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Modifying HF's Dust Collector for Better Mobility, Sturdiness & Electrical Capacity

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Review by GJK posted 08-23-2014 01:02 AM 11392 views 4 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Modifying HF's Dust Collector for Better Mobility, Sturdiness & Electrical Capacity Modifying HF's Dust Collector for Better Mobility, Sturdiness & Electrical Capacity Modifying HF's Dust Collector for Better Mobility, Sturdiness & Electrical Capacity Click the pictures to enlarge them

Over the past six months, I modified my 22’ x 22’ British-style backyard conservatory to serve not only as my gym, as it has since 1997, but also as my workshop (see, photo 1)

[If interested in this conversion, including heroic saga of my fighting off tens of thousands of carpenter ants and rebuilding after they ravaged the structure, see my video on VIMEO http://vimeo.com/103100319]
In sharing exercising and woodworking in a closed space, I decided that it was imperative to my good health that, while exercising, I should not suck in a lot of fine wood dust that could not be reasonably swept up or even sucked up in a small shop vac. So I researched the dust collection market and settled on a Harbor Freight (HF) #97969 imported from China, knowing from reading reviews by others that I would spend a fair amount of time and money on modifications and accessories before I had the problem solved to my satisfaction.

My experience confirmed that the Chinese wheels shipped with the dust collector are terrible, as are the overall mechanics of trying to move the assembled dust collector around my workshop. The sheet metal base to which the wheels are to be attached is 22” x 33,” and mobility is allegedly achieved by tugging on a handle screwed to a metal part amidships. It does NOT move easily that way, however!

To enhance mobility that I needed, I ordered from HF the 24” x 36” platform truck that they also import from China, known as “Haul-Master – #68894 (see, photo 2).

I wanted stronger supports for the lower bag of the Dust Collector so I substituted larger and stronger bolts (I selected Hillman Grade 5 bolts ½” x 4”). I enlarged the three pairs of holes in the Dust Collector’s metal base plate (see, photo 3) including drilling through the wood frame I made (discussed below) for the two outside supports. I later drilled through the platform steel base, too, and secured the 4” bolts through both base plates and with locking washers both below the bolt head and above the nut.

While the blue platform bed is far more tacky in person than it appears in the photos, the wheels are as I expected, larger than the wheels that had been shipped with the Dust Collector and should perform better, too. (see, photo 4)

Unlike the Dust Collector wheels, the platform wheels are divided between two “fixed” wheels and two “swivel” wheels, although users who wrote reviews differed as to which to put on the front vs. the rear on the platform.
To attach the wheels, I followed the advice of one reviewer and substituted for the Chinese bolts some larger and stronger Grade 5 American bolts with properly matched nuts and locking-washers. (The Chinese seem to ship products with very thin, flat washers that do little to offset the often-inadequate fit between their bolts and nuts.)

I read one review of this platform truck stating that the wheels “wiggled” so much that the user replaced the bolts to solve the problem; so I, too, replaced the bolts – as I did with the bolts on the Chinese Dust Collector. I discarded the Chinese bolts and nuts (and washers) that shipped with the Platform to secure its wheels and employed instead high quality Hillman Grade 5 bolts ½” x 3 ½” to secure the wheels. This substitution required my buying two good ½” drill bits for drilling into metal (one broke!). I redrilled the holes in the four wheels (see, photo 5) as well as the holes pre-drilled into the lower side of the platform (see, photo 6).

The Dust Collector sheet metal base has a 1” lip on the underside it so I made a 1” wood frame and secured it beneath three sides of the sheet metal frame, excluding the side where the motor is in the way (see, photo 7)

I then replaced the Chinese bolts and nuts and spaces with Hillman Grade 5 bolts ½” x 1 ½” and ½” x 4” (see, photo 8).

Aside from the greater size of the replacement bolts and nuts, it was critical, in my view, to discard the Chinese nuts and bolts that often failed to fit together. (How can the Chinese build an aircraft carrier or engage in a space program when some of their export firms can’t even handle the quality control needed to match their nuts to their bolts? And the washers that they supplied should have been lock-down washers to facilitate tightening. I replaced them all with good lock-down washers.

The Chinese Haul Master deck measurements are 22.5” wide and accommodated the 22” wide Chinese Dust Collector’s sheet metal plate. The Haul Master deck is only 30.5” long, however, net of the folding handle (see, photo 9).

There is insufficient room at either end of the 33” long Dust Collector sheet metal plate, which is secured atop the platform, to attach the platform handle. What to do? I relocated the handle to the side opposite the two vacuum hoses (i.e., the only side among the four where there was room for it)! (see, photo 10).

