Mini Cyclone Systems - Do they actually work?

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Forum topic by LucasinBC posted 02-25-2011 12:39 AM 6239 views 1 time favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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62 posts in 2489 days

02-25-2011 12:39 AM

Topic tags/keywords: dust dust collection cyclone

Hi all,

Another unfortunate question regarding dust collection. I’ve read just about every thread on Lumberjocks and tons of other forums about this topic, but there is still a lack of info for my question:

Do mini cyclone systems work or are they just marketing ploys?

I want to upgrade in the near future to a system that is capable of dealing with the large wood chips generated by my planer and jointer. I like the idea of the two-stage separation in a DC system, which is why I am eye-balling the smaller cyclone units. There are lots of them on the market now, ranging from about $700 to $1200 at about 1HP. They all appear to offer a drum for the chip collector, a hand-crank filter cleaner, 600-750CFM and somewhere between 8 and 10” of static pressure.

Bill Pentz’s website warns against these types of machines pretty heavily. He basically says that unless you can get 2 or 3 HP out of your DC it’s not even going to be close to efficient. My shop is a relatively small garage and having a centralized, permanent DC system is not practical right now. Plus I’m only using one machine at a time, so I’m ok with moving a DC to the machine rather than installing duct work.

If anyone can offer any type of comment on the mini cyclones I would much appreciate it. I know the mini gorilla by Oneida is pretty popular, but there is also some offered by Grizzly, Jet, etc. I’m just wondering if I should just go with a regular type of DC (like HF) at a higher power level and make my own separator.

Note: I currently use a Craftsman wet/dry vac connected to a metal trash can with a Veritas dust separator lid. I also have a HEPA filter in the vacuum instead of the pleated paper one. It actually works very well for all my machines with the exception of my jointer and planer. The relatively large wood chips produced by my jointer and planer fill up the drum very quickly and render the vacuum less efficient. That being said, it’s actually quite good with the band saw, table saw, and all other portable/hand held/bench-top machines.


-- Making mistakes is essential in learning woodworking.

12 replies so far

View Blakep's profile


232 posts in 2220 days

#1 posted 02-25-2011 12:45 AM

Lucas I can not answer your question but I do thank you for posting it because I would like to hear the responses myself. I am kind of in the same debate as you except I do want to plumb my shop. My debate is more on a cyclone system or a regular DC and make my own seperator and I would like to know the difference in HP in a DC and a Cyclone system (such as how does a 2hp DC and a 1 1/2 HP Cyclone compare. Anyway thanks for posting and I look forward to the responses you get.

View jusfine's profile


2405 posts in 2344 days

#2 posted 02-25-2011 01:11 AM

Last fall I installed an Oneida 2 Hp Pro model with metal ducting (spiral pipe) running under the floor of my shop (built in the loft of our barn).

I can honestly say I am amazed at the suction and it is a real pleasure to work in my shop now!

I have ducting run to 14 machines with a blast gate at each machine (best value for the blast gates was at Lee Valley). They beat the mechanical contractor’s price badly.

I know the DC topic has been flogged to death here, but I would be glad to answer any questions or supply photos if you need more info on what I did with my system…

By mounting the cyclone on the main floor, I have no noise to speak of, and it runs fine in our -35 degree weather here in Edmonton.

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

View Sailor's profile


543 posts in 2683 days

#3 posted 02-25-2011 01:25 AM

I am interested in this topic too, I bet ALOT of people are. Hopefully we all will learn something here that we can apply to our shops, some small, that we don’t want to put a big dust collector system in.

Wow, just checked out the Mini Gorilla from Oneida and it looks perfect for my small shop where I don’t want to run the permanent duct work. Maybe someone will chime in who has one. I too wonder if it is efficient?

-- Dothan, Alabama Check out my woodworking blog! Also my Youtube Channel's Facebook page

View LucasinBC's profile


62 posts in 2489 days

#4 posted 02-25-2011 04:57 AM

Randy – flogged to death is right! There are tons of threads on DC systems and I like I said I read just about all of them. What I am trying to find out is whether or not the mini cyclone systems are good or if they are just glorified vacuums. I don’t mind spending big $ on a machine if it’s worth it, but I would hate to buy a mini cyclone only to find out that it’s equal to or less efficient than a standard single stage DC.

Glad to hear that you are happy with your cyclone system – also glad to hear that woodworking still goes on in cold Edmonton weather!

Take care,

-- Making mistakes is essential in learning woodworking.

View Kindlingmaker's profile


2656 posts in 2945 days

#5 posted 02-25-2011 04:59 AM

Yes! I bought my small add on model at Rockler, fit to a five gallon bucket, (to see if it really worked), and placed the hoses correctly. Dang it was just as promised! My shop vac had almost nothing in it and the five gallon bucket was full and the best thing was there was no drop in the suction power of the vac and no filter cleaning! I am sold on these!

-- Never board, always knotty, lots of growth rings

View jusfine's profile


2405 posts in 2344 days

#6 posted 02-25-2011 05:37 AM

Luc, before I connected my system this fall, I had a 1.5 hp single bag collector, and had used the Lee Valley lid with a 40 gallon drum and it worked as Jed says above.
I didn’t empty the bag once since hooking up the Veritas lid, but it still took up way too much space and was noisy.

