As part of setting up my wood shop, I decided adding a dust collection system was high on my priority list. I did a fair amount of research (somewhere between due diligence and mild obsessiveness) and did my best to make the decisions that fit my needs. I decided to post some information here since I got a lot of good data and advice from others here (and other sites). Sorry if this gets a bit long.
Please note that I recognize there are many opinions on the “right” way to do things and I am sure I have violated those guidelines in many ways. I’m not claiming to be an expert in this stuff…just a guy trying to improve his shop so I can build stuff and stay healthy while I’m at it.
Dust collection for the following machines (only one machine in use at at time):
- cabinet table saw
- sliding miter saw
- 8” jointer
- 20” helical head planer
- mill drill
- tenon machine (Woofer)
- drawdown table (plus an orbital sander)
Obviously, the planer will create the most material, but I think the miter saw and sanding create the most annoying (and dangerous) dust.
Major Parts of the system:
- Blower: a used Jet 1.5 HP I got off craigslist for $250 practially new
- 6” thin wall PVC (S&D 2729 I believe), reduced down to 4” at the machines in most places; almost $800 in pipe and fittings
- some 6” clear flex hose (from Lee Valley)..about $7 per foot I think ($100)
- Lee Valley aluminum “self cleaning” blast gates; 10 6” and a few 4” gates for about $250
- an old 55 gallon drum for collection (free)
- Oneida Super Dust Deputy (metal version for $230)
- miscellaneous dust collection adapters, 4” flex, X-treme tape, etc. from Rockler (maybe $400 all together)
- WoodRiver remote switch ($100)
- cost to date: aprox $2K
Main Design Decisions:
a. Considering the distances and number of corners and machines in involved. I decided to go with 6” ducting. Part of this decision was to allow me to upgrade from the 1.5 HP blower at some point in the future. I used thin wall PVC to help save cost and make installation easier (thin wall PVC is pretty easy to cut and customize).
b. After looking at the cheap ways to go with waste gates, I went straight to the aluminum, self cleaning type from Lee Valley. The 6” gates are $18 a piece. Not cheap, but cheap enough to not build them myself. I am very happy with these gates. Super high quality, they do not get clogged up, and easy to install. Sometimes they can be a little sticky…tapping them with a 2×2 takes care of that.
c. One of my big decisions was the design of the blower and separator cone. In the end I paired the 1.5HP motor from my Jet collector to an Onieda Super Dust Deputy…and….I put the blower ahead of the Dust Deputy in the system. Shocking, I know. Of course, this means that the larger chunks (and potentially screws, etc.) could end up in the blower. I debated this quite a bit…my reasons were 3 fold:
—- It mounted easier because the blower has a 6” input and a 5” output and the Dust deputy has a 5” input and 6” output (and remember this is all hooking to 6” PVC). So this made it pretty easy to hook everything together with no adapters.
—- Mounted together like this, the airflow of the blower and cyclone have compatible spin. Mounting with the funnel first, puts the blower with a clockwise spin and the funnel with a counter-clockwise spin. Pentz says it only makes a big difference with higher volume setups than what I have, but I decided to care anyway.
—- One of the main differences I see is that the collection barrel is under pressure the way I built it (blower pushes air into the cyclone) where it would be under “suction” the normal way. It seems to me more folks should talk about that difference. With the barrel “under suction”, getting all the connections at the barrel air tight is very important for good performance of the system (no leaks) and good particle separation (no reverse airflow in the funnel). Done with the blower in front, and therefore the barrel under pressure, a little leaking does not affect performance. Of course, if there are leaks, it will push dust into the shop.
d. I am lucky that I can run the exhaust end outside without a filter. I am sure this helps my performance a great deal. I get very little dust out there except when I let the barrel over fill…in which case the cyclone stops working and all the shaving head outside….oops :-)
e. I ran pipe high as I could(including mounting the blower over 8’ off the ground). This probably increased the overall distances a bit (drops to machines are longer), but it kept the pipe out of the way.
—I did not concern myself with static buildup after reading much input on the web. It is true that I can get shocked in a few places on occasion (mostly where I have 4” clear flex pipe where larger pieces are being pulled thru the pipe). Maybe someday I’ll ground those areas. Perhaps I don’t get shocked much because most of the pipe is up where I can’t reach it. Perhaps PVC doesn’t build up static as much as metal pipe. Not sure….but the important part is it doesn’t seem to be a problem for me.
