Dust collection is absolutely not just for sissies! There’s nothing manly sneezing a couple of particle boards after a shop session. Nor is breathing through a permanent piece of luggage, so take this topic seriously!
Depicted above: the “dust-B-Gone 2000” from Harboe industries (discontinued due to ZIP, ZERO, NADA startmeup support.)
DISCLAIMER: this article is based on my own research and a lot of different sources. I am absolutely no expert or claim to have the one and only correct answer. Do your own research and find what will suit your needs. But this article contains some good advice and interesting findings.
I am not affiliated with any brands or resellers.
If you find anything that is wrong, contact me and I’ll look into it!
Everything you do in your shop creates dust. Bring in machines, and you’ve got yourself a mess in a hurry! You should consider your dust collection as early as possible, and you should do your research on the matter to find out what is correct for you. I have done a bit of research, and this article presents my findings. They may or may not apply to you. But I think my setup is a good one for most smaller shops. Relatively easy on the pocket book too.
Dust Chip collector, or the old fan and bags.
AKA “the dust distributor”…
Now, this is a familiar setup for most. And it does work. Kind of. This type of dust collector – let us call them chip collectors from now on – moves a LOT of air, but it does not suck. And in this case, that is not a good thing. This type of chip collectors are great for machines that produces a lot of chips, such as the jointer/thicknesser and in general for tools that uses 10cm hoses. Reduce the hose size, and the story changes. These machines rely on moving a lot of air to draw the chips away – low pressure, but high volume of air. The more CFM you get, the better the dust collection. But those CFM are not a constant. Toss a reduction adapter into the mix, and the dust collector effectively get a case of COPD (KOLS for us Vikings).
Consider the image above. Not an unfamiliar scene, I’ll bet. A tiny dust port on a power tool connected via an adapter to a chip collector with bags. It does work to a certain point, but a lot of dust escapes because there is really not that much air going through the system. It is better than nothing, but in such cases you really need suction to get adequate dust collection. If you hook this machine up to a tool that has been designed for 10cm hoses, things should be better. But as I found out: not entirely. If I hook it up to my band saw, it does not collect much dust at all. The chip collector is simply not powerful enough and does not move enough air. A more powerful unit would work. That means a much higher price tag.
Fine dust: If you are concerned about fine dust particles, the bag type chip collectors does a great job as dust distributors, but the filtration is rater poor. The filtration actually relies on dust clogging the fabric of the filter bag. They do stop some of it, but the very finest particles – the ones that goes deep down in your lungs and the ones you should be really concerned about – are spewed out and into the shop. There are filter cartridges that helps, but they does not filter below 1-2 microns. And they are very, very expensive comparatively.
To put it very simple, one can say that chip collectors are great for dust and chips you normally would have to sweep up. Not the fine stuff that suspends in the air («sun rays» through your shop when the sun shines through the window is a sign to get the snat outta there!), unless you shell out for a good filter cartridge.
To deal with the fine dust particles, you would need a good air filter and you should wear breathing protection during power tool sessions. The air filter unit will need to run for a long time after you’ve stopped working to filter all the air.
This means that you need to buy a good (at least 1 HP motor) chip collector, a good filter cartridge and an air filter unit.
From what I can find, the typical units here in Norway are like the one on the left. The image show the brand “Scheppach”, but it is EXACTLY the same as my Clas Olson brand Cotech shown in the image above. I have also found the same model with other brands. There are a few variants where the frame is different, but the specifications are about the same. 550W 23V AC motor (about 0.7 horsepower, so not too bad), the airflow is about 760 m3 per hour (according to the specs at Clas Ohlson, which I think is pretty spot on compared to the +1000 m3 per hour in-your-dreams-spec other brands claim to achieve with the same HP…). With 10cm hoses and a very “open” machine hooked to it, that is…
Bigger price, better stuff! Or is it just the logo and color…?
ALL of the following models are EXACTLY the same design. The motor is 550W, but the price tag varies from NOK 1999 to 3498! Actually, that is the price tag for the Scheppach one from two different resellers. The Güde one is priced at 2849,-. Still blue, though….
