Setting Up to Make Fuel from Sawdust

A look at the cost and practicality of equipment to turn your sawdust and shavings into heating fuel on a small scale. September 16, 2013

Does anyone know of a small scale pelleting machine? We produce about 3000 cu feet of wood shavings a week. Surely not enough for a full scale operations by a long way. We used to sell it for animal bedding but that market died.

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From Contributor M:
Smaller machines are available to make bricks. They should work well for one-two t/l per week. You can sell them or burn them to heat your shop. This just started making sense for us with 3 t/l per day sawdust production. Another option is to sell your dust to a sawdust guy supplying a pellet plant.

From Contributor Z:
We are also a small shop and produce maybe 10 cu/yards weekly, and that is if we are milling/fabricating. The sawdust and scrap became a sizeable effort weekly so that is what got me looking. I installed the smallest briquette machine and wood grinder they manufacture, my space is tight as well but it fits and works. I use an outdoor wood boiler to heat the shop and my house (total of about 10k sq/ft) so the fuel is stockpiled through the summer. I will have approximately 11-15 tons ready for heating season, but we also burn everything we make during the winter.

I am yielding about two months of heat (1000 gallons of oil) out of my stockpiled fuel, plus easily another month out of what we produce throughout the winter. The heat is a bonus. I justified the equipment purchase on labor and disposal costs alone for a five year time frame. With the heat savings added in it was less than two years. I now have zero waste not only from wood, but cardboard, junk mail, office paper and corrugated packaging.

From contributor G:
To contributor Z: How do you store the briquettes in the summer? How do you get them into the stove? I also have a briquette maker and am looking for an easier way to handle them.

From the original questioner:
The pellet system would seem to lend itself to auto handling as opposed to the briquettes. There is probably the advantage of not having any mistakes, miss-cut parts etc. after installing this system. Is there an automated way to feed the briquettes? The apparent disadvantage to the small pellet mill is they don't produce a high enough temperature for bonding without an added binder. What about MDF scrap?

From Contributor Z:
I use recycled burlap coffee bags, found them online. I think they were a few bucks each. I can get several uses out of each. I bought a bag stitcher to sew them up, then I just throw them on a pallet. If I am feeling frugal I cut the stitching and dump them into the boiler, if not I just throw the whole bag in. I added some conduit onto the briquetter and have a frame to hold open the bags while the briquetter is running and it works well enough for us.

From contributor G:
Similar to what we do. I buy misprinted feed sacks for 25 cents each. The bricks are pushed through flex auger tubing by the briquette maker into an old farm gravity box wagon. We fill sacks out of the wagon and stitch them shut and stack for storage. Throw the whole bag into the stove along with wood scraps. In the winter we fill five gallon pails and throw the bricks into the stove and keep the pail. They are easier to fill and no cost. It works okay but I'd like to find a faster, less dusty way.