Too green to know what to ask

The first time I heard about wood burning vehicles was in an Alistair MacLean novel. Then I found the FEMA document. Following Hurricane Katrina gasoline, and diesel, was not available. I thought woodgas might be a way to run the generator, used for our well pump, but we cannot afford the 25% derating. Then I thought about using woodgas in a vehicle, for hauling supplies or moving farther inland after another massive storm. Then I learned about tar buildup, and started to encounter terms I know nothing about. I started to get scared off. You see, I have no mechanical skills, I know nothing about machine tools, and I do not know how to weld. I do have access to wood, oaks and pines, but I have no notion which is better in a wood gas system or easier on the engine. I do not know what features to look for in a vehicle, both as advantages and as disadvantages, for conversion to woodgas. A lot of of the answers may be buried in the forum, if I can find them. I still think a truck running on a wood gas system would be great following a natural disaster, for supplies, for transportation, for recharging batteries. Can someone who can barely use hand tools still make a successful conversion?

You have come to the right place. There are lots of people here who will be happy to help.

I put a couple primers on my website because I got tired of hunting

If you want hardware either I or others can help you with bolt together modules.

Thanks for the link! It is now bookmarked.

And anyone can learn to weld… just have to want to


I learn better with a teacher. My wife does not want me to make any more trips to the hospital while trying to figure something out on my own.

Hi Doug, welcome to the site. As others have said, where there’s a will, there’s a way… Most of the folks here learned to weld and fabricate in the course of their gasifier project. It can be done.

Where are you located? There may be a woodgasser near you who could mentor you a bit. You may also have a friend who’s handy with fabrication, and you could work on it together.


Hi Doug,

My wife wouldn’t let me run a gasifier within 50yds of the house for years for fear of an explosion…and she hasn’t even seen a “sneeze”.

I have a Lincoln weld pack 100 which is the old version of this:

If you can draw a line with a pencil, you can weld. The other option, which I do because I move a fair volume, is to tack the parts and then take them to a garage business professional. That has been working well for me.

You can also get sheet metal parts just by drawing .DXF’s and emailing them to a sheet metal shop. That can solve some fabrication issue. I think you can even do this with the free version of Google Sketchup.


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I live in Long Beach, Mississippi. I know several people who claim that welding is so easy it is no trouble. When I start asking about specifics, fount of knowledge runs dry. We do have some very skilled welders at the shipyards, but I do not know any of them.

I have to draw a straight line, huh? Grin. I can see where DXF files might be useful. I’ll spend more time with Sketch-Up.

I am puzzled by something, though, Stephen. The FEMA document implies that the stratified downdraft gasifier is superior to the Imbert. However, the discussion on the website you pointed me to looks a lot like a modification of the Imbert. I am still fuzzy about the trade-offs. Am I over-thinking this?

Hi Doug,

The FEMA superior to the Imbert??? OH HECK NO!!! Simpler, yes, however the gas quality is TERRIBLE.

Here is the deal according to my feable mind. When the FEMA is lit the flame front moves in the direction of the incoming oxygen. Eventually you get too much pyrolizing volume for the amount of air coming in. In other words, there isn’t enough air coming in to burn up the tar gas being generated. If the tar isn’t burned it exits the machine.

The Imbert is a different story. Because it has nozzles in the bottom and an air tight hopper, only the wood around the nozzles can burn and create pyrolysis gasses. The flame front stays put and only creates a small burning volume. This allows all the tars to be burned. The result is a much cleaner machine.

My design, the “Victoria” at the link I showed you actually burns the gasses twice.

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Hi Stephen, Keep up the good work … I expect some blueberry jam next harvest … I will call on the twisted pair … Many folks are happy with your stuff … I’m just dealing with rusted out stuff here in Wisconsin and a new work load and a wife that works with me and is 4 years older and I’m over 60 … Jump in with Robin and I’ll bring an extra tent for you to Argos … I’ll throw a second in the truck for whoever else shows up … Mike

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I never said it was that easy, just that it can be done and has been, by folks just like you. It’s a bit like like riding a bicycle… easy to do if you know how, hard to explain in words; the quickest way to learn is by doing it.