The power cord and switch, as others have mentioned, are also good candidates for upgrades. I also have a replacement power cord (14 AWG 15 A) and replacement power switch (en route).

Power Source. I ran a 12/3 dedicated line with a 20A breaker for the Dust Collector and possibly other large equipment.

Wynn Filter. Finally, since my prime motivation was not breathing fine wood dust deep into my lungs while exercising in the combined gym/workshop, I could not resist upgrading from 5.0 microns to 0.5 microns – or so the promises suggest – and buy the Wynn Environmental (see, photo 11). With this filter unit, the coverage area is alleged to increase from 35 square feet to 274 square feet with an alleged 99.990% efficiency at 0.5 microns!

-- Gary, Washington, DC




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GJK

28 posts in 1563 days



18 comments so far

View Mark Davisson's profile

Mark Davisson

597 posts in 3493 days


#1 posted 08-23-2014 11:12 AM

I tried running mine on a 20A breaker, but she wouldn’t do it.

-- I'm selfless because it feels so good!

View CharlesA's profile

CharlesA

3342 posts in 1973 days


#2 posted 08-23-2014 03:49 PM

Mark, did you have to go 30a?

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View Grumpymike's profile

Grumpymike

2317 posts in 2491 days


#3 posted 08-23-2014 06:48 PM

That’s a great upgrade. I too have on order the Wynn canister filter … I wonder if all the upgrades are worth it/ or if I should have bought a better system in the first place???
I use 4” PVC duct work rather than moving the DC around the shop, ... You know, gotta move this so that I can move that …
Mine runs very well on a 20A circuit wired with 12/3. ... Turn on the DC let it wind up and then turn on the other tool and go to work, if you turn them on at the same time you will over load for sure … the most current draw is at startup.

-- Grumpy old guy, and lookin' good Doin' it. ... Surprise Az.

View GJK's profile

GJK

28 posts in 1563 days


#4 posted 08-23-2014 07:00 PM

Grumpymike:

I shopped the more expensive units up to $500 and didn’t see how I could get all I thought I wanted out of a DC system within that price. And while I’ve worked with PVC, I understood that it was not best and I could not use it in my setup.

So I thought it was best to start with what most reviewers (ALL, in fact) seemed to agree was an excellent Chinese-made 2 HP motor and perfectly fine impeller, albeit could-have-been-bigger. There it ended. The Chinese bolts, nuts, and washers make one glad to be an American (not too expensive upgrading all that if you don’t mind redilling holes to 1/2” with metal-drilling bit); the wheels are crap; the power cord at 16 amp needs replacement to 14 amp (cheap and easy to do); and the top bag with 5 micron cries out for the Wynn filter instead. Many folks also went for a seperator and trash can; I haven’t—yet.

I wonder what “better system” you would have bought in the first place? I’d be curious to check now that I’ve invested some money (mostly for the Wynn filter) and a fair amount of time). What do other Lumberjocks thing blows the dust off their nuts (and bolts)?

-- Gary, Washington, DC

View John Lowell's profile

John Lowell

137 posts in 2157 days


#5 posted 08-23-2014 11:05 PM

I have a 1hp unit, with the 5 Micron bag. Built a Thein on a 32 gal trash can, fun watching the stuff swirl in the plexi I used as the circular side. Need to keep the hose short, and it is not a great unit,, but with my shop vac on the blade guard, most material is captured. That said, one trip to the router table for an inside routing and dust everywhere. Need to take a day and clean out the basement.

Last week I installed a hepa filter on the Fein attached to a dust deputy – wow what a difference in suction. The canister is the way to go. Big improvement over the fabric filter that came with the unit.

-- Trying, but lots to learn.....

View Mark Davisson's profile

Mark Davisson

597 posts in 3493 days


#6 posted 08-24-2014 02:32 AM

CharlesA, I did have to go to a 30. It just couldn’t get over the startup on a 20A. Actually, mine aren’t breakers, they’re fuses. There might be a slight difference in capacity between breakers and fuses, I don’t know. But I blew two 20A fuses the first two times I started the thing up, but haven’t blown even one since upgrading it to a 30A.

In reading the manual for this collector on HF’s website today, I see that it’s rated at 20A “peak.” Mine might be a different motor than the one they’re selling today.

-- I'm selfless because it feels so good!

