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My Shop, Episode #3: Mini-Cyclone Triggers Hard-Piped "Dust Collection" system...

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  • My Shop, Episode #3: Mini-Cyclone Triggers Hard-Piped "Dust Collection" system...

    My Shop, Episode #3: Mini-Cyclone Triggers (finally) Hard-Piped "Dust Collection" system...

    Also I suppose you could say this will be sort of a "soapbox" rant ... at least near the beginning.

    Like a lot of guys with small "hobby" wood workshops, I've pretty much just stumbled along with a shop vac (or two) hooked up mainly to my Table Saw (BT3100 is still LOML), and occasionally swapping it onto other things (particularly the disc/belt sander), but frankly (especially with small, relatively "fast" projects) not always bothering, just letting it go where it wants, and then dealing with the aftermath (just sweeping, vacuuming up the chips & dust) as needed. I actually think this is LESS problematic than many people have been inclined to believe -- because a "hobby" wood shop (even a 1 or 2 man semi-pro shop) is an ENTIRELY different thing than a full blown commercial multi-employee operation (and that's ESPECIALLY true in regard to "sawdust") -- more on this presently.

    Anyway, like a lot of us, I've looked at all of the various "dust collection" systems, bought and read the "classic" like Sandor Nagyszalanczy's "Woodshop Dust Control" and other similar books, wood magazine articles, etc. I've also looked at a variety of different systems AS INSTALLED and "functioning" (at least ostensibly) in a variety of workshops (small home/garage ones, cabinet shops & "pro" woodworker shops, and yes even big industrial systems) -- so I've seen the gamut, from large high-volume (large diameter pipe) CFM industrial systems (real ones, the kind that are MEANT to move "product" similar to wood chips & sawdust, not the "faux" industrial systems pushed onto woodworkers), to the various Penn State (apparently now defunct) and Oneida Cyclones, to the Jet & Grizzly (and of course HF knockoff) "dust collectors" and so on.

    Plus, while I'm not an engineer, I have had significant "technical involvement" with a huge variety of machines, systems and industries (including working with and learning from engineers in many of them -- always "fun" by the way -- especially when you have 2 or 3 of them in a room together, and can ask one or more of THOSE "questions" (1) LOL); and beyond that I have studied (read/autodidact) about things like aerodynamics and fluid dynamics (of many, MANY kinds) for... well basically my entire life -- since my pre-teen years (long story, some other time).


    <BEGIN RANT>

    Point being, I've done my research, and I know that a lot (probably the vast majority) of what is being done, has been written (yes that includes you Sandor!), and particularly what is being "pushed/promoted" and sold by various manufacturers & vendors of these systems... is 100% pure, unadulterated horsepucky!

    My conclusion? Most small shop dust collection systems "suck" -- and by that, I don't mean that in a good "suction" way.
    I mean they're poorly designed, poorly installed, perform even more poorly as a result (don't really operate in the way people think) and in the worst cases/scenarios can even end up being "counterproductive" -- that is, they actually end up making the "dust" problem (especially "super-fine dust" the kind that gets in your lungs) even worse than it would be without a dust collection system.(2)

    </END RANT>


    So, given the above "rant" and my opinion/conclusion on the matter, you're probably wondering WHY in the heck *I* would then even want to install a "dust collection system" (3)of any kind in my "hobby" workshop.

    Good question. And I actually have a good answer.

    But first, I want to be perfectly clear about the things that are NOT the reasons why I installed a "dust collection (DC) system" (3) -- that is I have reasons, just not these:
    • I am emphatically NOT doing it out of concerns for my "respiratory health" -- that ****'s been WAAAAY overblown (especially for "hobbyist" woodworkers) -- in no small part it's been propagated as "F.U.D." (4) via marketing by the manufacturers & sales pitches (based mostly on hearsay & urban myth) of the vendors & salespeople selling various DC systems & accessories.(5)
    • And I'm NOT concerned about that for the same reasons that I am NOT concerned about contracting "black lung disease" (aka Coal Worker's Pneumoconiosis) when I use charcoal in my BBQ grill -- I'm NOT working with the kinds of materials, methods that are problematic in that regard, and I'm definitely not doing it "full time/long term" as a professional working regularly with "exotic" woods might.
    • If I were concerned about such -- given my likely minimal exposure -- I'd actually be MUCH better off just wearing a good, high quality "respirator"... as it would be far more effective, and certainly more cost-effective.