I don’t have a “fount of knowledge” for you but there’s some good tips on our welding page.

If you look on Youtube you’ll find thousands of welding instructional videos. Its a highly valuable skill.


Is there a community college located close to you? Some of them offer welding classes at a reasonable tuition. You don’t have to buy a welder to find out plus all the information on metal prep is a plus.
There are plenty of people here to help you on your journey.
If you can barely use hand tools means you didn’t just leave them hanging on the peg board above the bench. You used them! Keep using them and you will get better with them.
Always remember The person that doesn’t make mistakes isn’t doing anything.


Well . . . there was one Eastern Euro fellow who once did put up a gasifier system that he “no weld” built up using long through bolts to pull everything tight, sealed. Yes. IT Was an all metal unit. Very clever fellow.

Welcome DougMacC
I’d say that first you will want to familiarize your self with wood-as-a-fuel.
Best way is to commit yourself to ONLY heating a space - home or shop - with bulk wood next heating season. The amount of wood fuel you would have to source, cut/split, dry and store would be the equivenlrnt of a home generation woodgas electrical system. In Missasippi. Home wood heating in a more colder northern climes the same wood use as in a realistic vehicle gasifier system.
Sawing, splitting, transfer handling those amounts of wood will give you the tools use-knowing and safety exposures to know if you really want to pursue bulk wood gasification for any engine engine. Before you would metals welder learning commit.

Why cannot you live with a 25% engine power derating?
This would be the same as going from gasoline/diesel to street gas methane fuel derating in the same basic sized engine system.

Steve Unruh

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There is a program, or at least there was. The class started in January, and I was registered for it. My wife scheduled her surgery to accomodate my welding class. However, her sugery did not go to plan. She spent 12 days in ICU, then 10 days in rehab, and I missed the first two weeks of class. The instructor recommended I drop the class and pick it up the next time it is offered. Only problem is no date has been announced for when that next session might start, if at all. Most welding classes are restricted to people going to work in the shipyards. This was the only one I had found without that restriction, and whether or not there will be another class depends on interest.

Steve, the generator we bought was sized to run the well pump. It is not enough power to run the whole camp at once. A 25 to 30 percent power loss would mean that the generator cannot provide the power needed to run the pump. At that point we have a whole new set of problems.

Hi, folks. Thanks for all of the support. I had a wild idea last night, and I’d like to know what you think about it. Start of with an engine in a stationary mounting, maybe with a transmission maybe not. Then work on the gasifier, with a mechanical shaker, for the stationary test bed. There are several devices I might connect to the transmission to put the engine under load. Then, later, worry about installing the engine and gasifier in an appropriate vehicle. It would given me a chance to learn about the whole powerplant with plenty of work room around everything. A shed or portable building would allow me to store, dry, and season the wood ahead of time. (I assume use the oak, not the pine?)

So, what do you think?

oak or pine, dosnt matter they will eat anything with almost no differences pine will make a little more tar (in your hopper not your gas, not really a big issue) and oak is more acidic.

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Doug; Some of the diehard woodgas guys are probably going to think I am trying to short circuit the woodgas program but I will tell you what I have said to other newbies Start with a “charcoal” gasifier. There are two good threads on here. The best for you is the Gilmore thread. You can build a Gilmore Simply-fire with out any welding. They are designed to run small engines like your generator for the well. It will give you a real feel of running on woodgas. Yes you do have to make charcoal and some will say you are wasting energy, or it is a lot of work etc. But being truthful, preparing wood is not with out a lot of effort. No matter where your wood comes from you will probably have to chunk/cut it and usually dry it etc. After you study the Gilmore Simple-fire, come back with your thoughts and don’t think “oh that is not running on wood”. It is the exact same process only a portion is done outside the gasifier.TomC



By the time you get everything mounted you could buy a $500 rust bucket to kill instead and have all reusable hardware. Personally I am too lazy and cheap for what you are proposing.