Introduction: Wood Burning Lawnmower (experiment)

About: Dad and hubby, good food enthusiast, solar energy, boating, making stuff, melting stuff, and raising chickens.

This is an instructable I started about five years ago; it was a fail and only partially worked but here are some pictures and my intro from the time of the build. I thought some people might still find it interesting. I still remember people staring wide-eyed as they drove by my house seeing a mower with a "smokestack". LOL

Woodgas, biogasification, gasification, are all descriptions of this project and the spell check doesn't like any of those words. I've been reading in Farm Show Magazine about people converting their trucks and tractors to run on firewood; and I said "what the @#%?". But I checked things out a little more online a found quite a bit of information on this, especially a FEMA guide released in the late 1980's.
This is a simple process and you don't have to understand the chemistry for it to work. Basically you burn dry wood, grass, coal, etc in a tube at very low oxygen levels which gives off hydrogen and carbon monoxide, both flammable gases, and suck that into the engine to burn like propane. Actually its supposed to burn about as clean a propane too but with less power.

Warning: This project involves combustible gasses, poisonous gasses, hot surfaces and fire! If you plan to build something like this, don't burn yourself, don't do this indoors, and do this sober! Don't add any liquid starter fuel or anything similar; I learned the hard way with a fire ball shooting out of the burn chamber; I lost a good two months growth on my beard and one eyebrow. It's kinda funny since I didn't really get hurt, but it could have been worse.

Step 1: Remove Gas Tank and Carb

We don't need a gasoline tank anymore and the carburetor that the mower came with, remove these offending items from the engine assembly.

Actually I later found out these things would have been nice to keep to make start-up easier.

Step 2: Build a Platform

I needed a flat mower deck to make this work easily, one without a bagging shoot. I Attached a thick piece of plywood that held a metal five gallon bucket and some accessories (see pictures.)

Step 3: Build a Burn Chamber

This is where the 5-gallon metal bucket and lid came together with a quart paint can and the burner assembly (stove pipe and a bowl). The quart can is an access hatch for starting the fire in the chamber. High temperature RTV sealed all connections, including the bucket lid.

A stainless steel bowl was used for the burn pot attached at the bottom of the fuel chute with some heavy copper wire. 

Step 4: Cooling Tube

This is an important step; the hot gasses from the burn chamber need to cool down before getting to the filter and carburetor or else things catch on fire where it's not intended. I used a section of electrical conduit tubing and a tubing bender to make a cooling tube. In the end I needed probably twice as much cooling.

Step 5: Build a New Carburetor

Improper carburetion was one fail point in this project, so this part needed some work.

Carburetors meter the flow of air and fuel to the engine. I used a combination of plumbing, gas, and electrical conduit fittings to make this work. 1/2 inch copper pipe fit perfectly into the engine intake tube; to that I soldered a pipe thread fitting. To the fitting I attached a brass gas valve as the throttle control.

Step 6: Filter

A tar filter; the woodgas contains a lot of tar, therefor a filter is needed to keep the engine from gumming up. This was placed after the cooling tube just before the carburetor. 

Step 7: Notes and Issues

Using a shop vac to prime the fire through the carburetor; this thing belched and blew. Once the gasification of the wood started, I did a many pull starts on the engine; some minor ignition happened but the engine never really started.

In the end I found multiple fail points, imagine that :)

1. The cooling tube wasn't long enough to cool the hot gasses before they reached the tar filter, thus burning the wood chips and sucking them into the motor.

2. The pull start up sucked, I had many blisters to prove it. If I were to do it again I would leave on the original carb and gas tank, start the engine with gas, then convert over to wood gas with a running engine as the vacuum. 

3. The best fuel seemed to be little twigs, although my dream was to run this off of the lawn clippings.

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