thru September/October 1981.

Not so surprisingly the same stumbled-apon, first high-hopes, then hours used, realized operating necessities trials-roads most all of us have traveled here now too.

In #67 was a written up published article about the Iowa couple who’s woodgassed their Chevy/GMC delivery pickup truck. Steve and Lois Nunnikhovens.
They were NOT woodfuel suppliers as I’d miss-remembered, and said earlier.
Small shop woodstove manufacturers. Their delivery was for sold woodsoves.
The metals fabrication ability shows in fine details of their pictured up system.
Article states, “four-foot-high, 18” diameter hopper with 1/8"-thick (steel) walls. . . cone shaped stainless steel hearth . . . From the hopper (top edge) the gas outlet pipe connects in series to a drop filter and a centrifugal canister. Then additional tubing routes the fumes through a water separator and on into the engine compartment . . ."
From the pictures showing the cleaning/access ports their system was defiantly an Imbert factory type copy. Fairly close to the Scov/Papworth PEGASAS plan set.
Article explains 80% accurate the woodgasification process steps.
Says refer back to MENS issue #27, page 68.
Ain’t got that one. Mr Pepe??
They said the Nunnikhovens were offering up a three page plan-set for $12.88 in 1981 usa dollars.
“Though theirs is certainly not the only design available, it is one of the least intricate we’ve seen yet.”
Then MOMS said that they were so “fired up” up over the idea (driving-on-wood) that they were designing an apparatus of their own to install in one of their own pickups.

They did. Their detailed out first-try system broadcast out in the issue #69.

First though from a reader/subscriber contact they tripped up to the state of Pennsylvania to look over a Ford pickup truck woodgas system by Morton Fry and Dr E. Kendall Pye. Made up through their Wood Power Energy Corporation, Epharta PA.
GaryG.! Must have been neighbors!
MOMS issue #68 March/April had the Interview of that visit. Sidebar Kurt Ek story. And first 1000 mile teaser results on their own first-attempt MOMS pickup system in that issue #68 March/April 1981. Woodgas process explanation then improved to near 90% accurate.

Fingers tired. EKG, blood tests, ultra-sounds, bone-density test today. Brain tried too.
Out of public computer-access time today anyhow.
Steve unruh


Hi Steve,
I just happen to have that copy, looking for 69. It appears I need some permission to
use their pics. I’ll see. Meanwhile, the article gives reference to
Popular Science, January 1944. The pics in MEN 69 are just cross sectional views of
the cross draft, updraft with double-walled combustion chamber, downdraft,
updraft, and updraft-downdraft combination. Standard fare, pretty much.
Been getting the bladder chemo lay there for hours treatment. I have a semi permanent
port in my right shoulder they hook the chemo up to, no big deal, no pain.
No reactions so far. Feel great.
Good luck, Pepe!
Oh, yah, man, happy birthday!!!


Great report Steve, and Happy Birthday. I will keep you in my prayers.


Thanks for the mother earth update, hope all goes well with medicle testing and or fixes. Prayers for one another will help. And happy birthday from kevin too.Thanks.


Yep.Yep. Pepe.
I have to be quick today as I am off to an oral surgeon for a eroded break off root stub removal.
After the bone scraping and probable bone grafting I’ll be unable to type even at my lousiness.
You know what they say, “Getting old ain’t for the faint of heart.”

MENS issue #68 they report of the Pennsylvanian seen 68-71 era Ford pickup with an inline 240 CID six.
That gasifier is a lot different than the Iowa couples. Thier’s: unable to determine if it was sucked or blown. Using BIG 2x4x6 wood cutoff chunks. So probably kiln cured pine.
The PA system pictures as having a permanently mounted blower system. Ha! Still? From it’s tubing into the top of the top of obviously a double walled hopper . . . blowing the system? Sucking the system? They show lazy flaring out of the top of a separation, cooling? filtering column. Their system using smaller chunked up natural wood fuels. From one developers family Arborist business. And from a rural property.
None of this matter’s. Both the Iowa and PA systems were obviously purpose build from formed, rolled flat metals stocks.
Both these systems somewhat different but still usable vehicle powering would have encouraged the MENS developers that from-scrap-layabout materials systems could be built.

