A Series of Unfortunate Events

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Project by EarlS posted 01-24-2017 05:13 PM 1765 views 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is a mash-up of a blog and a project with some very important lessons learned:

I recently came across a great deal on some rough-sawn hardwood so I bought 200 bf of cherry, 200 bf of walnut, and 200 bf of soft maple. Since all of the lumber was rough sawn, I had a bit of planing to do. I culled through the wood and selected a pile of about 150 bf of lumber to replenish my ready-for-use stack. After every pass through the planer my garbage can collector and the lower bag in my dust collector would be about ½ full. Emptying the garbage can was easy. The 1 micron felt bag on the dust collector was a pain.

I did some looking and found instructions for building a Thein Baffle. Basically, it works by trapping the dust with a baffle part way down in the garbage can and allowing the clean air to vent.

According to the Thien website “This specially shaped baffle creates a separate cyclonic chamber at the top of the unit. The baffle reduces the amount of turbulence that hits the already settled debris in the bottom of the bin. Furthermore, the baffle guarantees that any debris that HAS been reactivated by turbulence will have to re-enter the cyclonic motion before getting a chance to exit the output tube”.

Rockler was selling 4” threaded elbows that looked perfect for the application so I ordered them along with some more 4” hose as mine was rather thin and prone to ripping. The local big box store had 1” thick 24” diameter wood blanks on sale for $10 ea. (cheaper than plywood). At this point I’ve spent ~$70 on the baffle and $30 on a 30 gallon garbage can. If it works it is $$ well spent – right?? Did I mention that I could buy a plastic lid with 4” openings for $35?

I cut out the baffle section on the band saw, including the notch which is 2” smaller than the diameter of the baffle.

Using my circle jig I started cutting out the holes in the lid. I noticed sparks coming out of the router part way through the ¾” deep pass. I immediately stopped, checked for metal shavings or anything in the router motor that would indicate what the problem was. Everything looked good. The cut was a little burned but not bad considering I was using a ¼” straight bit to cut the hole. So I continued. No more problems finishing the first opening.

I moved onto the second opening and cut part way through the wood before I smelled smoke and saw more sparks, only they weren’t sparks. They were embers. I pulled the router out of the hole and the embers burst into flames. Whoa!!!! I have a fire on my work bench and I don’t have anything to use to put it out. Fortunately, I had a full mug of coffee which I prompted used to douse the flames. I immediately made a trip to the store and bought a fire extinguisher and promptly hung it on the wall so I can get to it if I need it. $30 well spent.

I threw the burned router bit away, bought a new one ($20) and finished the opening. After having to use a rabbet bit to router both sides of the openings down to ½” so the threads on the elbows would catch, I drilled the holes for the bolts. I bought 3/8”x 8” carriage bolts which were too short without using the Forstner bits to bore out a countersink hole for the washer and nut.

Finally, the Thien Baffle was finished. I set up my dust collector, Thein baffle, and separator. I now had a 3 stage dust collector!!! I hooked the planer exhaust to the hose and started planing. After running the 150 bf through the planer one time I checked on the set up. There was a pile of dust around the separator. Apparently the small blower on the planer was creating a positive pressure in the th1st separator garbage can and some of the dust was blowing out of it. Back to the store to get some weather stripping and a 10 lb. weight for the lid.

Now it works great. Most of the big dust (85%) falls out in the separator; the rest comes out in the thein baffle with only the super fine powder making it to the dust collector. Final tally – $200 for supplies, a new bit, and a fire extinguisher, 3 days of time spent building it, and a shop fire.

Lessons learned:
Every shop needs a fire extinguisher
Sometimes it is less costly to buy a ready-made item and not make it yourself
Easy projects still need to be well-planned out

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

10 comments so far

View papadan's profile


3584 posts in 3608 days

#1 posted 01-24-2017 05:22 PM

Nice writing, sorry for your troubles, but lessons learned are always valuable.

View bigblockyeti's profile


5317 posts in 1960 days

#2 posted 01-24-2017 06:55 PM

Does the dust collector still have decent air flow after all the hoses and having to keep that substantial volume of air moving? I have the same one and I’ve found it anemic at best with a clean filter and an empty bag, useless at worst when the filter bag has been used only for a little while.

-- "Lack of effort will result in failure with amazing predictability" - Me

View EarlS's profile


2124 posts in 2587 days

#3 posted 01-24-2017 07:13 PM

Bigblock: “Does the dust collector still have decent air flow after all the hoses and having to keep that substantial volume of air moving?”

It does pretty well since I don’t have a bunch of equipment and gates on a central dust collector. I hook it up to whatever piece of equipment I’m using. I did switch to the 1 micron felt bag and it actually improved the air flow since there is actually more open space in the felt than there was in the woven fabric on the original bag. I think I probably could get away with just the Thien baffle for everything except the planer since it is the only piece of equipment that has a fan on it.

I still need to figure out a good way to mount an intake above the table saw blade to catch all of the material being thrown off by the saw blade since my Delta cabinet saw has so much open space on it. Anyone have a good design?

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View robscastle's profile


5632 posts in 2444 days

#4 posted 01-24-2017 09:37 PM

Sounds like a waste of a good cup of coffee to me.

The container is metal any way, (and easy to empty) just carry it outside and tip it out and then finish your coffee.
Why only one extinguisher Earl , you may wish to consider getting a Fire blanket as well that way all events are covered.
The extinguisher looks to be mounted up too high, it should be somewhere around waist height.
(Needs confirmation from our resident LJs Fire fighter for compliance) , you may wish to add another picture to confirm please!

Otherwise a very nice shop, well maintained and laid out… we dont want any accidents there.

Good luck with catching material above the saw blade thats a challenge for sure I will be interested to see a effective practical result.

Excellent project

-- Regards Rob

View Mean_Dean's profile (online now)


6916 posts in 3387 days

#5 posted 01-24-2017 10:24 PM

Sounds like quite an adventure, but you (and we) learned some valuable lessons—thanks for posting!

-- Dean -- "Don't give up the ship -- fight her 'till she sinks!" Capt James Lawrence USN

View woodbutcherbynight's profile


5832 posts in 2648 days

#6 posted 01-25-2017 02:33 AM

Interesting chain of events. Lesson learned on fire safety is always a plus, never want to explain the shop burned to the ground to the insurance company.

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

View Lenny's profile


1616 posts in 3766 days

#7 posted 01-25-2017 05:24 PM

Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

-- On the eighth day God was back in His woodworking shop! Lenny, East Providence, RI

View GrizzlyBeardWoodwork's profile


17 posts in 669 days

#8 posted 03-23-2017 07:50 PM

Makes me want to get a fire extinguisher now.


View  woodshaver Tony C   's profile

woodshaver Tony C

6277 posts in 3592 days

#9 posted 12-31-2017 01:40 PM

Interesting post Earl. Happy to hear you got this under control and added a fire extinguisher to your shop.

I’m not sure if you heard about this but a few weeks back our local news mentioned a recall on some fire extinguishers made by Kidde. I had 2 that were part of the recall and Kidde sent me 2 new one and they paid the shipping cost for the delivery and return of the defective ones. Here is a link to the recall.
This link is safe but if for some reason you don’t trust this link do a search for Kidde recalls.
Nice project by the way!

-- St Augustine FL, Experience is the sum of our mistakes!

View EarlS's profile


2124 posts in 2587 days

#10 posted 01-01-2018 02:57 PM

Tony – Thanks for the notice. Hopefully others here heard about it too.

I heard about the recall a while back at work. I sent a couple of fire extinguishers back to Kidde that were affected.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

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