"Stealth" Gasifier Systems

I just read a blurb by Steve U. talking to the other Brian H. about the costs and benefits to either showing off or hiding the woodgas system. It got me thinking… What can be done to 95% mask a system on a truck? What if someone lives in an area where “safety” inspections are required and one doesn’t want to have to explain the system to someone who may or may not see how “driving around with a truck on fire and full of explosive gases” (how an outsider may see it) is actually fairly safe?

I think that we should dedicate a thread (and why not this one) to how to make your “bomb on wheels” look more harmless. I’m not sure if any of these suggestions would even work without compromizing the system itself. I would think since the barrels are almost all hand-touchable while in use, that it shouldn’t be too big of an issue.

Some thoughts that come to mind including building a ply-wood enclosure (with a filler hole in the top) around main gasifier unit (reactor, heat-x, and hay filter), with “drawers” and “cabinets” on the rear (bed-facing) side. Put a nice heavy coat of some exterior paint and, voila, you have a home made “tool box”! Be sure to put some hinges and locks on your “cabinets” to make them more functional looking. They could even be used to access parts of the system that need occasional maintanence, such as cleaning the soot drop box on the heat-x or washing the hay filter.

Beef up the cooling rails to be more “structual” looking and you now have a custom “lumber rack” which of course you can boast is stronger than those store-bought racks.

Any other ideas/thoughts? Share away!

Black paint, lack of shiny stuff. Very normal looking barrels. Heights matched to the cab. Nice rails surrounding the barrels for even more camouflage. No smoke leaking anywhere.… it’s already pretty hard to tell. I never get folks asking me about the truck unless I have the signs on the doors, or I’m refuelling. With a textbook WK build you won’t attract much attention. “Rube Goldberg” type stuff is a dead giveaway though.

That said, to the initiated they are pretty easy to spot. If someone was actually looking for you they’d have no trouble recognizing a gasifier.

If anyone seems to be unfriendly to woodgas, I just tell them it’s a portable meat smoker. It sure enough smells like barbecue.

Ha! Ha! “Portable Barbecue” Yes that would work well here.
For over a year or more weekly, sometimes daily I would drive down to the VictoryGasWorks Vancouver WA shop out of my mountain valley. It was located in a light Industrial area along with UPS, and many other warehouses, distributors and light manufacturers. We knew we would be dead meat if we ever showed any visible smoke. For those months I drove past two different largish outdoor BBQ operations smoking away with red alder wood stacks alongside catering to the working local stiffs. Both setups were made out of split 55 gallon barrels with added on short chimneys. Yes started out black painted and then grease and smoke aged blacker. One was setup as trailerable with a state trailer license and lights for catering moving around. NEVER has any complaints. The local Pub next door would even a few times a year hire in a trailer based BBQer to come in for thier big bash events. They had thier roof recoated and the roofing company had a trailer towed hot asphalt set up smoking and dripping that was licensable and acceptable.

Toss an obvious barrel BBQ cooker in back. Have some hang on the cooler rack signs saying, “BBQ To Go!” would do it here even in the tree worshiping big Clean and Green. People love thier BBQ foods
Now a big shiney all SS system is pretty hard to hide in plain sight and make not look like the chemical reaction plant that it is.

Steve Unruh

I’m in the process of painting up my now-running -on-wood Dakota. I’ve been debating with myself: “West Central Biomass” or “West Central Bar BQ” for a “company name” under my logo on the door… Your description of the industrial Bar BQ wagons make me tend toward “West Central BarBQ”. That coupled with Wayne’s statement about his coffee table chums never being interested enough to go out and look at the truck kind of sums up what people are interested in seeing and believing.
Personally, I don’t see much need to disguise much of anything. Everyone (especially the fuzz) is living in a dream.

Is there actually any law that could be used to make you remove the gasifier?

They have laws for everything. I believe the best defence is a good attitude and a ready smile.

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I’ve been thinking micro perforated steel sheet to replace the glass in the rear cap. Lots Of air circulation and no seeing in; good visibility from the inside. Make no waves is the best solution…

“. . . actually any law that could be used to require you to remove the gasifer ?”
Sure. Lots of laws depending on where you operate could directly or indirectly force vehicle system shutdown or removal. It is your responsibility to make yourself more aware of these than the Complainers, or the Enforcers.