    No, the reasons I've (finally) installed a "[saw]dust collection" (hard-piped vacuum) system are a LOT more mundane:
    • First, woodchips and sawdust ARE a "safety hazard" -- chiefly they're a "feet slipping" hazard, particularly around powered & carbide tipped "sharps" (saws, etc), and especially on the flooring I have in my shop (enamel painted Dri-Core; put down on purpose so I'm not standing on concrete, also smooth surface makes cleanup easier, while admittedly increasing the "slip" risk) -- ergo I'd rather minimize, ideally the BEST solution is to prevent the stuff from getting underfoot in the first place... and that means "suck it up" at the source.
    • Second, my past practice (let the chips fly & land where they will) was always a royal "pain in the backside" to cleanup... it was not necessarily "a BIG deal" when the projects were rare & occasional; but as I've finally been freed from other commitments, I plan to increase the rate, frequency & amount and even size of projects I'm doing (order of magnitude more, but still far LESS, likely an order of magnitude less than any commercial shop/professional)... well the "royal pain" part is destined to increase (as of course is the "risk" of slipping, especially as I age and eyesight etc get incrementally worse {happens to us all, and I ain't 20 yrs old or even 30 or 40 or 50 years old anymore}).
    • Third, sawdust & wood chips -- especially when underfoot -- have a tendency to "migrate"; both out into the garage (and onto the vehicles and other tools and things stored there), as well as being tracked into the house (both from feet/shoes and clothing)... again BEST solution is to reduce/prevent it at the source (the machines). Since one of the reasons I have a "detached" garage and workshop is that I really don't like sawdust in my house (where I like to be barefoot) -- well, it's kind of defeating the purpose if every-time I head in for a cuppa, or to take a leak, or grab a bite I end up tracking the stuff in with me (and I'd rather not HAVE to put shoes on & off at the house door, or blow myself off each time I exit the shop), well prevention/minimization is the key.

    OK that's the End of the Rant & explanation...
    On to what I DID install & why:

    As I noted, I've "researched" this stuff over a long time... and knew that I wanted & planned to (eventually) install some kind of a "two-stage" collection system -- hard piped, with semi-dedicated hoses to MOST of my machines (with SOME "swapping/borrowing" for the rarely used ones). And I always figured to either make (or possibly buy) either a small "cyclone" or else (possibly, but less likely, more on the reasons presently) a "Thien" style baffle/separator & barrel as part of that.

    I also KNEW that I was absolutely NOT going to be installing any big huge diameter 4" or 6" pipes OR a whole bunch of blast gates (I do not want them overhead, nor on the walls, nor in the floor, nor at the machines, nor at the joins... not on a train, nor on a plane, I do not want them in a house, I do not like them with a mouse... I do not want them here or there, I do not want them anywhere... I do not LIKE green eggs & ham! And I do not NEED or LIKE your oversized pipes & 1,000+ CFM dust grinders! {Yeah I know it breaks the rhyme, just like [most] DC systems break the wallet & bank account!})
    Click image for larger version

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    That's where THIS little "mini-cyclone" guy (at left) comes into the picture.

    Frankly, I bought it on a lark; in no small part because it was ON SALE... yup, I got it at a bargain price from a local store ($10 off normal price, and then an extra 11% off via mail-in rebate, cost to me ~$35 and change, plus sales tax)... Now, I'd seen these been a bit "dubious" about them, but nevertheless had been contemplating ordering one just to "play with it" -- but wasn't sure whether to buy THIS one (the el cheapo, tiny, plastic) model or one of the "Heavy Duty" (the significantly more expensive, but metal & sturdier ) models. Since I figured to be hooking it up to my (purchased over a decade ago) 16 gal Craftsman Wet/Dry "Shop Vac" -- ostensibly about 125 to 150 CFM(6) -- well I wasn't sure I wanted to invest $200 in a metal one; and there was ZERO point in buying any LARGER (i.e. 4" or 5" inlet) model... because the CFM needs of those things is insane (not going there, my equipment & usage doesn't NEED nor can it justify such).

