Learning to Control Woodgas the Easy Way

Good Morning All
Right now over on the Premium side in the Builders Discussion section member Gary Hartman is two way discussing with other experienced woodgas drivers how to best operate and fuel his 1991 Caddilac 4.9L V-8. Woodgas fueled now by his made up WK hearth based, GaryH adapted woodgas system. He is at ~160 miles driven and would like to get better performance.
This IS the best way to learn to control woodgas.
1st make woodgas and run it in a loaded down IC engine.
Next learn then how to make better quality and a higher usable volumn of woodgas.
THEN learn to control the engine functioning better on woodgas fuel for more power and contollabilty when fueled on this now better made woodgas.

This step by step learning curve process has now been done suscessfully now by my count by hundreds now in the last 5 years.
Done in this order will give you the shortest path to real in this world usabilty satisfaction.

That first step is to convince you it CAN be done by YOU.
Now you will have dealt with the initial woodfuel sourceing and prepping just to get started. Just a few hours inro operating you will then have to deal with the inevitable dropped out condensates and soots and likely early inexperienced made engine stopping tars. . . .
Is this something you want to persue and do better? Woodgas isn’t like any of the previous fuels you’ve ever used, or even made. Can’t be handled, or controlled on the same ways. Doesn’t even NEED, or even can use the same type of fuel controls.
This initial engine running experience is to get you enthusiastic that you just made an engine run on Wood!
Running some more now will then show you the proven over-come-able challenges you will need to master to put woodgas fuel use into your life.
Now that you have on-hands sweated out some of the 20 to 1 average fuel bulk of wood ratio to any other petroleum or Vegi bases fuels - is this something you really want to keep up doing daily?
Or, will the Significant Others in your Life now that you are up running be willing to sign into this commitment if you were to advance from a hobby, done-one-time, to hard core daily usage? That will gobble a lot woodfuel. Wood fuel prepping takes time.
Will/Is your homeowners/morgage/vehicle Insurances restrictions going to sink your abilty to be able to make and use woodgas on a daily basis?
Will your surrounding neighbors shut you down due to concerns of; “Filthy wood mess!”, “Not Right for OUR Neighborhood”, “You WILL KILL all of the Trees!”, “Not Rright you are able to power on FREE wood while the rest of us are still stuck feeding the greedy oil producers!” You will find out that your niegbors can make, and will make, your life hell with calls to the fire department, enviromental quality , use zoning, licencing and taxing authorities. Can you tough through this? Find and use the loopholes amd work arounds?
Why it is impoertant to experience all of these at this first stage when you could back out and move on to something else. Maybe PV solar would be a better match up for you. Maybe a quiet pad mounted, plumbed in nateral gas engine-generator. Maybe a better match to propane convert that vehicle instead.
Unfortunatly woodgas making and using is NOT the right match for the majority. This does not mean it cannot be the right match up for you.
You are You.
WRONG is the same for everyone. Unstable. Unsustainable. Always, always, chokes out in it’s own wastes and excesses if “everyone is doing it”. Think about it. Nuke power plants for All? The places closest to doing this rely on shipping half million year toxic wastes half a world away to be someone elses problem. Automobiles for All with the proven by 1920’s traffic congestion and pollution? Bicycles only for All with again well proven intercity congestion and now the locking-in and shunting away then of the old, and the handicapped. Ah! Horses for all ? Back to the 1900’s cities with ankle deep horse manure and biting flies.
Diversity in all things is the key to healthy stable sustainable societies.

Make it past all of these woodgasing initial hurdles and then you can get back to the fun learning to make better and more quanity of woodgas with less effort and less wastes.
Lots to learn on the fuelwood soucing and prepping side of it to improve on.
If your first gasifier was a self-designed actual operaing hours experience will show you lots that can be improved on. You may even want to set it aside and now go on with a harder to build, known proven design now. If this first, WAS a known proven design design copy; there will still lots you can do to optimize it for your climate, your fuel woods, and your specific engine usages as you step by step expereince learn.
Nobody get it all right the first time. Nobody developes so far that a middle of the night brain “Eureka”, or a simple comment from another up and running woodgasser doesn’t spark off a system improvment modification. Somewhere in this improvement second phase you will learn to like and appriciate woodgas for what it IS, and Can give You; and stop treating it as a poor quality substitue for the cake-eaters, pre-refined, served-up-on-a-platter fuel you’d wished before that you could simply afford to buy more of.
Learn to appreciate and love woodgas and only THEN you will be able to learn to control it simply and wisely.

