Wigwam Burner in Sweet Home

Wigwam burner in Sweet Home.

Wigwam burner in Sweet Home.

“Wigwam burners” used to be a common feature in our Oregon landscape. They were used by the timber industry to burn wood waste before it was discovered that the “waste” could be turned into something profitable, and at a time before stricter air pollution standards. Phased out of use in the 1970s, they have quickly disappeared. Part of their disappearance is also probably due to the fewer lumber mills we have around; for example, here in Cottage Grove, a wigwam burner used to stand where our Safeway grocery store does now.

Earlier this summer we found ourselves in Linn County enjoying their covered bridges, so we sought out the wigwam burner in Sweet Home, located at the family owned Lester Shingle Mill on 18th Street. I love that a lot of the mill buildings and machinery are still there. (If you know the purpose of the conical-shaped item hanging to the left of the wigwam burner, please leave a comment below. My searches so far have not been fruitful.)

With permission, I was able to venture close to this wigwam and see inside.

Looking up inside the Sweet Home wigwam burner.

Looking up inside the Sweet Home wigwam burner.



I’ve had two people suggest  that the conical-shaped item hanging to the left of the wigwam burner is for air pollution control. While Google searches brought up interesting EPA documents, I couldn’t find a definitive answer (yet). However, looking through my photos I did find this interesting image taken from the other side of the wigwam burner. It definitely looks like a devise for air control, of some sort.


View from the other side.


For more information and photos about the Lester Shingle Mill, see the Historic American Engineering Record in the Library of Congress.

** Please note that I had permission to walk into this area to take photos. If you visit, please respect private property and no trespassing signs, unless you are given permission as well.

6 thoughts on “Wigwam Burner in Sweet Home

  1. I believe the conical thing hanging there is what is known as a cyclone in air-handling systems. It separates dust and particles out. I’m not sure what it’s purpose there is – maybe a rudimentary air quality system?


    • Thanks Mrs. Random. I’ve done further searching (adding “cyclone” to the Google searches helped a lot!). I also looked through my photos again and found one taken the same day which definitely makes it look like it deals with air flow somehow. I updated the post with the additional photo. Colette


  2. Colette,
    That is in fact a cyclone and its purpose is to separate the sawdust/chips from the air that is moving the sawdust through the blow pipe. The blowpipe acts like a vacuum cleaner in reverse. The blow pipe is gone but if you look at the first picture, in the background is a sawdust bin with the cyclone above and blowpipe attached. The wigwam was originally fed with the conveyor that is still attached and later the cyclone was added. When the sawdust comes up the blowpipe into the cyclone gravity causes it to fall out the bottom onto the conveyor then into the burner, the air goes out the top, a very effective way to separate the sawdust from the air carrying it.
    The sawdust bin (replacement for the wigwam) is used to hold the material until a chip truck comes and parks under. The driver opens the doors on the bottom of the bin and fills the truck.


  3. Pingback: The Hunt for Oregon Wigwam Burners

  4. This burner was built by Phelps Brothers of Eugene, Oregon. My Dad William “Bill” Phelps designed the cyclone to creat a greater airflow which mixed into the sawdust. This allowed the sawdust to burn more efficiently resulting in a cleaner less smoke producing burn.


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