Direct ones:
In area with bad wildfire problems since you ARE continuously burning wood and charcoal - a total burn ban restictions could/will be used against you with an Enforcer making you do an on the spot dump-out, wetting and cool down. Expect this possibilty. Best to stay gasoline capable to be able to drive away.
In areas with annual or bi-annual mandated vehicle emissions inspections YOUR modifications to the factory installed and certified vehicle emissions controls could/will be used against you. No inspection pass certificate and then no license renewal will be issued. No current licence then at any time stopped, for any reason, a court ticket and you will get to expain it all to a Judge. You do not want to let it get to this stage. Only way to win here is to eat a lot of humble pie and comply.
In areas with manditory vehicle safety inspections ANY of your modifications to the original chassis or suspenion systems will be used against you. Same no get a license renewal problem.

Indirect laws:
The biggy is mandatory required Proof of Insurance On Demand. Instant ticket here. Failure to then get insurance will escalate this seemingly minor infraction step by step right up to jail time. Insurance companies are NOT required to insure everything, or even anything here. Thier choice in these matters. Cops will just say to you “The Law is the Law”.
Then for some in all fuels road tax use Revenue harvesting areas - the Revenuers. Report, and try to pay for wood or charcoal fuel use will have them scratching thier heads and send you to one of the Inspecting agencies for verification and then you are back to the above Direct affecting laws soup.

As a worldwide forum this will vary widely for each of us.
As I said in my original post to the other BrianH. some areas this is just so simple because all woodgas vehicle fueling is already specifically by name illegal already.
Other areas people “think” they have no restictions at all. Really? Are you sure? Have you read up and studied this? DON"T ask the officials! Ask the street racers.

I am only personally directly affected here by the manditory Insurance one. And I’ve had to have my actual vehicles inspected by my Insurence company for low use milage verification since retiring - just a see the odometer clerk thing. Woodgas convert it then be better to just pay the higher milage use rate and then skip these lookie-see-me inspections.
The 3-4 months of the year total burn bans one could be applied against me if someone wanted to push it. Why never to go with permanent non-removable signage! Why tell a complainer or and enforcer??

AND . . . just 10 miles away for me and one county over for Brain Ham you can add in the manditory vehicle emmisions inspection requirements. Easy to evade that here with an over 20 years old rolling inspection cut-off date. We do not intentionally rust destoy our vehicles here except for salty water coastal so a 1983 and older are now inspections exempt and usable. OBD I up through 1995 are easy to tailpipe sniffer spoof if you can get past the physical inspection part of it. Contract inspectors here wanting to just take your fee money and crank 'em through. So, as long as you do not upset thier revenue stream . . . and make them slow down to question you . . .you will be golden.

So have a little sympathy and understanding for those having to scheme some work-a-rounds.

Again I suggest meekness and blend in with whatever is pre-dominate in your area.

You must get to KNOW Your areas laws better than the complainers and the enforcers! Find the edges and gaps between these laws and their enforcement. Wriggle between the gaps!
Leave the “My Rights” grandstanding to others.

True recent story on this. A “new” from the City familly moved next property over from us about 4 months ago. Whammo! Last month we get a written citation for an illegal crowing rooster from our Town signed by the Mayor. “. . .due to numerous neighbor complaints of an illegal non-permitted Rooster crowing all hours of the night.” There were more offensive lines indication that " . . . obviously you do not have the support of your niegbors." Say what? We give eggs to four different neighbors! Oh yes, and we we were sent a copy of the No Livestock in Town limits since 2001 ordinance. ONE whole year of fighting that back then just to lose cows, horses, donkeys, goats, ducks . . . everything but 7 permited chickens with permission and inspection. I lived that process for a whole year. One line of the citation DID say we were dorected to do somthing about this before the Town had to take action. O.K. then.
Well the actual competitive crowing roosterS (two) were from a different adjacent to them in the Town neighbor behind a 6 foot high board yard fence. My simple listen, and walk around found this. MY roosters have been intentionally relocated since 2001 33 feet out of the Town limits on our agriculture zoned county property. Him and His hens would be visble to them but a full 370 feet from thier property corner. ". . . he is big and scary to her children . . " Been some trespassing going on??!
I handled the on-the-ground, lookie-see, re-measuring and the other nieghbors knocking & talking investigating.
My Wife handled the talking to the Mayor and his Staff. They NOW have a proper stepped complaint & investigation system. The mayor and the clerk have now finally learned to either go look or use the daily on-the-ground Public Works staff to verify Town boundaries.
We now have a written letter of error and apology to go into our scoff-law file started on us by this Town Clerk.
The actual in-the-Town ileagal roosters were dissapeared quickly. And I now have another good niegbor to supply eggs to also. We are hushing up about her quiet in the back yard ducks.
The City folk moved out here can learn to live rural with diversity or move back to their La-La Land of uniformity and complience, one- size-for-All gray urban muck comfort zone. Until then they can continue to listen to my rooster doing his job. That Chicken or the Egg riddle needed a rooster in there somewhere.

