Last night I fired up my test setup for the first time, and on my first try I successfully created a reasonably clean, flammable syngas! There's still a long way to go, but it's always satisfying when a test actually works the way you had hypothesized it would.
I used a 5 gallon steel keg, inside an old turkey fryer, on top of a high-BTU propane burner. The turkey fryer part is mostly just for insulation and stability. I cranked up the propane burner to full blast, and waited about 15-20 minutes before I started getting gas. The condenser coil was connected with CSST gas fittings and 2" tri-clamp brewing fittings. At the bottom of the condenser was a liquid trap for catching the tars, followed by and addition water bath cooling coil, but I bypassed that part for the purposes of this experiment.
For feedstock, I just used woodchips I got from a tree that had be recently chipped on my street. The material was mostly dry, but probably still had around 10-15% moisture content.
What learned from this test:
-I can indeed produce a clean, flammable gas using the basic approach I thought I could. This process is well-known and well-documented, so I was pretty sure I could, but its still satisfying to get it working my own backyard.
-I will need to pre-dry my material, but I already knew that. It took a bit of time to transition from steam to gas.
-There was gas leaking from some of my seals, particularly the top fitting and the T fitting above the liquid trap. The other one was solid tho, which suggests its possible to make them gas tight (I mean, that's what they're designed for) but I need to tighten them up, and some high temp furnace sealant around the ring couldn't hurt.
-I need to get a carbon monoxide detector. CO isn't that dangerous in an open environment, and when completed, this machine won't produce any in a way that could be inhaled. While experimenting tho, I should invest in some safety equipment. Safety third and all that.