So that is what they in issue #68 line draw as having so far initially made.
Single wall hopper body out of a pressure well tank. Top welded transitioning to a 15" auto wheel. That lidded with what looks to be an agriculture steel disc wheel. And better detailed in #69 their hearth core form was actually a 13" auto wheel. Internal flows shape smoothing/forming by upper and lower sandwiched with propane tank ends. Refractory cemented set up in between those concave ends filling in the auto wheel. This all might have been a second build modification.
Anyhow. They show defiantly starting draft BLOWING into the lighting port. Common space air annular feeding into the back of an unspecified number/size of air nozzles. Having a full across non-active, all-must-flow-tru grate. Taking produced gas off low just below that grate. The whole bottom indicated as a “clean out trap”. Could have been either a whole larger agricultural Discs like The Aussie fellow KurtJ. used. Or the water tank dome top repurposed. Whole system stand up legs illustrated and in issues 69&70 actually picture says this whole bottom was removable. Or swing down.

My point since I do have to be short today.
January/February/March/April 1981 was their seen-it, I’m-a-modern-smarty, so I can do this better, easier phase.
What they then did build up and use for a claimed 1000 hours was completely different from what they would in just 5-6 months more running experiences needs-must evolve into.
The system plans that have been sold since early 1982.
This issue 68 system they were going with a tall vertical parallel tubes gas to air cooling. I’ve seen BepP, Dutch John and VessaM evolve thru these cooling arraignment phases too.
From the cooler tower gas flow into an equally tall vertical round filtering all-flow down trough filtering tower.
They said were still trialing out different filtering media types. Trying for longer life. Easier cleaning. Lower operating costs.

By issue 69 the gasifer lost it’s starting up blower to simplify. (a mistake)
The cooling tube tower converted to gas-to-liquid. With that coolant liquid small electric pump transferred to an external liquid-to-air radiator. (a make-more-complex mistake).

Later today, maybe.
Probably not.


MEN also had an energy flyer that I subscribed to also. Woodgas stuff plus. I am almost sure that I saw the Fry’s gasifier parked in Waterford PA back in the day. I get a week off from strong chemo. All kinds of reactions. Still recovering from nerve damage to fingers and feet. Finally I can use mouse wheel without experiencing pain, easier to walk now. They had to take me off one of the chemos. During chemo week I want to die and get it over. I spend about six hours in the chair then go home with chemo pump for two days. Go back for another thing they stick on me that injects something to help bring my immune system back to life. I think chemo make cancer look like my cure for chemo. Off chemo week things change. Pushing sawmill is best medicine for me. Oddly I feel best and most alive in the woods running chainsaw, odd!


Hi All,
Surgery deferred for another round of antibiotics.

The MENS sidebar interveiw of Kurt Ek was tittled, “SWEDEN, 1939-1945: One Man’s Experience”
As a very young man KurtE explains after the dry up of any new imported in stocks of gasoline. A nd any remaining was all Government seized usage even if in your own vehicle tanks . . . then woodgas and charcoal gas was the only way to farm and distribute the food from the farms to the cities. He drove a Chevrolet brand delivery truck. The only modification needed was ignition timing adjustabilty. He rode an American made motorcycle (Harley Davidson? Indian?) that had to have it’s compression ratio raised to be usable. Motorcycle. Driving on wood. Needs-musts.

Woodgasing for real and history systems have to be put into the context of the time of their usage.
Chevrolet engine six’es were very early on overhead valve. GMC trucks OHV from the 1930’s. Ford trucks not until the mid-50’s. Chrysler/Dodge trucks not OHV until the late 1950’s. Flathead/side valve/valve-in-block engine are terrible for wringing out full woodgas fuel potential.
By the MENS early 1980’s all truck engines were OHV. All capable of having much higher compression than the majority of 1940’s folks dreamed of having.

Another historical context that MR Pepe touched on.
He and I use, just like the MENS folk in the 1980’s a very respectful attitude towards other folks intellectual rights and properties.
These MENS articles and pictures were copyrighted. Those copyrights transferred in the MENS 1986 to 1987 primary ownership change. Theses copyrights still transfer over to the current publishing MENS group.
MENS back in 1981 intentionally did not detail out the Iowa couple system. But offered them up an outlet to sell their plans sets.
MENS in their Pennsylvania show-us-please visit acknowledged those developers quite a bit of confidentiality for their systems pending patents.