    So... bought it, brought it home, and tested it on a "jury rigged" little setup... to say that I was impressed, (and I'm not easily impressed) would be an understatement.
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    It's impressive NOT just because it's cheap and yet functional, it's impressive because of how SMALL this thing is. If I had a bunch of bananas handy ("banana for size") to put in the picture, well the bunch would be almost a big as this thing (and a lot heavier). It's insanely lightweight, is just over a foot high (and that's from the base all the way to the very TOP of the center-top outlet port) -- and only 6-1/2" in diameter (plus the inlet port sticking out the one side approximately 2").

    And THAT ... changes everything!

    See I'd been purposefully NOT building anything in the one corner of my little 12 x 16 workshop (see picture at right) -- oh to be sure it had become a "wood & junk" collection area (cleaned out for this photo) -- but I wasn't putting anything there even semi-permanently because I always figured that was where I was going to locate some "central dust collector/cyclone" thingee either physically located in that corner, or else piped OUTSIDE from there (where there is an under-the-overhang area adjacent to the attached garage (perfect spot for a "boxed in" outside cyclone/DC system).

    But with THIS little (teeny, tiny) thing -- well it can be WALL-mounted, moreover it can be wall mounted ELSEWHERE in my shop... like behind or off to the side of the BT3100 table saw, AND since it will dramatically shorten the amount of piping needed for the rest of the tool "lineup"; that means the piping can be smaller, and the total CFM of the system can be dramatically less as well.

    Which means -- WOOHOO!!! -- this corner of the shop can now be DEDICATED to other things (i.e. "Episode #4 In-Shop Full-Size Sheet-Good, Handi-Panel & Lumber Storage Rack + MORE" coming soon! ...same Bat-Time, same Bat-Channel!); and THAT then frees up room ELSEWHERE in the shop & garage for still other things (yet to come, like my Dad's old Delta Wood Lathe {which I never though I'd have room for, absent another "shop" addition on the BACK of the garage}, as well as making it easier to place his old Atlas Screw-Cutting Metal Lathe, and Vertical Milling Machine {aka the BEAST}).

    So... now I can get to work and design & install the hard-piping.

    But wait... remember the "NO (zero) Blast Gates" -- and the mini-cyclone may be small, but the 16 gallon shop-vac isn't (suckers like 3 ft in diameter and 3 ft tall... and it's been a royal pain in the backside too, always in the way).

    So first up we need to relocate that shop vac (preferably someplace that REDUCES the noise)... And THEN we can figure out the rest, the piping, etc...with that, I'll leave you hanging (cliff hanger you see! like FUD, it keeps the audience coming back for more.)

    Next time (in a day or two, this same post/thread)... Episode 3.5: "Look Ma, No Blast Gates!"

    'Til then... CHEERS!


    (1) Per example: a really FUN exercise for those of you who have the opportunity & the devious sense of humor -- is to play the naive, innocent-faced rube and ask an engineer (or ideally more than ONE) to explain the difference between a bolt and a screw; better yet is to hand them a Hex Head Cap Screw (HHCS) and ask whether it's really a "screw" (as the "official" name implies) or if it's actually a "bolt" (which is what most people would call it if you handed it to them) -- then sit back and enjoy the "fireworks" show that is almost certain to follow (if this is in an "open office: engineering department... bring popcorn!) WARNING: don't -- do not -- do this in a BUSY "deadline" engineering environment, the arguments/debate are likely to continue until the end of the day, and NO other work will be completed (in fact, it's likely to decimate productivity for several days).

    (2) And there's actually a fairly EASY way (experiment) to demonstrate this in many people's shops. Especially if they have one of those hanging "air filtration" systems. Tell them to get TWO "brand new" filters, and then (after installing "new" filter #1) perform work in their shop for a couple days (or week) while USING their "dust collection" system. Then take out (formerly "new") filter and "bag"; swap in "new"filter #2, and perform a similar array of work for a similar time frame, couple of days (or week). Likewise remove (formerly "new") filter #2 and "bag" it as well. Shake & rattle the filters in the bag. I'll give you ONE guess which filter will have collected more "fine" dust, and it probably AIN'T the one you've been trained to think.(This **** ain't rocket surgery.)