View CharlesA's profile

CharlesA

3342 posts in 1973 days


#7 posted 08-24-2014 02:02 PM

Thanks, mark. I just got one off Cl, and it is working fine off of a 20a breaker—hadn’t tried it when i asked you.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

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Grandpa

3261 posts in 2851 days


#8 posted 08-24-2014 08:25 PM

Some brands of breakers don’t trip as soon as others. In fact some companies have lost their UL rating and have gone out of business I believe. That might be the reason the breakers don’t trip and fuses will blow. Anyone got a Federal Pacific panel? Those don’t trip.

View Grumpymike's profile

Grumpymike

2317 posts in 2491 days


#9 posted 08-24-2014 09:48 PM

This is a great thread … breakers vs: fuses … 20A fuses will see 20A ONCE and they are gone, blown, zap.
Circuit breakers on the other hand are actually a warp switch, so they must heat up a bit to throw … so like we had in days past, a slow blow fuse – if you will … but we are talking milliseconds so slow blow is a poor choice of terms.
I use a separator with my HF unit, it’s a 30 gal fiberboard drum that a neighbor gave me, and I bought the fittings from Rockler. (Easy install). Then after using it for a few months I added some 1-1/2 inch holes spaced 2 in apart and silicone glued a clear piece of plexy to the inside … now I can see how much dust is in there without opening the top.
I looked at the metal ducting very closely ($17 per 4 foot section) and read all the articles on static. I decided to try the PVC and make my decision form the tests. Yep, there is a bit of static, it makes the dust stick to the pipe a little bit but in the last year there have been no lightning bolts in the shop… I get more static off of the shop vac.
Now, just waiting for the Wynn canister to arrive … word is that it increases the air flow … I’m excited about that.

-- Grumpy old guy, and lookin' good Doin' it. ... Surprise Az.

View LarryT's profile

LarryT

17 posts in 2252 days


#10 posted 08-25-2014 02:23 PM

An electric motor has an initial surge of current considerably in excess of it’s steady running rating.
There used to be some fuses called “Slow-Blow” that were good for handling the starting surge
without blowing. Don’t know if they are still available or not.

By the way, circuit breakers and GFIs don’t last forever expecially if they are repeatedly tripped. I have
had them break or not reset properly. I even know of a friend who had a breaker start a fire!

View NedG's profile

NedG

56 posts in 2490 days


#11 posted 08-26-2014 07:17 PM

I too have the HF dust collector and a Wynn filter. I suggest you add a BIG improvement to your system; a separator. Check out the Thien Top Hat Dust Separator by Ghostes in YouTube. After two years, I have no dust in the bag. It all goes to the separator. —- Ned

View CharlesA's profile

CharlesA

3342 posts in 1973 days


#12 posted 08-26-2014 07:47 PM

I have a question on the separator. I just have installed a CM Dust collector—for years I have used a dust deputy with my shop-vac, and having the large chips not go in the vac was really nice. What is the advantage of dumping the separator instead of the bag? Convenience?

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View GJK's profile

GJK

28 posts in 1563 days


#13 posted 08-31-2014 11:27 PM

3rd set of wheels finally work GREAT!! larger (true 4” diameter,ball bearing for 360 degree swivel).

and I added a handle (also from HF) bolted to base with 1/2” Grade 5 bolts, lock-washers and grade 5 nuts to pull the HF Dust Collector about as well as the side-mounted handle (both in lieu of the woosy handle that ships with the HF Dust Collector and is worthless with the wheels that also ship with the HF Dust Collector):

Now, I have true mobility to move the HF Dust Collector easily throughout my combo workshop/gym rather than build 4” PVC or other conduit along the walls to extend the reach to the far corners.

-- Gary, Washington, DC

View Fettler's profile

Fettler

200 posts in 2173 days


#14 posted 10-23-2014 08:39 PM

Mine runs fine on a 20amp using other 12 gauge-ish wiring circa 50-60’s. If i try to use anything else however, like a small desk lamp, it’ll trip the breaker.

BTW, i have to say i’m impressed on how immaculately clean your work area is. My basement is so dirty i fear i’ll end up making my family sick one day =)

-- --Rob, Seattle, WA

View GJK's profile

GJK

28 posts in 1563 days


#15 posted 10-23-2014 09:08 PM

Rob,

The cleanliness does not extend to my role in the home, where I defer almost totally to my wife of 44 years (who hopefully does not read this thread). But I do take responsibility for the combination gym/workshop partly because I like it cxlean and poartly because we rent the basement of our large home to a tenant and he has access to the gym so I keep it clean for him. The thick rubber mats that I bought when I firsat laid it out as a gym have worked well in the current incarnation as a workshop as well.

-- Gary, Washington, DC

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