I rest my case. OEM factories are not a new thing, but people still seem to think that a particular brand is “better” and that more expensive means better too. This is not true. Yes, SOME components might be better on some brands. Maybe. To me it seems that it’s just the color, though. The core components are most likely the same (why would the specifications be the same if some vital components was different???). Nah, this is a case of branding the same machine differently and charging a premium on one brand whilst having the toe dipped in the low-cost part of the spectrum.
I found the same to be true for a jointer/thicknesser combo machine from Scheppach – exactly the same as my old Cotech one. I could not find one single component that differed. The Scheppach one was blue and cost about NOK 2000 more. Go figure…
I worked for an electronic chain. We sold some Whirlpool refrigerators that was a chip of the old block of some cheap generic branded ones. Even the knot used to tie up the power chord was exactly the same. The only difference was the color of the plastic trays inside. The trays were identical, but on the whirlpool one they were blue.
What is it that makes blue products more expensive???
The good old shop vacuum cleaner. You’ll need one of those (perhaps not, more on that later on…). A good one. For a long time I had a tiny Kärcher that actually did work great, although the filtration was a bit poor.
There are a lot of models to choose from. Different brands, etc. If I were to buy one today, it would be a Bosch. Simply because I own a lot of Bosch tools.
A decent shop vac is a great investment no matter what. You can lug it outside and clean your car. Suck up the last drops of water from the bilge in your boat. You can use it when renovating your house, and it is small enough to fit inside a small shop. It is an ideal solution for most application – except the jointer / thicknesser. Those machines will clog up the small shop vac hose in a hurry. The bag or container will fill up fast, requiring a lot of emptying. You could add a cyclone to it, but that will impact the footprint (and reduce the effectiveness a bit).
My suggestion is to get a decent, mid-range one. You will need it from time to time. It might be a good enough solution for your shop – but if you have a jointer / thicknesser you need a chip collector too. In a small to medium sized shop, that is a problem. I found another solution.
PRO TIP: The central vacuum systems, at least here in Europe, uses 50mm pipes and fittings. That’s ideal for a mini ducted dust collector system! The wall outlets are air tight when not in use, so one could connect machines to a couple of outlets or place outlets in an educated way so that you only need a short piece of hose to lug around the various machines.
Vacuum based dust collector
This is where I landed. The vacuum based dust collector (not just chip collector) draws moderately small amounts of air, but at a high pressure. It does not matter if the diameter of the hose goes from 10cm to 5 or 2. It still sucks. And this time, that is a good thing.
Vacuum based dust collection uses high pressure and low volume of air. The classical CFM tables are not useful for these, as those tables are for low pressure, high volume applications. Think of the vacuum based dust collector as a central vacuum cleaner on steroids.
I chose a model from CamVac. It has a 55 litres capacity (there are models with bags up to 150 litres and models with other capacities), two 1KW motors (you can run one or both any way you want; there are one switch per motor) and has a 10cm hose connector. It moves about 6000 litres per minute, about 360 m3 per hour. But with a very high pressure! It keeps my band saw clean, I can hook it up to my orbital sander and it removes all the dust, and I can hook it up to a floor port where I can just sweep the shavings and they are gone. Like a sausage tossed to a dog!
But the best part: it filters the air down to 0.5 microns! That means it keeps the air very clean. It has three stage filtration: a big bag in the drum, a bag and a paper filter on each motor. The inlet is placed so that the unit works as a cyclone.
The two exhaust ports (2.5”) on the top can be hooked to hoses. I plan to build mufflers for the exhaust so that the dust collector will be very quiet. Two 1 meter long pieces of 11cm PVC drain pipe lined with acoustic foam panels should do the trick. It is also possible to put the exhaust outside the shop (bad idea since it will draw cold air into the shop) or make a filter box with even better filtration if one want to go whole hog on the HEPA train.
I plan to install ducting to the various places I need dust extraction, and the CamVac unit should do the job nicely. It is not a cheap option, but it is a lot cheaper than buying a 1+ HP chip collector with a decent filter cartridge, an air filter and a shop vac (you need one!).