    (3) Technically, I have not installed a [superfine] "dust" collection system; what I have installed is a vacuum system that sucks up small wood chips and (relatively large particle) "sawdust" -- note the word "saw" in there; while this system WILL probably also help collect some "sanding wood dust" the primary thing I'm concerned with is stuff that comes from the various "saws" (i.e. sawdust, not [superfine] sandingdust) -- and oh yes, there definitely IS a difference. even thought we SHOULD all call them "sawdust & woodchip" systems, I'm still going to call it, & refer to it as a "dust collector/collection system" (or DC) because that's the common and accepted terminology we all use. I'm just clarifying here what & why I'm really installing this system to accomplish in MY workshop -- YMMV and your priorities may differ (as likely will your system, but elaborating on what I've done, the what AND why, may give y'all a different perspective, and serve as "food for thought").

    (4) F.U.D. = Fear, Uncertainty, & Doubt. as the Wikipedia first paragraph/sentence summarizes it: "Fear, uncertainty and doubt (often shortened to FUD) is a disinformation strategy used in sales, marketing, public relations, talk radio, politics, cults, and propaganda. FUD is generally a strategy to influence perception by disseminating negative and dubious or false information and a manifestation of the appeal to fear." And of course the "uncertainty" & "doubt" are KEY components that help "cover" the BS & "false" information -- to wit: "We can't say for certain that you will be guaranteed to die a horrible & premature death if you don't purchase our product(s)... but gee, you just might... do you wanna take that risk? Or you gonna fork over the cash..." (etc).

    (5) Which, by the way includes BOOKS and MAGAZINES -- like the aforementioned Sandor Nagyszalanczy, et al -- much like news media sensationalized fearmongering/scaremongering (i.e. "if it bleeds, it leads") well, woodworking authors and editors & publishers are NOT immune from the same techniques; and specialty issues of zines like "shop planning" and "workshop dust control" are almost certain to be a NICE little mechanism to entice the manufacturers of such systems to buy really NICE BIG, EXPENSIVE "display ads" within that issue. (And no, it's not a "conspiracy"... but it is a "natural collusion of people with vested interests" which are NOT necessarily "in your BEST interest" but rather are THEIR best interest {sales & profit driven -- I have nothing against "profit" -- but I'm also not naive; FUD is a time-proven, very effective sales & marketing strategy}). Now, in Sandor's defense, in the first chapter of his book he DOES differentiate between [superfine] "dust" -- which he refers to as "powder" [sic] -- as opposed to "sawdust"; and he DOES note that the real problems are mainly with "professionals" (who work with wood ~40 hrs per week, 50 weeks a year, year after year, for decades); and moreover with those who work with either "exotic" (often very "hard") woods, and/or "spalted" woods (funky grain patterns/colors due to wood fungus, & it's the aerosolized fungal spores that are the BIG problem, causing allergic reactions) -- but once said, he more or less reverts to FUD regarding that in later chapters (i.e. as if everyone had some "equal risk" of respiratory problems, therefore... etc.)

    (6) Ayah... also claims "6 HP (peak)" on single phase household plug (120VAC 60Hz); and also claims 170 mph blower... Riiiight; NOT likely. So, I figure the "peak" 150 CFM is best-case-theoretical ideal at the inlet port on the vac, so -- assuming relatively SHORT pipes/hoses, I can maybe expect 100 to 125 (max) at the cyclone and probably just under 100 CFM at the tool... good enough for this soldier (and MOST of my smallish "consumer grade" machines).

    EDIT: This is sort of a "series/continuation" of my previous thread/post "My Shop -- Clean, Refurb, Enhance, etc." -- and which also included a later comment "Episode #2 -- Scroll Saw needs a new "home" -- I figured a NEW post/thread was warranted for this, because the subject matter is rather specific & different.

  • #2

    Wow, you write long posts!

    Originally posted by WLee View Post
    Like a lot of guys with small "hobby" wood workshops, I've pretty much just stumbled along with a shop vac (or two) hooked up mainly to my Table Saw.
    Same here, early on.

    Originally posted by WLee View Post
    Anyway, like a lot of us, I've looked at all of the various "dust collection" systems, bought and read the "classic" like Sandor Nagyszalanczy's "Woodshop Dust Control" and other similar books, wood magazine articles, etc.
    Me too.

    Originally posted by WLee View Post
    ...I've done my research, and I know that a lot (probably the vast majority) of what is being done, has been written (yes that includes you Sandor!), and particularly what is being "pushed/promoted" and sold by various manufacturers & vendors of these systems... is [I]100% pure, unadulterated [B]horsepucky!
    Seen enough of that myself.