NOW past these first two phases you can meaningful learn to control your gasifer system and engine systems to whatever level your personal ethics dictate.

I know I speak for many here that in a hustle and bustle, always too busy of modern demeaning, dehumanizing now, over buttoned controlling of ME! World today I really appriciate woodgas for the abilty to be so interactive rewardingly simple.
Easy to hour after hour fuel with it like using any good woodburning heating or cooking stove. The reward is the now back to a visceral real human interaction reward level. I MADE THIS WORK FOR ME and Mine. To watch the woodcunked pieces fly off the head of the hatchet. To hear, smell and feel the bite of the chunker into a rail split or a limb section. Hear and feel the engine load singing. Smell the engine exhaust and know you are emitting cleaner than any petroleum fuel without a lot of High Tech, rare earth metals, and electronified engine cleaning up assistence.
Ha! And I always want a little glass viewing window to be able tosee into the hot lively glowing heart of my turn Ma’ Natures wooden solar blocks into electricity fuel maker.
Haffta’ smell the coffee making, and hear the tea brewing, you know, to really fully appreciate the taste of it.

Woodgas ain’t broken and does not need High Tech fixing.
What needs the fixing is our own appreciation again for somehting so directly rewarding and simple to use.
Start at the third step, or invent and start at a fourth automation step “to make it as easy to use as any other modern appliance” and woodgas itself will drive you back to the first and seconds steps anyhow until you Do learn to appriciate it for what it IS, and Not for what it is not.

You might as well learn from the easy direction to begin with.
Crawl first. Toddle next. Then walk. And only then will you be able RUN or FLY aWA-a-a-y-y to personal energy freedom.

Steve Unruh

As always, very well written. I’ve had more than my share of waking up in the middle of the night to go “dang I should have done it like this!” to then rough draft something on a piece of paper so I wouldn’t go back to sleep and forget it… Doesn’t happen that much as it use too thank God.

Appreciate everything you say Steve, keep it coming.


Great post Steve, you speak for all of us. Thanks.

Well fellows I learned of these woodgasifier learning steps from some of the best.
Mr Wayne is one of these. Another is Dutch John.
I was going back over DJ’s previous posts for a wisdom he put up about this. He gave this out After now five completely different woodgasifier systems, three different use woodheating stoves built, and his operating expereinces with these.
I had to read back past these advices to six different gasifier system builders and operators to find it:
JohnStout -> hopper fuel chunk bridging - - how to contol with a flexible slitted funnel feed in chute charging
Dave Orrell -> grate movements - - use extended arm amplified windshield wiper grate sweeping movements - - not full rotational movements (his first “Scandinavian Work of Art” system)
Mike LaRosa -> condensates; or lack of - - yellowish from the hopper collector; clear from the cooler and filters - - (ML and by then to others) DJ’s practical experienced learned beyond the written science how on foggy days to use the driest wood - on dry dehumidified days use the “wet wood” for the best power produced performances
Herb Hartman -> which types of hearths to insulate, and how; and which to not insulate
Micheal Briere and others -> he advised from multiple systems/engines expereinces why, and how to set up for usable engine gasoline carburetor backup capabilty

DJ’s a degree’ed collage graduate. A very life and world expereinced practical fellow in business, industry and transportation. In his spare time he used to set up many home stand-alone generator systems. Made up his own home PV solar system. Then a fully self built up home wind power system. Not afraid of elecronics when, and where actually benificial and needed.
But he chooses to keep all of his woodpowered stuff simple and direct, mechanical and human touchable, and operatable. He WILL spot electronically temp probe but preferes simple mechanical guages for temperatures and pressures. Uses like me actual human active smells, touches and sights clues of pressure and temperatures indications for what is in real time actually woodgasifier happening.
Here’s his learning step wisdom I wanted to link to (Premium side and I realized it would not Link come through to here readable):
ending advice on 7/18/2012 in a post to Brent Wolf on Brent’s proposed 460 Bronco system

“Again: build your first gasifier according to existing dimensions and design. Do not fall into the trap of (your) own improvements or thoughts when building your first gasifier. You will not have a clue what is wrong in case it does not work well. Woodgasification has many grey areas.”

