A Wood-Gas Fuel Powered Sawmill

Fuel from wood scraps was the source of power for this innovative wood-gas fuel powered sawmill project, designed in spring of 1982 by the editorial staff at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Eco-Village.

| November/December 1982

Learn about the wood-gas fuel powered sawmill designed by the editorial staff at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Eco-Village. (See the sawmill photos and diagrams in the image gallery.)

In spring of 1982, the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editorial staff took on a project that not only tested the mettle of wood-gas fuel under constant (and sometimes demanding) conditions, but also gave the editors an opportunity to carefully monitor the engine and the fuel-production system, and to make alterations as needed to improve the effectiveness of each component involved.  

Power from Lumber Scrap

Our latest undertaking is a wood-gas fuel powered sawmill that runs on wood . . . specifically, a Belsaw Model M14 with a 40-inch blade, which — until a year or so ago — had been driven by a steam engine.

The new setup relies on a 250-cubic-inch Chevrolet six (the engine we pulled from our wood-gas truck when a large-displacement V-8 was installed prior to the alternative fuels auto rally) mated to the transmission from a junked Chevy truck. This team, in turn, is connected to the main shaft of the sawmill through the rear axle assembly of a GMC van. A rubber shock coupling, installed between the saw and axle shafts, helps to absorb any backlash that might occur while the system's in operation.

To allow us to relieve the load when starting our mill, we've kept the clutch functional within the bellhousing and used a slave cylinder — governed by a lever-controlled master cylinder at the operator's station — to disengage the gear train. And, because the system is designed to run on either wood gas or petrol, we've hooked up separate smoke and conventional-fuel throttles, as well as a manual "fine tuning" air mix adjuster and a choke to facilitate cold-weather gasoline starts.

Two Changes for the Better

Although the gas-generating components perform the same functions as did those we've detailed in the past, we have made a few modifications to this newest group in order to reduce maintenance chores and lower construction costs.

Pat Miketinac
4/19/2010 10:20:15 PM

I remember seeing this Belsaw at Eco-Village. Mine is powered by the PTO of my tractor with a bush hog driveshaft and an aluminum shear pin for safety. Notice the log tied to the carriage. It was put there to hold down the far side of the carriage because the blade was not set close enough to the near side of the carriage. This type of mill takes more skill and maintenance to operate than a small bandsaw type and wastes more wood due to the wider kerf, but it cuts a lot faster.

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