    Originally posted by WLee View Post
    Most small shop dust collection systems are poorly designed, poorly installed, perform even more poorly as a result (don't really operate in the way people think) and in the worst cases/scenarios can even end up being "counterproductive" -- that is, they actually end up making the "dust" problem (especially "super-fine dust" the kind that gets in your lungs) even worse than it would be without a dust collection system.
    Agreed. My first shop was one of those shops.

    Originally posted by WLee View Post
    [*]I am emphatically NOT doing it out of concerns for my "respiratory health" -- that ****'s been WAAAAY overblown (especially for "hobbyist" woodworkers) -- in no small part it's been propagated as "F.U.D." (4) via marketing by the manufacturers & sales pitches (based mostly on hearsay & urban myth) of the vendors & salespeople selling various DC systems & accessories.(5)
    For me, that was precisely why I paid particular attention to my dust collection design in my latest shop (Shop #3). Shop #1 resulted in me getting a wicked dust allergy. If I walked into a big box store with a panel cutting saw, I could tell you within 20 seconds if they had been cutting plywood recently because of the allergic reaction symptoms I quickly experienced. I was a casual, occasional woodworker. Some people are fortunate and it doesn't harm them. Not me.

    Originally posted by WLee View Post
    If I were concerned about such -- given my likely minimal exposure -- I'd actually be MUCH better off just wearing a good, high quality "respirator"... as it would be far more effective, and certainly more cost-effective.
    True, and that was my supplemental protection for shop #2. The problem was that I HAD to wear a dust mask anytime I was in the shop. Even if I didn't cut any wood. There was enough dust in the air. When I was setting up shop #3, I wanted to improve on that situation.

    Originally posted by WLee View Post
    I also KNEW that I was absolutely NOT going to be installing any big huge diameter 4" or 6" pipes OR a whole bunch of blast gates... And I do not NEED or LIKE your oversized pipes & 1,000+ CFM dust grinders!
    I took the "huge diameter pipes" and "bunch of blast gates" route and I love it. I just walk up to the machine and start using it (with the dust collector running). The dust is automatically taken out of the way. I'm fortunate that the place I set up shop #3 has lots of room.



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    • #3
      Originally posted by Slik Geek View Post
      Wow, you write long posts!
      Well, writers do tend to write (LOL); and technical writers (even if former/retired) tend to get "technical" ... and probably a bit long winded, when they write.

      I took the "huge diameter pipes" and "bunch of blast gates" route and I love it. I just walk up to the machine and start using it (with the dust collector running). The dust is automatically taken out of the way. I'm fortunate that the place I set up shop #3 has lots of room.
      And if I'm not mistaken, latest iteration -- shop #3 with the"huge diameter pipes" (I'd presume 6" mains?) -- probably not only has more room, but likely also also has higher ceilings.

      If you don't mind my asking, what were/are the dimensions -- length, width AND height -- of the various shop iterations? Also, what where the CFM ratings (roughly) on the shop vacs/dust collectors in each.
      Last edited by WLee; 07-15-2018, 05:13 AM.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by WLee View Post
        What were/are the dimensions -- length, width AND height -- of the various shop iterations?
        They were all basement workshops, at three different houses.

        Shop #1 [set up in 1986] Used a wet/dry vacuum (with the standard filter), and later, created a shop air filtering system with a retired furnace blower and several furnace filters, set up to create a negative pressure differential to the rest of the basement. The shop room was roughly 12 feet x 14 feet. Don't recall the ceiling height, but I think it was roughly 7 feet to 7-1/2 feet to the bottom of the floor joists. No idea on the CFM.

        Shop #2 [set up in 2003] Delta 50-665 dust collector (two-stage, 55 gallon barrel with a dust bag. The dust bag was upgraded to a much larger singed felt bag). I used flexible 4" hoses for all hook ups. Some connections were "semi-permanent, switched connections when switching tools). The shop was 23 feet x 15 feet, plus wood storage external to the shop. The ceiling height (bottom of floor joists) was roughly 8 feet. Whatever the claimed CFM was, it was likely at the 5" diameter entry to the dust collector. I'm sure that I was way below that CFM rating, given my 4" tubing diameter, and flexible tubing as well.

        Shop #3 Clear Vue cyclone, CV1800 The shop is 26 feet by 17 feet, plus another area which is 30 feet by 8 feet, with the bottom of the floor joists an inch or so below 8 feet. Should be achieving over 800 CFM. I made airflow measurements, but can't recall where they are at right now!

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