Dutch John can and does use the maths in his initally designing a lot.
I can’t. But I actually do taste, and always touch/feel Everything. In many ways we are opposite poles. Good for the reader to NOT think only one type of person can be suscessful!

Ha! One of my difficulties switching to working with all stainless steel systems was losing the ablity to smell the familiar hot cast iron and carbon steel metals smells. And I could no longer SEE the heats from paints changes. Wife then taught me how to judge mid-range temperatures (above hand toucable) using the hot water drop “skittle” method. And expereince taught me about SS heat color changes for the higher temps.
Once you do learn to operates by the “feels” of smell, hearing and seeing clues along with touch then you can operate anything. Impossible to automate by 3 of the 4 of these clues bases. What can be automated is then just half clued-in of past info of what has just happened; versus what IS now happening missing these direct observed clues.

My wife taught me you cook the bacon best by the sound of the sizzle, then the smell, and only then finally by the appearnce.

Ha! Woodstoves almost no touching is possible. It is the seeing appearnces to begin; then the heating hearing crackle/popping and even actutal sizzle; and finally the smells. Lack of tar creasote stench - Real Good. Hot metals smells, or worse, acrid burning porcelain then emergency air shutting down fast and let the overheats slowly bleed off!
Gasifiers early on just after liteing up still possible to reach out touching&feeling for heating up patterns - you will not be able to judge this until the next complelyte cool down cycle. Then heating up beyond touch for a short time it will be metals temp sizzles & popping. With all along changing, seeing, appearnces and all kinds of learned specific hearing things mixed in from the starting up to the finishing ending. Engine flow pulling off and the system now in air shut down and they will ALL hearth core heatup. Have to learn to expect this. Have to learn the system will seff-pressureize then and you may see some smoke finally leaking out. Normal.
All along there will be will be combustion whooshing, air safety valve clicking, metals maybe popping from engine pulled in and out pressures flexing and hose pressure arching and bellowing, and on and on and on. A very rich multi-dimentional to expereince. Alive.
Just how do you put all of this in a book or article?? Can’t. YouTube will lose you over half fo these clues also. Can’t smell anything. Can’t touch anything. Only see and hear less than half of what is going on. Half dead caricature of an alive process.

Remember this topic is about learning to operate and control to produce woodgas the easy manually way with your own senses and smarts.

If you can and enjoy from flat fabric material, with only one machine do a compex pattern sew-up to completion; you can learn to woodgasify well.
If you can and enjoy scratch cooking or baking well; you can learn to woodgasifiy well.
If you can “hear” “feel” free hand metal weld well; you can learn to woodgasify well.
If you can do and enjoy doing anything that still requirers an active use of your sight, smell and touch or a “seat of the pants” “feel” of it along with some quick sharp focused directed thinking to still accomplish a good satisfing results in the real world; you can learn to woodgasify well.
If you are challeneged by doing something a little difficult to do, requiring numerous steps in the real physical world, most likely you c-o-u-l-d learn to woodgasify well. BUT, only if you would really want to. Like all of these other things you actually have to be a little bit driven to want to succeed at it. Otherwise like them you will quit early on to something else “more interesting” (meaning easier to dumb yourself down to versus challenge lift yourself up).

Want to push button buy your results? Pass on woodgas. You will be far happier with spec grade delivered up gasoline, propane, natural gas (which Ain’t) and diesel fuel systems.
Not being mean. Expereinced Learned Realistic now. Time is your only actual asset. Spend it wisely.

