The long road with gasification, experimenting etc

 Back about 2003 or 2004 I got interested in gasification and built a rig that I later found out it was a open top FEMA type .    At the time I didn't have a PC and was limited to any research .   I built a unit setting on the ground and was able to flare it and run a motor so I then mounted it on the bed of an old truck.  ( pic # 1 )    Sorry about the quality of the pic. it is a picture of a picture , I didn't have a digital  camera back then . 

This gasifier is an open top ( or open enough it can get plenty of air ) down draft FEMA type tar maker but there are some tricks to make it burn better that I will get to further in the post. I actually drove this truck on back roads and around the farm for several months.

I later built a gasifier on a newer old truck , still a down draft FEMA top breathing , but with more filtering and cooling . ( pic # 2 ) I had two or there gasifiers on this truck that was top breather down drafts . I later evolved to a better gasifier and current design, used it for years and it is still being used today in central MO.

The next vehicle I gasified was a dakota . Still top breather down draft FEMA type . I drove the truck for several years and several thousand miles, including a two thousand mile trip and stop by to visit Mike LaRosa . I later changed the gasifier to a more current design.

I think it is pretty much common knowledge we have a couple of options when controlling fire .    I know I learned a lot as a fireman and also just years of operating a wood  burning heater.   To control the fire we can control the air / oxygen or we can control the amount of fuel .

If we have a open top or top breathing gasifier there is no restriction on the oxygen so the only other option we have to control the burn is controlling the fuel. There are several ways one could add the right amount of wood to keep the appropriate char bed and to keep the fire from running wild and climbing to the oxygen source. A very simple way to do is to visually watching the char bed and hand feed fuel in as needed. Another would be with sensors monitoring and adding fuel as needed with an auger . A third way to operate an open top or top breathing gasifier is have the fuel in a certain size and moisture content so it can only be digested at about the same rate as the gasifier demands are .

I learned I could operate a FEMA open top or top breathing gasifier and make engine grade gas and drove several thousand miles . If your hopper is loaded starting with smaller high surface area wood toward the bottom and getting bigger with much less surface area as you load toward the top and with enough practice you may be able to match the digestion rate of the fuel with the gas demand of the gasifier Thus keeping the hot spot in the right area and clean gas.

Picture 3 -5 shows preparing wood for this stratified loading and a look in the hopper .

I experimented with several small gasifier and motors . Pictures 6-8 shows the size chips I was using and looking down the fire tube while running the motor . some chips would be on the top plate of the gasifier to enhance drying .

These very old video are short . At the time I didn’t know how to navigate Youtube and I would send this to Mike Larosa by email . Anything longer that 15 seconds I would get into trouble .

MVI 0245 - YouTube
MVI 0153 - YouTube

Another little test gasifier

Picture 9 shows looking down the fire tube as a bucket of dry saw dust begins to to smolder to slowly feed the gasifier .

The testing of the gasifiers getting more like current design .

I evolved away from the fueled controlled top breathing gasifier because controlling the air instead of the fuel is much easier and works much better for any of my application

Recently I have read that making engine grade gas with an open top gasifier is a new phenomena ! I am certain I wasn’t the first and will not be the last .

Picture 10 show one of the Auburn University gasifiers . It is an open top auger fed machine .



Hi Wayne, I’m glad you still have those “old” pictures to re-post. I still have some of your pre-charred chunks here and tried the same myself. It’s been fun … We have more or less figured it out. Don’t know what happened to Johan and it is horrible that Werner lost his son to cancer.Fredrik is raising babies and Eerin, who knows what. I still have a bag of Jeff Davis’ balls here. I guess I should throw them in the hopper some time along with some of your Alabama pine from my last trip to your place … I think I have 2 sacks of that … Stay well amigo, Mike

Thanks Wayne, that was very interesting. So pre-charring the wood played a major roll early on. There is no quit in you thats for sure. Dan

It helps us all to see some of the many physical steps to success. I’m having trouble building 1-1/2. Once again, thanks for all the hard work, and sharing.

Thanks Bill !

Yes Mike I had to do some digging to find some of those old pics.