I might get a cyclone for the system should I find that the unit fills up too fast. A remote switch system of some sort will be required as well. I have some DIY ideas…
A cyclone, apart from being a house remodeling tool that’s a sod to control, can be a cone shaped thingamabob you mount to a bucket, hook hoses to and voilà – no more emptying the dust bin! The bin on the dust collector, that is. The dust and air enters the inlet, witchcraft happens and almost clean air escapes at the top. The dust end up in the aforementioned now cyclonic equipped bucket. The idea is to separate out as much as possible before the air goes through the filter so that you do not have to clean the filter as often. Good so far.
I have not tried a cyclone, but might do it for the jointer/thicknesser to make it a bit easier to monitor the level of chips during extensive thicknessing sessions. I have a 55 liter capacity on my CamVac, and it will fill up pretty quick.
One of the more famous brands is Oneida. Which makes me chuckle a bit (God, I’m simple…). “Å neida” in Norwegian means “oh, no” as in “will you buy the Oneida cyclone? Oh, no, I do not plan to”.
A cyclone will have a negative impact on the performance of your system, but from what I understand the reduction is not too bad.
But mostly, a cyclone in your workshop seems to be a bit over-hyped. Yes, it does separate chips and dust very well. But that is whats happens in the dust collector anyway. On my old unit, the dust swirls around the sack and falls down. The finer dust goes into (and the finest straight throug) the filter sack. Which is what you want, because a semi-clogged filter sack means better air filtration.
The Oneida 5 inch Dust Deputy cyclone.
Image from Oneida web site.
You need an airtight and sturdy bucket to attach this to. The diameter should be at least two times the diameter of the dust ejection port at the bottom, and you should monitor the level of dust and chips and empty the bucket when there is less than three to four times the said diameter of free space left. If not, particles might – to put it simple – be sucked up in the vortex and into the ejection air stream.
I think the reason why cyclones has been such a rage, is the fact that if you build a complex contraption with lots of guesstimation and backyard physics, film the process and upload it to Youtube, you get lots of views. Which is what the content creators are after in the first place. At some point, your shop won’t be taken serious unless you have a huge upside-down traffic cone in the corner with some pipeworks connected to it. And there’s a lot of myths surrounding cyclones as well. This article is well worth a read. Not a glance, a READ. “Did not read” is a sign of stupidity and ignorance, not something you should be proud of. But then again, you made it so far so I guess you do read…
The one time you really need a cyclone is if you have a simple fan on the wall that exhaust into a bag or filter. You could use a hay ventilator style thing and get away with it, although I would look at you funny.
A cyclone is only useful for application where you want to separate out as much big stuff as possible before it enters your source of dust collection. For a shop vac system, it makes sense. For regular chip collectors and the CamVac type, not so much. As an inline aid connected near the planer/thicknesser, it would make sense. But in that case you really do not need a fancy setup. A drum with intake on the side of the lid with an angled ejection port inside, and a exit port in the middle of the lid, would actually work pretty good. Takes up a lot less space as well.
Then there’s thien baffles. My head is starting to spin…
Unless you really love to build complicated things like that, my suggestion is to get on with making projects, empty the bin when it is full and have fun. The time and money spent on complex systems is a waste in the bigger picture. How often do you empty your dust bin – REALLY? Will all the hours you spend on building a cyclone system be gained through less dust bin emptying? I highly doubt it. But a Cyclone could be fun to build, and you’ll learn a lot in the process – some physics as well. And I am all for that!
My shop is 30 m2, or 323 square feet. I have a Record Power BS400 band saw, a ML 392 model jointer / thicknesser, a Bosch PTS 10 table saw (although I does not use it very much) and various other small machines and tools such as track saw, miter saw, routers, that needs dust collection. I use hand tools a lot, so I bought a nice little gizmo I’ll install near the workbench. I can just sweep the chips and shavings into the thing, and they’re gone:
I’ve got a bucket of central vacuum system parts left over from an old apartment. I’ll install some of it near the work bench to be able to hook up a sander, the router or something, very easy. With a CamVac unit, that is very easy to do!
TRIVIA: The word “dust” in the Norwegian language means: dimwit, dork, fool, moron, schmuck and some more colored variants I’ll omit to keep the PEGI rating family friendly…
Buying dust collectors suck. Hopefully, they do too…
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A very informative and entertaining read. Thanks for sharing.