My involvement with woodgafication since ~2006 has had two bad experiences with post-internet attitudes.
Any and all info put up on the internet must be free-for-all? Gahck!!
I must creative-commons feed back any and all of my personal developments? Double Gahck!!
And just using your declared system name means I must then toady-down to your every opinion/wisdom? Good luck with that. Snore, ignore. And walk away.

Respect begins with the giving of it.
(Gahck is an intentionally induced gagging projectile puking action)


Hi All,
I am going to march this forward much quicker than I’d envisioned.
In addition to the MENS woodpower-for-engines works in issues 67, 68, 69, 70&71 I have found even more advanced developmental system-learned refining works they reported in issues 73, 78, and 79.

May/June 1981 #69 they featured their 1st generation woodgas system installed into the back of their 69-71 fullsized shortwheel based “fleet-side” Chevy pickup. (250 CID OVH inline-6, with manual transmission)
Fleet side mean the rear cargo box is narrow with external fender wheel wells. Also called a “step-side.”
That 1st gen gasifier is above bed, in-bed mounted.
Their tall, tall cooler/condenser tube column and side by side filtering chamber column both mount tall&proud onto the right side (outside the bed) step.
Their engine mixer just 2-4 months earlier was shown as a separated gasoline carburetor; with a manual diverter valve and a separate to-engine air throttling valve for the woodgas mixing.
Now they are building a below the gasoline carburetor woodgas introduction mixing chamber. Coming up with quite complex innovating at carburator/woodgas conversions mixing controls.
I’m not going too much into the long articles details as nearly 90% of the mechanics were soon ditched for the later systems developments.
Accumulating hundreds of driving vehicle hours operating experiences on woodgas was teaching them.
And they were then getting forwarded to them many earlier historical books and documentation.
Individual woodgas developers concurrent with them were obviously feeding in.
Article end they were promising soon future release of their system plans for $15.00 USD.
They also refered to added woodgas “texts” available now through them from their own Bookshelf. “See page 105”
The Pegasas Unit by Niels A. Scov and Mark L. Papworth $12.95 USD. An excellent book I recommend. Here in the DOW reference liberay as a free download. Ha! Now the later additional to that book, sheet design plan set. . . that was spendy for me to find and buy 35 years later.
HOW TO POWER A GASOLINE ENGINE WITH WOOD by K.M. Eoff and D.M. Post 18 pages 4$.50 USD. Never saw, or have read this one. Cover line drawing of an American pickup with an Imbert (actual hearth guts dropping in from the top of the full height outer gas can body) “genrator” with side mounted “cyclone” in-bed installed. Woodgas delivery piping up and over the top of the cab to a low front bumper mounted crosswise very, very Imbert looking liquid labyrinth pathway “cooler&cleaner”. “Vent Pipe” meaning starting up gas and blower on that front bumper assembly.
WOOD GAS GENERATOR FOR VEHICLES by Nils Nygards 18 pages $3.00 USD Never read that one either. Sorry no details. He sounds Danish?

At the end of this 69’s MENS issue thuer are addressing carbon monoxide danger hazards. They’d been books reading and probably by then had their own sniff, sniff headaches.

Think of this as the tail end of oh-this-is going-to-be-easy since all of these other guys have/are doing this phase.
Their to issue #70 jump into stationary system electrical and heat generating; plus going past 1000 vehicle hours into 1500 hours will show them that the true woodgas HARD is making systems that will run the distance.
Due to in hopper fuel bridging.
Non-active grates on a stationary as a no-no.
Irritating low hours use clogging filters using below grate ash-sweeping; letting zones temperature float wildly for all the possible reasons; and just expecting to be able filter out all of these mistakes.
Why after these experiences by Issue #71 they stopped evolving their simple 1st gen system and revolutionized to the MENS we’ve know all of these years. The hard to build one
It was to specifically by woodgasifer base design addesss all of the real in use realities. Plus addess by then idneified wood moistre use-range problems.

Ha! AndI still will say, and by then someone there had read and studied 1949’s GENGAS. An Engish translated version! Or shoulder to shoulder with a native Swedish girl/boy friend.

Still some sun here. Cold and crispy. Rain tomorrow and the next few day.
More wheelbarrows of brushpiles&tops fire wood to collect today.

Steve Unruh


Thanks, Steve, I’ll check them out if I have them.

1 Like

Pepe, jump right into #71 July/August 1981 if you can.
Then wet bubbler/washer cooler/filtering in much later #78 November/December 1982.