Hello Danny ,

I think what I was trying to show was a gasifier can be controlled by air ( imbert type ) or they can be controlled by fuel ( FEMA type ) If you take a straight tube with a grate on the bottom and a prearranged char bed with an air draft you can add just the right amount of wood and the tube will make OK gas . If you don’t fed the fire fast enough you will loose the char bed . If you fed it too much you will create tar.

My point on the pre-charred and big blocks.
This same tube with the char bed can be loaded in a way starting with smaller blocks near the bottom and working to the top with larger blocks. The larger blocks are kinda like a time release capsule .

Will work best if you can drive some of the moisture off by pre-charring the bottom layers .

In some of the top breathers from yesteryear I also have used a windshield washer motor to spray water on the upper portion in the hopper if it got out of control ( hopper temp reading ) to put the fire back down near the grate .

Let me state again , The only advantage I can think of in the above is a very quick build for emergency purposes .


Hello brother Carl I think I was trying to spell and type while you were posting.

Thanks for the kind words . I have been rewarded many folds for hard work in previous years . Just today I put about 80 miles down and smiled every one of them.

The reason for the post, pictures videos .,. For about 4-5 months I had read of someone stating before them no one had ever ran an open top gasifier and made motor quality gas.

I was trying to be as polite as possible and disagree.


Hey Wayne;
I thought the timing of your story was curious, but under the circumstances I didn’t want to be the one to bring it up(LOL). I did my homework and decided to go directly to the Imbert design and fore go the FEMA. More work but worth the extra time and money. Thanks for the explanation. Dan

…for your service in raising the bar in good clean wood gas production for motor fuel. And most importantly - sharing your knowledge and skill with the world in your gracious way.

The world is a better place. And certainly a more independent place, for those willing to do the work. It’s an even better place for those willing to lift up others along the way.

Thank you (and Chris) for building this venue so we can all participate in building our own road to Freedom from the selfish effects of the energy barons.

Looking forward to many years of progress onward and upward.

With great appreciation, and love for this purpose,
Al D

Hey Mr Wayne thanks for another great explanation.
Be a great addition into a revised book. 2nd addition. That how Mr Vesa keep up with his evolutionary changes.
Really heartening when ChrisKY told me that there is now over 800 Premium side members. Big, big pool of Doers now sharing, Burning bright, and free.

Ha! Ha! Interesting also how with woodgas talk for the last ten years the name Mike Larosa always pops up.
Many things it is not just strictly what you did get done yourself but push, pull, prod and inspire other to do also.
What we leave behind with real value: others helped and influenced.
Ha! Let the monuments and fame/claim seekers live lonely and take care of themselves.
I’ll take real DOer friends.
And as your story here points out sucessful woodgas DOing ain’t about whether you have a WK, Imbert-clone, Larosafier, GEK, VIctory, Vesa, Werner, Power Hearth, Fliudydne or any other, including unique self-made.
I have DOer friends with all of theses.
It is about having a willing, thinking, active operator. Someone willing to actually Work-It ALIVE Useable; versus jabber it to death never used at all.

Steve Unruh

How many years now? Heck, I’ve forgotten. How many pounds of soot washed off? Yeah, OK, a little tar too. Lots of respect for you guys who have stuck it out through the years. For those who don’t know me by the name John Blount you might remember Bigotes from the old days. That photo is my new genset. 7,540 cubic inches. 1.3 megawatt.

Hello Mr. John and welcome aboard sir.

I thought I recognize the name and when I saw your profile picture I knew we had the real deal !!.

Thanks for the picture . It makes one of my truck motors look more like a sowing machine motor.


Al and Steve

Thanks for the comments , I am humbled by them .


Yeah, that engine is a monster. It is for running locomotives and ships. Each piston has a 10" diameter, and the height of the motor is 10 ft… Will be trying to run as much of it on gas as possible…the rest on diesel. Dual/fuel. Jack Humphrey design gasifier. For stationary it would be hard to beat the linear hearth. But for vehicles? It would be hard to beat your design. I’ve been so busy just haven’t had the time to start a build, but when I go back to Peru I’m taking your book with me.
Thanks to you and Chris for making your design available. And for this website where much information can be learned and shared.

