The Early History of Thermex Paper-Cube Fuel

Learn how one Vermont farmer put his equipment to new use by making wood- and paper-cube fuel through his new Thermex business.

| January/February 1982

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    Laslocky displays his paper-cube fuel.

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Anyone who's ever driven through the countryside and watched a giant combine efficiently mowing its way across a field of grain has likely marveled at today's technology. Well, as you may know, other — often less visible — machines are needed to turn field crops into pelletized or cubed feed for livestock.
Similar to the combine, these motorized monsters are very expensive and they, too, spend the bulk of their working lives housed idle in cavernous sheds, waiting to lumber into action when the crop matures. In fact, most feedmaking equipment sees use only from April to September, and — even if the harvest is exceptionally good — the total operating time of such machines may amount to no more than 800 hours a year.

"This equipment is simply too expensive to sit idle for the better part of the year," notes Russell Laslocky, owner of the 250-acre Windrow Farm near Shoreham, Ver. So, when Laslocky read about a local utility's plan to fuel one of its generators with wood chips, he began wondering whether his alfalfa-compacting equipment might be used during the off season to produce compressed biomass fuel for wood-stoves and furnaces. Before long the machines — a gargantuan California Century pellet mill and a huge John Deere 390 alfalfa cuber — had been adapted to turn out combustible pellets and cubes from sawdust and waste paper.

Laslocky buys sawdust from local suppliers for about $20 a ton and he's able to obtain castoff paper from offices, newspapers and other sources free for the hauling (the cost of transporting the paper does average $20 to $25 a ton, though). Once the Vermonter has pelletized or cubed the waste materials, he sells them through a dealer network — in 40-pound bags or by bulk — for $60 to $100 a ton, under the trade name "Thermex."


Making Sawdust for Fuel 


After the sawdust arrives at Windrow Farm, it's dumped into an automatic feeder. A conveyor then carries the pulverized wood to a 30-foot-long tumbler containing three concentric drying cylinders (since the sawdust has a moisture content of between 50 percent and 60 percent, it must be dehydrated to about a 20 percent moisture content to become an efficient fuel).

Following its trip through the dehydrator, the sawdust is augured into one of the two "cyclones" or tunnel-like hoppers, which tower above the processing plant's roof. From there, the shavings are gravity-fed into the California Century pellet mill and are extruded as a kind of woodchip spaghetti, which measures about 3/8 inch in diameter.

12/24/2007 9:50:23 PM

I have a John Deere cuber, which is the stationary model. If this might be of interest, please e-mail me or call 765-339-4775.

2/26/2007 8:24:19 AM

hello, I'm looking for a cubing machine, John Deere 425.If anybody knows anything, please contact me at


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