1 Like

Some where, I have about 10 yrs. of MEN with the index. One issue had their village running off of a pair of wood gassed generators. One running one, down for maint. back and forth for constant power.


Didn’t they(MINS) have a saw mill that ran off a chev 6 and gasified wood?TomC

1 Like

Yes, and yes, to both of these.
Not at home with my reference copies. Whiling away some free-access time waiting on the wife shopping.
Tomorrow I’ll put up the numbered Issues info on these.

The Eco-Village one was initially published up as two in-parrele of the 1st type modified as found needed for stationary. Fueled a an early 60’s four cylinder (half-a-V8) Pontiac engine. Operated at an AC synchronous 1800 RPM.
“I think” from a personal coorsondents interchange that later this Eco-Village system may have been changed over to their 2nd complete verson systems. What he described seeing years later. Left behind was the later plans-sold ones.

The sawmill one defiantly used the later J-tube plans-set system.
Used the Chevy 250 CID I-6 previously taken out of the pickup truck. A 454 V-8 installed to run a cross-country alternatives fuels race.
The I-6 operated at 3000 RPM.
Used a new-designed concentric three chamber cooling-washing system.
Except for the filtering very similar-needs/usability to what former South African Patrick Johnson built up for his pallet mill system.

Wifies back. Gotta go.


Good Morning All,
I am going to jump right into my reading-back Mother Earth News conclusion apology.
In the last 36 hours my wife nad I have had to realize we are going to have to step in to 100% responsibily of child rearing of the two God-children girls.
For me this will begin at 5:30 PM today with an incoming airline flight. Yep. Yep. Too damn old for this.
Needs-must when the Devil drives the sleigh. (my snowing many places now; and a current culture kids movie ease into this woodgas topic, with some real-life social wisdom always snuck in.)

The Mother Earth News woodgasifier system that has been plans set offered since the late 1980’s continuously was hard worked use evovled over the course of two long years. Documented published January/February 1981 thru January/February 1983.
It was minimum range-use proved documented Issue #71 with the four cylinder 195 CID Pontiac engine electrical generating loads at 1800 RPM. Estimated engine producing/using ~30 hp in Issue #70.
#71 issue published internal gasifier specs for the Pontiac/electrical generator system of:
“the total nozzle area is 0.627 square inches (each of eight horizontal jets is 0.26” in diameter, and the remaining height vertical jets are 0.18" across), the distance between the nozzles and the hearth restriction is 5", and the hearth diameter is 4-1/4". On the other hand the, the power plant in our Chevrolet truck (which turns at about 2800 revolutions per minute at 55 MPH, the speed at which most of it’s mileage is logged) requires an overall nozzle area of 1.237" (horizontals 0.36", and verticals 0.26" in diameter) . . . and a hearth-to-nozzle separation of 5-1/2" . . . and a hearth restriction width of 5-1/4". (Generally the total nozzle area should be 5 to 10% of the overall hearth area.)"
Ha! And some here say I write long sentence convoluted!
This issue #72 gives in words the reasonS for the change-up from the first system to the more complex J-tube system. Able to handle much wetter wood fuels. Internally cooled upper hopper with a mid-hopper condensate collection and removal features. Able to, “getting much more consistently good-quality gas and producing about a tenth of our former unit’s amount of filter-clogging in the process (thereby reducing maintenance chores substantially).”
The Issue #73 (which I do not have) is suppose to detail out this system’s maximum range fueling with the changed-in 454 V-8 pickup engine coast to coast rallying. Mountains. Speeds. Quickish traveling altitude and humidity changes.
The I-6 Chevy first in the pickup truck and later Issue #78 Belsaw Model M14, 40" blade sawmill proof established mid-range gas-making capability.

That less filters clogging is part by better tars/soots conversions in the hearth core by the J-tubes and ash slope heat retaining and metals saving insulation. Part by going from the first systems all-must-pass-tru grate; to a now active possible hanging gas-by-passing grate; and by then NOT ash sweeping the hearth, but in-hearth ash settling/collecting and taking produced gas off as high as possible as per Imbert and others. Wadda’ya know. They weren’t so stupid back in the 1940’s but two decades try-use experienced from the 19-teens WWI use era.
Lots and lots of evolving with use details and discoveries; make-better stories in these articles.
The only way anything worthwhile ever get’s done in the real world.
Soviet space program pencil: versus no-cost-object, US NASA Fisher SpacePen.
“Gitter’Done good’nuff. Work-use thereon. Move on to the next alligator problem challenge.” me

This MOMS system stands as DIY worthy with as the BenP’s book system.
It stands as DIY worthy with a true Imbert based copy as you would build up working from the plans set once available with the PEGASAS book. (Drive On Wood here in the DOW reference library)
It stands as DIY worthy with the three very detailed out blueprinted plans in VessaM’s book.
It stands as DIY worthy with a WK book and Premium-side assisted build up system.