Steve Unruh

About the only thing I could add to that is that woodgas is totally worth picking up and moving out of town for. All those neighbors and nay-sayers can just go talk among themselves. If a guy is going to chop fuel he needs enough room for a couple of stumps and a wood pile. It’s going to take a lot of chopping and that’s nearly half the fun. The other half is running down the road without a load of stop signs and gas stations to get in the way. And the other half is all that welding and scavenging and cutting and re-cutting. And that’s a lot of fun! And a lot learning the easy way.
John (Minnesota John)

Hey John ,

When asked how far out of town we live, I just comment far enough we have to have our own TOM CAT.

Wayne and Steve, I’ve been loving living out of town (the farther the better) for many years. Several years when I was in my 20s and 30s and several now in my 50s and 60s. In the middle years I got sucked into “saving the world” by teaching science. How I wish I had heard about woodgas back in my 20s. The position that learning by hand is easier than book learning may seem counter-intuitive to some, but, of course, it’s not only the easy way, it may be the only way to actually learn. At any rate, learning woodgas by hand is a blast! And this website is a fantastic record of people all over the place having a blast with woodgas.

Steve explained it very well. The only thing I want to add: you only learn by stepping over borders. Or from others who did. Stepping over borders on your first gasifier will most likely end in a lifetime desillusion on woodgasification. Even a child doesn’t think “Well, I can’t stand on my feet yet, but running sounds very nice. Let’s skip standing and walking.” At least a child is flexible enough to accept that improvement goes step by step…

You have to ask yourself if you want woodgas just for practical use or want to explore it’s borders. In the first case you copy a proven design. In the second case you copy a proven design. Learn from it and start the long, long, long procedure of stepping over borders to absorb it the hard way.


Good Morning DJ.

Real good to hear form you and thanks very much for the post.


Good Morning Dutch John
Thank you for speaking up.
Ha! Ha! With my brain dieing issues I now say too many words and too often do not anymore get the right details in.
I forgot to put up your woodgas info web site:
Dutch, German and English for the vehicle and larger systems. English for the small MicroGasifier projects.

To develope and use woodgas as simply and directly as possible is a conscious voluntary choice for as many as 100 now up and driving vehicle people worldwide. And I know of over 100 built up and operating capable small stationary system users who also chose to be in direct manual control with thier woodfuel into electricity systems.
Woodgas and charcoal gas are both very good for this. Very Human scalable.

To choose to over complicate and digetal electronify control these is also a voluntary choice.
It is NOT a nessesity for personal use.

Saying this next I carefully use no one persons name except my own. And use the fewest words possible.
Some of us choose to be part of the Solutions to bring more relevance, and human scaled interactivity into the World of today for a better Tomarrow.
We choose to be part of Simplifing Solutions with our intellects rather than part of the perpetual scratch itch intellectual curiosity processors that have, and contioually do, drive people to become overspecialized producer insects and then be dependent consumer insects for all other needs.
Ach! Still too many words!

Any damn fool can make something over-complicated, difficult and expensive to make, and then specialized Tech needed to maintain. It takes real Genius to make it simple, with the widest range of operators usable, and then also operator maintainable and repairable.
#2 wooden handled spade shovel.
A hammer right for the job.
An artist’s brush.
Carving chisels.
A chefs knife, French or Japanese pattern.
All evoled in use work clothing and footwear.
These ALL evoled to their current simplified forms from generations of very clever people using thier intellects to REMOVE the excesses that did not allow them to be superior functioning.
Many of us are doing this same with wood fueled gasifiers.

So. Which do you choose to be?? Solution? Or part of the Problem?
Insect? Whether Queen, Drone or disposable worker/soldier, it doesn’t really matter which.
Or Human, and capable?
You choose. With woodgas I and at least couple of hundred others have made the choice for Human and Capable.

Best regards
Steve Unruh

Steve, the above is an amazing truth. For the last couple of years, whenever aquaintances begin to be-moan their hum-drum meaningless existances, I ALWAYS tell them that, in fact, WOODGAS IS THE ANSWER. Of course I am saying that the necessarily human struggle to make woodgas work is the most engaging and meaningful and pragmatic and challenging and rewarding quest that I know of, outside of raising children.
I usually get a good chuckle in responce, but in truth, I really mean it.
What a BLAST!!!


