Home scale electricity 8hrs after grid down using only local materials

That was the title of a presentation at Mother Earth News Fair in Topeka Oct 24, 2015.

It was great visiting with Tom from NE there. Woodgassers are just good guys, what can we say ;~)

My plan was to fabricate and fire up everything needed to power a home scale generator in the 8 hours leading up to the presentation of the results. 8AM to 4PM do it, 4-5 present the results.

We were stuck indoors so instead of actually firing anything up, just went through the motions. The process is to make a TLUD the first hour, fire it, build a simple-fire and hook it up while the TLUD is making char. Then dump the TLUD charcoal into the simple-fire, pull the start cord, and voila, home power.

The idea sprouted when a kid walking by a clean kiln demo at an expo said his stove could charge his cell phone. I told him after a few runs, my charcoal kiln could power my house. The kid didn’t show up when I proved my point at the end of the expo. But several other people who had overhead the conversation did, and were amazed. But they still didn’t “get it”, how simple char-gas can be.

A Mother Earth News article a whole lot of years ago was my first introduction to the possibility of powering an engine with wood, so when they asked if any wood gassers had something to demo at the Topeka Fair, bingo, the light came on. It was great to have an opportunity to give back.

If you have heard of the Ted Koppel book “Lights Out”, about grid down in US, this was a chance to have some lights go on. It went really well. Thanks to Mother Earth News folks, They are fantastic hosts. Recommend trying to get to TX in Feb if you can and keep showing the better way.

As for fears of lights out from grid down, that is soooo not 21st century. We know it. How many others can we wake up before what Ted says is inevitable, happens?


When we hooked up to the grid when kids came I kept all the solar and lessons that went with it. So the lights, circulator motors for the radiant heat, water pump all run solar with grid backup when necessary. In summertime I hook up the fridge as well. So first 8 hours? Mostly would not notice. Hopefully that would give me time to get things up and running. My projects are usually at least partially dismantled at any given time… Good topic glad your demo worked out!

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Was good talking with you Doug also. I did get to sit in on your presentation and there were a few in the crowd that"got it" they came back Sunday looking for you wanting more. I believe you made a difference in someone’s thinking and preparations.

On a side note When I see a hamburger now I always remember “Paid $6 for a $2 burger what more do you want?”

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Hi doug B keep up the good work, good someone extra could make it to mother earth news fair.I seen there wood gas truck when i found the WK plans,learned a lot from the WK plans at driveonwood.com,yes i see the simplicity of the charco gasifier builds quite nice too get started,verry little supplys needed, for just running small engines for scooters,generators,ECT. I need too build one too,just in case the power goes out longer than a day, i wont buy the gasoline, just maybe too shower.

Hey DougB @freedombiomass. Nice to hear from you again.

I don’t suppose that you documented the process of making a Simple-Fire without electricity, did you? I suppose it’s not too tough with a punch (large nail or so), some tin snips, and a whole bunch of high-temp RTV. :stuck_out_tongue:

The biggest consideration for outside power was punching the hole in the header pipe before the muffler for exhaust gas re-circ. Brought a cordless drill to demo that in this (hopefully) easy for others to conceptualize demo.

But in worst case - no cordless or other battery power - almost always a way to trap the exhaust in a can or what engineers call a plenum, undersize the final exhaust hole, then tap in.

Yeppers on plenty of RTV preferable.

But worst case - leather, clays, cloth, tape, wires, etc - make decent temporary seals until you have need and time for something better. No hesitation about it being possible in tough circumstance. Have seen innovative friends do the deed with raw obtainium (whatever is in the garage) in less than 8 hours.

With char already in hand, 4 hours or less is plenty of time to fab a “good enough” working guerrilla char gasifier from “whatever” in most garage/shop situations.

Thanks to Gary Gilmore for the enlightenment - innovation and sharing - showing how simple char-gas can be.


Hey Tom, apologize for not noticing you in the crowd or would have mentioned you.

Was more than a little astounded by the number of people attending the presentation. More accustomed to interest being only a small conversational group. It may be time for all of us to get a little more bold, spread the good news faster and further? People seem eager to learn about this - now more than ever.

Wish I would have had more time in Topeka, not demo’ing or presenting. Would have liked to check out your truck in detail. Particularly the cyclone, which looked to be particularly well done.

Thanks for showing up! Thanks Mother Earth News for inviting us to this one, and the next one. The ball is in our court. Next Mother Earth News Fair is in TX late February.


Hmmm are you talking about my truck Doug? No cyclone on it straight by the book WK build : ’ )

Maybe was just imagining, didn’t take any pictures. Thought I saw a cyclone hanging off the heat exchanger toward the rear.

Those are the pusher fans don’t have a exhaust heat exchanger yet. I wanted to get a better look at your stuff also