- Overall, the system is great.
- The blower is powerful enough to do what I want. I know, all the Pentz data will say it’s not powerful enough…but it’s working for me.
- I meant to get the molded plastic version of the Dust Deputy but somehow got the metal one instead. As many reviews state, it will leak unless you fix it. I spread some high quality silicone calk on all the seams and welds on the inside of the cyclone (since it’s under pressure) and also spread some on the outside in a couple places. It sealed up fine using that technique. Disappointing to get such poor fit and finish, but not too bad to fix.
What would I do different next time?
- Probably the biggest difference would be picking up the blower and funnel from Clear Vue Cyclones. It would have added another $1000 or so to my system (almost 50% increase) and impacted my design a bit.
- Try to incorporate some clear piping. Some clear pipe in the middle of the long horizontal runs, near every machine, and going into the dust barrel would help make sure is working well. Right now I have clear flex hose in a few places (most notably just above the barrel so I can remove the top easily) and I find that super helpful when monitoring the system during use.
What are my favorite things about the system?
- Obviously, it keeps my shop cleaner and (hopefully) me healthier.
- The Onieda cyclone works better than I imagined. It works so well, it’s sort of hard to believe. I get very little dust out the exhaust side of the system unless I let the barrel overfill.
- The WoodRiver remote switch (from Woodcraft) that I use to turn the system on and off. Love this thing! The remote fob comes with a little clip that I hook to my carharts and goes everywhere with me as I work. A quick push to start the DC system and a quick push to turn it off…a HUGE time saver and I honestly think it makes me more safe in the shop. I use the DC system even for little quick cuts on the chop saw and I don’t leave the DC system on any longer than needed (and I think a quieter shop is a safer shop).
- My custom mounting of the blower and cyclone funnel worked better than I thought it would.
- I tried to organize my DC piping so that most branches all start in the same place (a 3 way wye sort of arrangement) so I could place the gates close to each other. I have 3 main branches and switching to/from any of them is a one stop affair. In addition, the branches that have multiple machines on them usually only have 1 common use machine so that most switch overs only require setting the gates at the main junction. For instance, the 2 most used machines I have are the chop saw and the table saw. These are on 2 separate main branches and share their branches with less used tools (like the jointer and the drawdown table).
- My custom draw-down table works much better than I thought it would. Basically, I took one end of my long bench used for my chopsaw (which is simple 2×4 construction with plywood top), enclosed the underside with an extra piece of plywood and some caulk, drilled some holes in the top, and ran 6” flex with a 6” gate into the corner. In addition, I added a wye to the 6” flex and attached 2” hose and my orbital sander. So now I can sand indoors with almost no dust build up. Note: one thing that makes this super usable is the bench I built for my chop saw is higher than standard (43” I think) so I don’t have to bend over at all when sanding (or chopsawing). A lot of my sanding can now be done indoors. Note that I put a gate on the 6” hose that goes into the table top as well as on the 4” wye that goes to the sander; having the 6” gate 90% open, and the 4” gate 25% open seems like the best configuration.
- I ran the pipe runs high. I was worried about accessibility to blast gates, etc. but it has not been a problem. My main 3 way branch is in a spot where I can step up easily and switch the gates. The only gate not easily accessible was handled with a pulley and a couple of lines that come down from the gate.
- I designed the system with clean-outs at the end of all the branches. This has helped a couple times when I overloaded the system and had to open up the cleanout to clear the pipe.
- I added a wye to the drop running to the table saw so I could roll a moveable machine up to it and hook in. This has been very helpful for tools that are not stationary (like my planer and shaper).
- I built a custom stationary floor sweep out of 2x and used a metal flange in front to create a nice ramp for sweeping shavings, etc. into the sweep. In addition, I bought some super high power magnets (about the size of quarters with smooth edges) and stuck them to the underside of the metal sweep ramp; so if I do sweep a screw or nail, the magnets might pick it up before it gets sucked into the DC system. This worked much better than I thought it would. I may buy some more magnets with holes in the middle and use screws to mount them on the inside of the sweep box for even more chance of grabbing nails, etc. Note that these rare earth magnets are VERY strong…I actually had 2 of them come together on a small piece of skin of my hand they stuck together so hard they broke the skin enough to start bleeding. I couldn’t believe it.