Steve, John,

We’re heading a bit off topic, but I consider it to be important to take this to a bigger perspective.

These are items that keep me thinking about where we both as society as well families or individuals are heading to, seen over a timeline of many decades. It is like a painting that is being changed over years, but now slowly coming together. Two years ago I read “The Post Carbon Reader”. A book, wrapped up by Richard Heinberg and Daniel Lerch, but actually written by 29 scientists and professors. They shine a light on all possible items being affected by deminishing fossil fuels. Solutions are being explained too, but all are rather meager. The known alternatives like solar power, wind, hydro and biomass are by no means enough to keep present comfort level. In this respect -no offence, I am with all of you, but perhaps too honest- woodgas is nothing more than an excellent way to use up old cars. In 2008, we experienced how easy a big player like GM can tumble over. Saved by the government, yes, but in analogy with William Golding’s Lord Of The Flies, who is going to save the government over time?

What I want to say is that we are in the early stages of the biggest and slowest trainwreck ever. Woodgasifcation can extend comfort for some time and for a few individuals untill, say, batteries or tires are difficult to come by. I know, it’s doom and gloom, but it will not happen the next years. And it will not be a collapse, but a very gradual downward sloping road, with some severe bumps. When even scientists explain that there will be no magic alternative for fossil energy, who am I to say there is. Look back: all big inventions like motoring, flying, communication, medics are already 100 years old. The only recent big change was the internet. All the rest is more of the same. Cars still have a piston engine and four wheels.

In this respect, I keep going on with woodgasification (OK, the fact that I am addicted to woodgasification counts too…), but besides that I am developing more basic skills, like forging, cob building and permaculture. You know, they are fun too…


:o) … I got half way through this topic … Too much to read … Have to head out and stake a job … I have only one control besides the switches to turn the fuel pump and injectors off. Left hand works the air mixture and my ears let me know the mix … More later ?? Mike

Yes, the key to living and learning “the easy way” seems to be in utilizing Human-sized tecknowledgies.
(rather than being used by corporate-sized productions)
And, granted, using up old cars with woodgas is bottom feeding,
but side-stepping Shell with a hatchet is poetic justice.


Well, I don’t expect old cars to last forever, although with care they’ll last a long time. Nor do I ever intend to drive a new car off the lot. Woodgas is a perfect fit for these mid-90s barely computerized cars - yes the same ones that I’d be driving anyways. As we explore and learn, we may expand that range to more modern OBD2 cars as well as carburetor-based hot rods. As we grow in “woodgas wisdom”, performance and user-friendliness increases.

But the nice thing about woodgas is that it will continue to be useful at any level of society. It “degrades gracefully”. You can use it on the most primitive tractor or homemade car. Or as a cookstove. Power a steam boiler, or just heat your home efficiently. Woodgas will be with us no matter what happens to the wider world.

Hi Guys, woodcutting sweat break here.
MikeL my first two very long posts were set up to be read as a gentleman would repecfully view a womans beauty. Start at very top -the head paragrph. Switch to the very bottom - the shoe/foot summery paragraph. Still interested? Read back up a paragrph. Stop. Go back up and read down another paragrph. If really still interested, then work your way most respectfully slowly to the center.
Ha! You already know all of this stuff anyhow. Thanks for chiming in on the side for manual operating.

JohnS and DJ, I have been saying much now that for WHO a person woodgas develops; and for WHAT use purpose they develope . . using WHAT fuel souce is far more important than the actual how of it for success. Too old, too tired now after years of too many dead end efforts to be willing to spend any time anymore for any other than actual yes I do have fuelwood, direct personal users with at least similar ethics to mine. Yeah I’ve become a real SOB about this. My life. My time now. Ha! I I figure with how, and where, we three do live we are all on the same page. You all certainly know where the chicken eggs come from. Got those, AND had a Mr Rooster, and you are golden.

