Where to Begin

Hi all, My name is Ryan and I’m new to woodgas and looking for advice. I have read some Mother Earth Articles, and looked over the FEMA plans and a few other things, but basically I am starting from scratch and want to know what the best stuff to read is and what I can avoid wasting time on. My plans are to convert my 89 F350 truck, it has the 460 fuel injected engine. From what I’ve read so far this seems like it should be a pretty good truck to use. I probably won’t be able to afford to drive it anywhere soon on petrol gas anyway, so I figure I should take a shot at woodgas. This truck has around 200k miles and is probably about due for an engine rebuild, I am wondering if you would recommend rebuilding it before even messing with wood gas, or go ahead and experiment and then rebuild later when it’s finally shot. It starts, idles, and runs fine now, but it has a lot of power loss and burns almost as much oil as gas :slight_smile: I use the truck mainly for hauling construction materials and firewood, I suppose with the woodgas setup I will probably be mostly pulling loads on a trailer, but nothing as heavy as what Wayne does.

My priorities would be in order of importance; low initial cost, simplicity of design, simplicity of use, efficiency, and lastly performance. I wouldn’t really mind having to go slow to get where I am going as long as I can get there, especially if it’s free. I live in the woods and wood fuel is not an issue.

There seems to be a bunch of good information on this site and I will be interested to see Wayne’s design, when will the book be available?

Thanks for any advice or suggestions.


Your best bet is to buy Wayne’s book and log on to his site. He drove his Ford 460 for a long time doing farm work. The engine is worth rebuilding. Don’t waste your time with a standard gasifier as it won’t hold up and it will burn out. You will need to learn how to operate as well and this is the only place I know where you’ll get the straight info about driving on wood. There is enough info on the videos right now to begin building and you will get all the help and advice you need to get you through the project. Just start and break a leg.

The picture is from a gasifier on a full size GMC truck with 350 engine that was operated improperly and pulled too much weight too far. The operator did not recognize the warning signs from lack of experience and poor instrumentation.

Hello Ryan,

First: start reading. The resources button gives you enough literature for a couple of hundred hours of reading. Remember that building a unit is the smallest part of the project. After your study, making decent plans, some calculations and gathering the right parts will save you a lot of time on the actual building. Just jumping into building will take you three gasifiers before one will satisfy you.

If your engine has a large power loss on petrol, it will have a corresponding power loss on woodgas. If this has to do with worn piston rings and leaky valves.

“I probably won’t be able to afford to drive it anywhere soon on petrol gas”
Huh?! If I would have spend the invested hours (not even the materials) on the Volvo gasifier on a day job, this would buy me petrol for the rest of my life… Note that we pay 9 dollar/gallon here in Western Europe.


Hi RyanK.
As guy never driven a mile on woodgas my advice will be very limited only to what I have directly experienced.
You a Oregon fellow so you best power woods to gasify would be softwood firs and spruces, or if eastside, pines. Use the hardwoods if you got 'em only for making gasifier starting up wood charcoal, your woodstove or your smoker.
Operating any gasifier in the beginning you WILL screw up a lot. Part of the learning curve. You will feel like garbage doing this to a good fresh engine rebuild. Your burning oil now do to engine oil past the valve stem seals/o-rings/bonnets and the piston rings. Nothing you can do about the valve work short of a complete tear down. 'Sok. Extra oil in the beginning will help prevent a tar’ed up stuck open valve. Piston rings quite a bit you can do. Cylinder and piston skirt wear you just have to live with until that full tear down, re-machined overhaul. Always the rings them selves will be carboned up and stuck in their grooves. So do a back yard Overhaul for you first woodgasing useage learning hours.
Get enough ATF and 5W-20 detergent oil for a 50/50 engine change out. Any brand or types. Cheap stuff. Go to a Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep dealer and get a can of their “Combustion Cleaner Spray” as the best choice, or second choice, an aerosol can of “SeaFoam” brand spray cleaner.
Get the engine good and hot. Dump out the oil.
Quick as you can pull the spark plugs one at a time and wand spray the combustion chamber full of the foam cleaner working from the easiest to get to, to the hardest. Careful to divvy up the can for all eight. Let it sit over night with open spark plug holes and the oil out. Next day pull and ground out your coil wire and crank it over a few turns to spew out excessive pooled cleaner. Put back in the OLD plugs. Now fill with the ATF/oil. Start up. Watch the bad blue exhaust smoke and take it out and really get it hot again. Dump the mixed oil and refill with your choice as long as it IS detergent and from now on until that good overhaul use 1/2 quart of ATF in the oil. Become a oil and filter change out when you cannot see through it on the dipstick fanatic. ONLY do this HOT (wear gloves) to try and drip clear the oil pump pick up screen of broken loose crap. Change spark plugs now as needed. On this engine, Autolite/Motocraft or NGK non-fancy standard plugs. You will find your measured compression increasing, and oil consumption decreasing.

Note: only do this aggressive quick cleaning on a US/Canadian domestic cam in the block engines with the old style big hydraulic valve lifters. Imports and late model OHC lash hydraulic lash adjusters are very small, tiny and prone to broken loose chunk plugging. Very Bad on an OHC it you break off crap clog the oil supply to the cam drain back check valve. OK to upper end combustion chamber/ring clean on these but skip the 50/50 oil speed cleaning step.

Have some fun doing this.