The MENS system is NOT a XXX, or XxXxXer starting base experimental system.
It is NOT a hippy-dippy geek-brainiac system.
Not a redneck, I ar’a damn good welder, system.
Not a hotrodders wet-dreaming system.
It is NOT a planet-saving pie-in-the sky all-biomass system.
It is just like the others I have positively endorsed named above as a, you will work-sweat to build it. You will work sweat to operate it; very realistic DO IT YOURSELF, for use for yourself, and yours system.

Members here Paul Holverson and Ron Lemler have built a MENS plan system. Haved used thier MENS systems.

I apologize for all of the times I have disparaged the MENS system as just being a throw-a-dart picked from an old book system.

Hard to build? You betcha’
Then again the BEN’s book, Vessa book, WK book, are all hard to build.
You want easier?
I give away photocopied sheets of Stigg-Eric Werner’s, From-Tanks all weld-up system build to make-easy folks. Works. Must use dry, dry wood. Use much. And you will be patch welding burn- throughs.

Want hard use repair-abilty that’d be one of the sectional build units. Design-made and built to come apart. Then . . . chase air leaks if you sloppily build. Cheap out from the designers minimum materials specs. Or just get braniac creative.
Maybe you can. After your own also a couple of three years hard running and useing. And then step-by-step modifying for Results-driven improvements.

To my mind what separates out the real world usable systems are the needs-musts RESULTS design driven systems.
The hit-a-number design system are always slaved to someone else’s you-must-please-me “priorities”.

Steve Unruh


God Bless you and your wife, Steve. That is a tough road. You may literally save the girl’s lives in the long run. Praying for you all.


Ha! Ha! Packing these magazine up for archivining and later set gifting out showed me I forgotten to describe out their evolved woodgas mixing with-in a gasoline caburator article in Issue #79 January/February 1983.

Their first duel fuel use systems were divorced separate on the intake manifold.
Their next version were woodgas mixer chambers below the gasoline carburetor.

Pages 138 thru 141 in Issue #71 shows with many pictures them evolving to taking a staged primary/secondary Holley/Weber-Motocraft carburetor and converting the larger bore secondary side to accept and flow wood gas within that carb’s body. “Which can be used for any gasoline-powered engine of 300 cubic inches (5.0L) or less.”

And for, “Any V-8 engine having a displacement of greater than 300 cubic inches (5.0L)” they did the same larger bore secondary barrels into side introduction fuelgas flow and meter woodgas.
Used a General Motors Rochester Quadajet. Pre-1973 recommended. Aftermarket new versions of these can be had though hot-rod/offroad shops.

This is a pretty unique set of endeavors.
Don’t see mixed fuels/woodgas mixers outside of 1940’s historic books.

So you all saying with EFI this is obsolete info . . .
Non-electronic. Mechanical solution. A see-do solution.
Somedays . . . have a nasty habit of coming to pass and happening.

Plus not just any primary/secondary gasoline carburetor could be modified to do this trick.
Important to study their how-too, to then see, how most carbs could-never-be.


The Quadajet modification worked good ! ! Was on a 345 cornbinder.

 HI Steve, Hoping the best for you through hard times.  

Thanks for the history run down on the MEN woodgas generators. I don’t know if these were the best plans, but they were the first complete plans I could find. Paul Halvorson did a step by step documentation on his build, through The Forestry Forum this was around ten years ago. I am still running their basic design today on my tractor and hoping to get the time and energy to get my pickup burning wood again, it has been a fun adventure !!
Thanks Again, Ron L


Hi Ron,
Nice to hear from you, glad you’re still around.
Happy thanksgiving to you and your family.


Tom Lambert here in northern ALBERTA, glad to see your still at it .
My first interest in wood came from MEN…i sincerely enjoyed the history lesson…
Hope your tests add are in your favour…
Thanks for your personal touch a few yeard ago…