Build a Wood-Burning Alcohol Fuel Still

If you've thought about distilling ethanol at home for fuel, here are plans for a wood burning alcohol fuel still you can build yourself.

| July/August 1979

  • 058 alcohol fuel still - main
    The assembled wood-burning alcohol fuel still all ready for a run!

  • 058 alcohol fuel still - main

It's been half a year since this magazine began its research into and coverage of home-produced alcohol fuel (see the interview with Lance Crombie). In the course of those six months we've learned a good bit about ethanol distillation both by "picking the brains" of experts from the beverage (and fuel) distillation industry and by reading every bit of printed information we could get our hands on. 

Well, all of that work is beginning to pay off. In the article that follows, we'll detail the plans for our first wood-burning alcohol fuel still. 

You'll notice that this still is a good bit different from the simple solar still based upon Lance Crombie's design. The reason for our "change of direction" is that—although there may well be great potential in such uncomplicated stills as Lance's—we feel that a practical, productive piece of backyard distillation apparatus is needed now, and we haven't yet seen a "box type" still that was efficient enough to produce a reliable supply of fuel. 

We're not giving up on the notion of a solar still, of course (in fact, we have a working model all built and rarin' to go as soon as we get enough test data in), but that report will have to wait for another issue. The point is that we all need an alternative means of supplying our liquid fuel needs today! 

And, again, let us emphasize that the folks at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms have continued to be most helpful. Meet them halfway, supply the Bureau with whatever information they require when applying for your permit (and DON'T EVEN CONSIDER using your experimental distilled spirits plant permit to produce drinkin' liquor!), and the result of such cooperation should be less stringent regulations in the future and—we hope—more progress toward making farm-produced ethanol fuel a nationwide reality. 

After six months of diligent investigation into the whys and wherefores of alcohol distillation, MOTHER EARTH NEWS' researchers have come up with a still that'll enable the "average Joe" to make at least 170-proof alcohol at a rate of over 3/4 gallon an hour! But that's not all. The apparatus we've put together is [1] assembled from (mostly) common recycled materials, [2] reliable, because it's based on "tried and true" distillation theories, and [3] fairly inexpensive to operate, since it's wood fueled.

James DeRosa
8/16/2008 12:40:58 PM

I read your magazine years ago, then made a wrong turn into "corporate America". Time to get on the right path again. Jim

12/26/2007 1:06:51 PM

We sent for your plans and got a return to sender, address unknown. Can we get another address or pay on line somewhere for your still plans

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