Washington State Steve Unruh

Hello Dutch John,

Chris and I have been so busy the last several days I have had little time to post but hope to catch up soon.
We fill honored to have you aboard sir. I enjoy seeing your work and reading your articles.


Thanks for the replies, I definitely have some reading to do.

Steve, sounds like a pretty good plan. I was wondering if the worn rings, low compression, etc. would make it perform so badly on woodgas that it would be futile, but I guess I won’t know until I try. I certainly don’t like the idea of gumming up a freshly rebuilt engine on a bunch of experiments. I’ll get the gassifier working right then rebuild I think. What part of WA are you in? My parents are in College Place and I spend quite a bit of time around there.

Thanks John, I am hoping to do exactly what Wayne did in his Ford and avoid a lot of trial and error. Of course there’s always the learning curve for operating the thing. My truck gets about 10 mpg unloaded on a good day. Glad we’re not up to $9/gal yet here, ~$1 per mile would add up quick! Even at $.40-$.50 per mile I think I should be able to come out pretty far ahead on wood gas no matter how much time I spend on it. At least that’s what I’m hoping.

Hi back RyanK
I am in Yacolt valley town. One of those hundreds if little inter-mountain west side towns sprinkled up and down the WA, OR Cascade mountain range. Mine is located half way between the sunnyside of Mt Saint Helens and the PDX/Portland OR. Our motto should be “Got Wood”, eh? We were the original home to the Weyerhaeuser Co back when.

Yes, read some. But first step, invest and sign your self up as Premium member here. Wayne and Chris Saenz are doing a live pictured/videoed side by side build up of a complete systems for Chris’s carburated full size Dodge PU and Wayne’s newest acquired EFI Dakota V-8. Figure they will be using the pictures generated in the upcoming book.

My gasoline is spendier than most here. And 20+ miles to anything cheaper. I have my own owned on site wood. My response so far has been to drive much less, switch from the gas hog 3/4 ton to the thrifty 1/2 ton. My personal driver Ford has always had some type of skewed sensor/computer problem yielding a true 18 MPG overall (40-50 PSI in the tires and and a cheapskate ex-Rambler feather foot driver helps in this too). Look at the gasoline clean, clean tailpipe picture. About twice a year in the low, low humidty, hot dry August/September drought days it leans and over advanced times it self down to pinging, bucking and misfiring. I’ve learned to pull over, pull a battery cable (OBDI), erase the learned strategies forcing it to reset to factory base settings. Rest of the year in our high humidity it is fine so as a retired master auto tech I know not to screw with a good thing. Just a price to pay when you are milage stretching.
My passion is wood fueled home power. I am in a 7, now 8 cents a kW/h Public utility district. And worse one always striving now for a 99.99% reliability service rating for western states bragging rights award.
So It makes even less CENTS for me to do anything but mail them off a monthly check. Same as with buying gasoline/diesel motor fuel, or trucked in propane for home heating here.
I think the real reason to do woodgasing the same as why I home heat with my own wood; raise my own $8 chickens to produce meat and lay out $6 a dozen eggs. 'Cause I can. As an expression of personal Freedom and Independence. Value? Priceless.
Nothing is more personally expensive than taking the cheapest “encouraged” way out, offered by some one else for their benefit. Their “free” “cheap” is enslaving, to keep you indebted 'till the day you die by then having already indentured your children too.
You have your own local wood fuel. Means you past the first most important woodgas capability qualify step.
So yes! Do join us bootlegging, revenue avoiding, independent Freedom lovers.

Yacolt Steve Unruh



I like the way you think Steve. I’m pretty sufficiency minded also, but in practice have a ways to go. Couple years ago we just about bought a piece of property near Yacolt, along the Lewis River. What a beautiful piece of water that was, but the lot was to small and the neighbors to close. Plus BPA was trying to run a big new line right over the top of it, I don’t know whatever happened with that. I am looking forward to the book coming out. I like what I’ve seen on this site, and I like that Wayne isn’t asking me to just send him a few thousand bucks for a system. Seems like whether I built it myself or shell out big bucks, I will still have the same problem of having to learn how to use it properly without destroying it. Seems like this is the place to learn it.

niiice, rebuild your 460 and clean up the parts, if you do it right it will run good, the egr valve will gunk up your intake as bad as or worse than a clean woodgas system. but with out a filter your valves will seize from tar in the woodgas, i am removing the egr valve on my build, the point is to open it at cruise adulterate the ignition charge and it burns more slowly then the computer increases spark advance yielding cleaner burn, the engine is trying to keep it from knocking and controlling it with this, woodgas burns so slow you dont need this, if your 460 is fuel injected the remove the airpump system but leave the vacuum lines and control valves, the system thinks its there and no check engine light will show, remove the egr, fresh up the entire engine with extra advance and as much intake and exhaust flow as possible, combined with a good gasifier unit and feed to the engine you will have basically the same set up as me, if you would like to share info im all ears

Hello Dutch John,
Your comments and Steve U’s (over a year ago offering to save me a year off my life) rang true to this hard head as I am on my third gasifier and finally am producing a clean burning engine running gas. I am now retrofitting for more preheat, something that should have been built in from the start. Read, study and draw up a plan, most important advice. I must say I have learned a tremendous amount through the experience though.
Totally agree with worn piston rings, worn valve seats,burnt valves, worn valve stem inserts or seals and probably camshaft and crankshaft bearings and seals as well. Get the gasifier going well first you can still fire up the truck, but imo, you won’t have time to do both and still get some sleep. A big chunk to swallow at one time. Good luck.