Steve Unruh


I don’t think there is great cause for alarm. Here we have a law added after people complained to their representative that “people were driving on public roads for free” while they had to pay. I know there was a lot of resentment from people at a Indianapolis shopping area where we had a cruise in once. One member caught a lot of attention and the were going after him for defrauding the state on road tax. The unpaid tax and late fees was like $2 a mile (I think $.28 tax) and they wanted to estimate the number of miles he drove. He has since left the state and I lost track of how things ended up.

A couple of weeks back the family went out to eat and I parked between the building and a state trooper car . The building is all glass front and we were in full sight of the tropper. When he finished his meal he walk beside my wood burner within 12 inches and never once noticed it.

Wayne: Location and local culture counts for a lot. For example, it sounds like some of Steve U.'s neighbors/townsfolk might be a tad on the prissy and whiney side, getting into anyone’s business that they could. That would be the optimal place for a “stealth” system.

This Spring I was going to The University of NC @ Asheville and stopped to ask directions . It happened that I was asking a student that was waiting for the bus to the above. He volunteered to show me the way and road 3-4 miles with me.

He didn’t ask and I didn’t tell.


Steve, just to add to your list of laws, here in Minnesota they have laws which forbid the transport of certain species of wood from one county to another. These laws are intended to slow the spread of insect pests. My favorite wood, ash, is one banned species… Of course I plan to stop carrying ash fuel… But the thing that makes it hard to stop is the fact that there are so many ash trees dying from the Emerald Ash Boarer infestation. What is a woodgasser to do?

Hey JohnS
I am glad you brought up the wood transport resrtictions.
So . . . now you have this mobile “Infected Wood Incinerator Service” machine. “Smoke free guaranteed” “Only produces sterilized clean safe charcoal!”.

That can be added to a list of:
“Jakes Mobile Farrier/Blacksmithing” “By Appointment Only”
“Ernies Mobile Wrought Iron Fenceworks” “Exclusive Clientele”
“Johns Mobile Metal Arts Wagon” " Commisioned Works Gladly!"
“Henry’s Carbonizing Service” “Tools and Hardfacing for the Industry!”

Pretty much anything done needing wood charcoal. And as a responsible productive non-greedy person you are making the woodcharcoal by going to the wood (mobile) and making your needed charcoal smoke free and environmentally responsibly.
Ahhh . . . and clean burning up the smoke in the vehicle engine just makes good sence then. And since the engine IS the converter machine for the dirty, filthy pulluting smoke you might as well use it to travel from location to location providing your services, eh?
And the bigger the engine and the engine load the more of that nasty dirty smoke you can clean up, heh?

Note NO visible smoke out of these fully fired up and load running old 10 horsepower wood energy converter machines. Ha! Too much machine maintence though and 3-4 men to fuel prep and labor operate anymore.

Hide right out there in plain sight.
Enforcers hate it if they think you are trying to book-learn humiliate or out-lawyer them.
Back to your good attitude with the smile.

Steve Unruh

Now, as I mentioned in another post, the “stealth” option is not an appealing one. I hated having to sneak, creep and deceive for the 16 years that I was recycling aluminium cans- I’m a little part of the development of carbon-negative transport- something that makes me feel proud, and I want my 15 minutes of fame- I want to tell everyone what I’m doing.

I feel your pain Bri’. How come you had to sneak around to recycle cans anyway?

On a side note to your thread in the charcoal section, I have fired off many emails at different departments in the BBC asking for details on the insurance company they used for the bang goes the theory coffee powered VW.

Probably same one that they use for top gears stupid car modifications that would never pass any safety test.