Hey ChrisKY thanks for giving this topic some thinking time and support.
I 100% agree that the beauty of woodgas is that in any conceivable conditions we can live in and thrive; the trees will thrive and grow the fuels for us. Woodgas makers can be made from just about any available materials with gasification basics understanding, some brainstorming and cleverness. Yes. It does takes ALL three of these in harmony. Poor woodgasig sucess? Go back. Which of three elements is missing? Or, which did you allow to become predominate snuffing the other two?

Out “in the wider world” woodgasing I cannot be so cheerful.
Increasing restrictions and illeagalizing. Whole countries and areas of countries reported now.
The longer our current World systems todder on, the more legal pressures are being put up by the EcoUrbanGreens knowing/unknowing in lobby bed now with the Energy companies to restrict us individuals the Free use of woodfuels. The one side for social control. The other for profit control.

This is very, very real for me and others here out in Washington State and will be working it’s way inward toward you all from the east and the wests coasts voters blocks Urban areas.
You all in the mid-sections unless actually in auto manufacturing ignored this and are only now finding the true users costs of the OBDII mandates 15 years later. These forces KNEW you folks would have to be rapid road salt rust vehicle “upgrading” with no recourse to go back to the simpler, user repairable and more reliable earlier systems. That “repairable” part shows you the lobbying efforts of specilized labor unions and trade groups in these trends. NONE of these self interest groups want the individual to be free and capable of doing things for ourselves. And there is the real danger of the woodgasification turn key efforts - it dumbs down the users so they are only capable of being a buttom pushing monkey. The Geeks rule - the rest left to drool. This is insulting. Do NOT let anothers out of control scratch itch intellect rule your life.

Look at the growing Urban counties “woodburning” restictions in California and the mid-Atlantic states. Our woodgasifiers truely are wood burners. And WILL be precieved as such and “filthy, polluting, hazarous” “resource greedy” lumped in with smoke dragon outdoor woodfired boilers and smoky fireplace users no matter how much we explain the differences. I have growing list now of those in these first “sensitive” areas now woodgas gone non-visible using, silent and quit openly talking.

Ha! If, and when, things out in the wider world would trainwreck, derail, unwind a bit down to just Actual Real Needs as more important then the last 30 years chic of “best science” Geeked idealistic goals could we out here uncork back to what you all still have. Enjoy it as long as you can.

My goals has always been to see as many as possible actual working woodgasifiers made up Real in the Real world with an experienced capable operator. Every one in place is a Win for the good guys and gals. The reurgence of real use it interest in the last 5 years is great getting things in place for the next wave of interest that will come again in the future. Someday, like happened in the WWII era the real needs will arise again. There has to be the real systems around to show the way.
All else is just wheel spinning.

Come on Aliens! Git’ yer’ asses in gear and start making those landings!!
We Humans always function a lot better with common teamed up shoulder to shoulder gitter done goals.

OK the manual oprating lesson for the day is your usable capabilty will be directly porportional to the actual amout of fuel wood you have been consuming. Want to learn more? Want to be more capable?
Spend more hours, burning more woods of different types, IN DIFFERENT WAYS.

Steve Unruh

Listen, and you will hear. Look and you well see. Take ye note, Heed the wisdom of the wise! I look forward to these posts every day. Steve is a Poet, Teacher, Thinker, Doer, I will bet that Steves readership has grown to a very large fellowing.

Steve, I just drove out about 300 pounds of cottonwood chunks. At first they seemed as good as any. But as I kept refueling I noticed the char level in the fire tube was gettin lower and lower…until finally there was just no char and things got real slow. It was aligators (wood chunks) all the way down. I cleaned out the ash pit and it was (uncharacteristcally) full of ash. Not much char slip, just a lot of ash. Then I dug all the wood out of the fire tube and re-fueled with a blend containing more oak and ash. Now things are back to normal.
It’a simply amazing what a guy can learn by burning wood.

Hey John,
Thanks for posting that, good to know!
Ya figure ya could mix it in 50/50 and get away with it?

Terry, 50/50 is good. Box elder is a much better “weed” tree for gasifying. Easier to split and leaves a good bed of char, and people are always cutting them down and trashing them.