- I picked up some special “flex” hose from Rockler that also stays in place after you move it. This was really helpful for the mill drill press…I can just push it out of the way while I’m setting up, and then pull it into place before I start drilling. It isn’t great at holding it’s position, but pretty good.
1. Notes about connections:
a. the 6” PVC ID is a bit too big for the blast gates; to fix that I do the following:
—wrapped the blast gate flange with X-treme tape (I cut the tape in half lengthwise since the tape is twice as wide as the flange on the gates) until the pipe fits snugly (usually 3 or 4 wraps)
—- used a sawsall or jigsaw with a fine tooth blade to cut 6 to 8 1” slots in the end of the pipe (so it will cinch down)
—- drill 6 holes thru the pipe and gate flange and screwed them together (self tapping metal screws are best but I also just used 1” drywall screws at times)
—- one more wrap with X-treme tape to ensure no leaks
b. the 6” PVC and 6” flex are about the same diameter so they don’t connect up; to fix that I:
—- transition from PVC to flex at a blast gate; the PVC hooks to one side as described above and the flex goes right on the other side with a normal hose clamp; this was often a natural place for a blast gate anyway
—- create a transition using a 6” PVC fitting (like a wye, or a coupling). I found that the flex will slide into the female end of fitting if you work at it a bit:
—- I coated the inside of the fitting with some caulk and slid the hose inside the fitting
—- to push the hose in, try pushing on the wire with a the butt end of a carpenters pencil working your way around in a circle following the wire (this is easier with 2 people); once it is in a ways, you can use a longer stick with a flat end (a painters stir stick works nicely if the hose is short enough) to push the flex down into the fitting better
—- once the hose was all the way into the fitting, I used X-treme tape to wrap the outside of the joint to keep everything in place until the caulk dried
—- In retrospect, I think I could have built some sleeves out of sheet metal (flashing perhaps?) that I could have used to connect the flex to the PVC. it’s also possible I could have built a metal cone and tried heating and streching the flex until it fit over the PVC. Having the flex with a coupler fixed to one end is pretty handy though.
c. I bought the PVC with built-in bell ends; this was handy to avoid the need for couplers, but also was very useful when building connectors to custom items like the top of the collection barrel.
—- cut the bell so there is only about 1 or 2 inches of pipe on the small side of the bell
—- in 3/4” plywood (I also did this in a 2×12), cut a 6” hole with a jigsaw
—- shove the small end of the bell into the plywood. As the bell widens, it creates a nice tight fit in the hole.
—- drill 6 to 8 holes into the pipe where it lines up with the plywood edge
—- use a knife to cut the extra pipe sticking out
—- calk both sides of the plywood and use sheet rock screws to attach the bell to the plywood.
Easy, tight seal, and very solid.
2. I followed standard advice and did not glue any connections…just using tape (X-treme or duct tape) to seal up the connections. For the most part I could probably get away with no tape on many of the connections. X-treme tape is kind of expensive, but it’s worth it. Even good duct tape wants to come unraveled after a while and if you have to remove it, it leaves significant residue behind on the PVC.
3. I used plumbers tape (flat metal strapping) to mount/hang the PVC. Mostly, this worked great. In addition, I did pick up some 4” U brackets from Rocker that really helped in some tight areas where I wanted to add extra support or force no-so-flexible-flex hose into place.
4. I did my best to avoid 90 degree bends (mostly by using Wye’s paired with a 45’s for most branching). There are a number of times I violated those rules in the interest of simplicity and/or necessity. I have yet to get a meter to measure air flow, but overall I think it worked fairly well.
5. Good dust collection for my compound miter saw (aka chopsaw) was challenging.
- I finally built a surround with 6” PVC hooked to the top of the surround and 4” connection in the bottom back that has it’s own 4” blast gate.
- I run it with the 6” gate fully open and the 4” gate closed.
- The front of the surround has movable sections that allow me to adjust the miter angles while keeping the opening as small as possible.
- It is more of a prototype than anything and is working fairly well. I’m kind of surprised having the DC connection on the top is working so well. It misses the heavy stuff, but seems to get all the small stuff really well (which is the most important to me). The big stuff builds up in the back and I clean it out occasionally by opening the 4” blast gate.
Of course, this system is not done…I tweak it all the time. But I have built a few projects now with the current configuration and am quite happy.
I will try to add some additional photos in the near future to show some of the details more clearly.
Input is welcome.
-- - mike