Hi John(Bigotes ?), I’m glad to see you are still kicking … How old is your son now and are you in the “States” or Peru ??? I think he was 7 last time I asked … Regards, Mike LaRosa (oh, forget yahoo as I have slow speed dialup and a wood burning computer and they cut me off there)

OOPS John, I missed the part where you are here. I don’t have reading glasses in the trailer. I actually need trifocals now but I wear my 30 year old aviator glass glasses as no slag has ever stuck to them and I have even stepped on them and was able bend and solder them back in shape … Mike

Hi Mike,
Good to see you’re still kickin’ too. Johnnyboy is soon to be 10 now. Brought him up for a couple of months not long ago. Tried to get him speaking English but the hard headed little fart seems to prefer Spanish. I have a 3 month contract to work on this beast up here and will then be going back south. Might make a quick round trip in the meantime just to see the family. Take care. We’re getting old, you know. I’ll be 70 in December.

John, Es nececita que habla en espanol en este pais but my bilingual daughter keeps telling me I am saying it wrong. Well whatever. She’s 26 and all of God’s wisdom entered her body when she got her driver’s license. I still am driving her first car on occasion. It is registered and insured. She lives near Milwaukee (140 miles) and just sold her car. My regards to John Junior and I hope he takes some time to learn some Hinglish. It’s one of the worst languages on the planet because almost every word can mean 3 or 4 things but if you know it you can talk with or at least understand almost anyone from anywhere in Europe and the Americas. Stay well and congrats on the 70 … I’ve been dealing with guillain-barre syndrome but I’m fine right now and a happy camper. I hired 2 young guys over the last couple of years and the first one would pretend to have heart attacks in the field and stole some crap. The next one was great (Perfect) and then he started seeing blimps with reflective coatings on them taking our pictures while we were working in the field. He is locked up right now. It’s been a trip … I need to get a shroud on on my new gasifier … I am using copper nozzles. Worst case scenario is I will have to tap steel pipes over them but I have run 3 hoppers through it at full bore and they look fine … My beard is a bit shorter than your picture but I have to trim it each spring (you know) my 63 yo wife … Keep on diggin and you are welcome to stay here if you pass through SW Wisconsin …
Mike L 608-623-3000

 Congratulations Mr. Wayne for making it possible for a lot of people to drive on wood that would not have been able to do it if you hadn't done all the work and engineering and most of all making it available in an excellent presentation.
 I started long before you and haven't gotten near as far. Back in the '70's I was sitting in gas lines because of the "oil embargo", reading Mother Earths magazine about their would burning truck. With the water scrubber it seemed quite complicated. Then in the 80's when the price of gas took such a jump, I started looking for the old issues of Mother Earth in the libraries with little luck. In 2000 I bought my first computer and there were two things I was anxious to look up. One being running a vehicle on wood. I found two articles on the entire "net". One was on a minister in Australia that drove a wood gas vehicle around the "back" country preaching. The other was on the FEMA. After some time I built a FEMA. Unlike you, I guess I didn't learn much from that except I made tar and I needed a better vacuum source. (that plagued me for a long time) Jim Mason put up some videos of the different types of "gasifiers" all built out of a 5 gallon Jerry can. Then he posted his first "weekend build/get together" where in a long weekend he converted a truck to woodgas. Shortly after he started designing his gasifier with the pre-heat tubes around the fire tube. That seemed like a good idea. By then Speardoff had put me onto his Woodgas Groups. A lot of excellent people were on there and I gained a lot of information all be it almost all based on the Imbert style and WWII information. I got on that band wagon and it has taken me all this time to get started on the 75%. Some where you learned the secret of charcoal and developed your system and given all the members a big leg up on driving on wood.  I hope that some of the guys driving on your design really realize what a benefit they have been given.TomC

I for one am appreciative of the information age with computers and smart phones. I remember a guy telling me about the internet in the early 90’s. I asked, “why would you want that”? I now know why. What used to take decades is reduced to a fraction of that time.
It amazes me Wayne how quickly you advanced to this level from when and where you started. You now have people doing researching with you as you continue to strive for more. Thousands of miles are being applied to your design and you get to coach and learn too from their experiences.
This site seems more like a team, even family at times, with people feeding others with encouragement to keep plugging along.
I can’t thank you enough.