I am sure I am going to hear about this from the Festool “fans”, but recently I bought the little Oneida DC system to fit on my Festool vacuum, now I don’t use any Festool bags, just empty the plastic bag in the Oneida Dust Deputy box. Getting to enjoy not seeing or feeling dust… :)

I got it from in case you hadn’t tried them. I like the free shipping!

A lot of woodworking shuts down here if people don’t have heated shops, but everyone here I know has some type of heat system.

Stay dry!

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

View crank49's profile


3979 posts in 2389 days

#7 posted 02-25-2011 06:15 AM

There is nothing wrong with a good cyclone. It is a tried and true dust collection system. They can be efficient at collecting coarse dust, chips and the like. They can even be made super efficient to the point that they collect 99.99% of particles down to .3 microns (smoke); although this level of collection efficiency would have well over a 10” static pressure drop and a bag or cartridge would be more cost effective and practical. In fact, the full blown cyclones that sell from $700 and up work well but, in a wood shop, I don’t see what advantage they offer over a bag or cartridge collector, other than looking sturdy and neat. Most of the mini cyclones I have seen are used as a convienence to keep big stuff from going into the collector bag. I guess a can is easier to dump than a bag?

When the trash can cyclone lid type separators are used in front of the HF, bag type collector they are providing a very real benefit of catching chips, chunks, nails, screws, dirt and sawdust before this stuff goes through the fan impeller.

In a metal shop the cyclone is much more valuable. It can capture hot sparks off of grinding operations; something a bag can’t very well do.

-- Michael: Hillary has a long list of accomplishments, though most DAs would refer to them as felonies.

View tedth66's profile


458 posts in 2608 days

#8 posted 02-25-2011 09:57 AM

If you’re going to move the DC to each machine a mini DC should do the trick. But if your plan is to install ducting in the future, there is no doubt that you’ll need at least a 2HP collector. I installed ducting and bought a JDS 2HP cyclone and it is outstanding and works very well for me.

I use to use a shopvac and a dust deputy and it was ok on the TS but was useless on the planer and jointer. For the planer and jointer you need upwards of 600CFM which is why I say if you move your DC to each of these machines, you should do ok as long as your flex hose or connection isn’t too long.

-- Ted

View HorizontalMike's profile


7063 posts in 2332 days

#9 posted 02-25-2011 04:09 PM

For about $60 you can build a Thien cyclonic separator (and that includes the $30 trashcan) similar to what I attached to my HF DC unit.

Just do it, it doesn’t need to be pretty to work well. Just look at how Ugly (“Yew-glee) mine is and it works great. I built mine BEFORE I had any of my woodshop put together and lacked many tools. At this point I don’t know how to function without it. I use this in my garage workshop and run a 10ft or 20ft flex hose to the machine in use at the time. I also use it to vacuum up the shop at the end of the day. BTW, works very well with my 8” jointer and 13” Lunchbox planer. My 2-cents on this subject (AGAIN)...

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View CharlieM1958's profile


16229 posts in 3636 days

#10 posted 02-25-2011 04:22 PM

All I can tell you is that in my tiny shop I use an Oneida Dust Deputy with my shop vac, and it works perfectly for one-machine-at-a-time dust collection. I couldn’t justify spending money on anything more unless I can come up with the space (read: get my wife and kids to part with some of their stuff in the garage) to install a central system.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View brtech's profile


882 posts in 2341 days

#11 posted 02-25-2011 04:49 PM

I am not an expert, but I’ve read a bunch, tried some stuff, and think I get at least part of it.

To get all the chips, you need to move a lot of air. To do that, you need a lot of volume, and not necessarily a lot of static pressure. A vacuum cleaner/shop vac doesn’t have enough power to get enough volume. So, if you start with a shop vac, you can’t move enough air to clean the chips and dust. The Dust Collectors have enough power to do that. Even the 1.5HP DCs can clear the chips with an efficient enough duct/separator/filter arrangement. What the smaller ones can’t do is get ALL of the dust to come through the DC.

So the front end is power (amps or HP) and the size of the impeller. Penz says 5HP and 15” is what you need for a whole shop.

On the other end of the chain is the filter. Penz makes the argument that the fine dust is the dangerous dust. He wants us to get filtering down to .5 micron. You can only do that with a big filter area, usually a canister filter. The little “HEPA” filters in the shop vac won’t do that. Bags don’t do that (at least the kind that come with the DCs we can afford).

If you have a good enough filter and enough air, you don’t really need anything else, but what will happen is your filter will fill up way too fast. You want some form of separator that gets most of the chips and dust into a container before it gets to the filter. The variations on the separator are how efficient it is: how much of the stuff it gets out of the airstream, and how much is screws up the airstream in doing it (because if it has the effect of lowering the volume of the air, then the power in the blower is going to waste.

You need a big cyclone to get high efficiency. Anything else doesn’t get most of the chips and dust, and/or lowers the volume of the air.

Penz wants us to stop there: 5 HP, big cyclone, .5 micron filter. He would say, if you can’t by the complete Clearvue setup, then build the cyclone yourself, don’t skimp on the filter or the HP. He doesn’t say that the big Oneida or PSI cyclones are not good enough, but he drops hints that he doesn’t think so. I don’t have an opinion.

As far as I can figure out, the Thein baffle is about as good as a small cyclone, and is much less costly, takes less space, and is easy to build yourself. If you have a SHORT length of 4” duct from, say, an HF DC, with a Thein baffle, and a Wynn 35A filter, then you probably don’t get enough airspeed to get all the dust into the system, but you get almost all of it, the filter traps everything below .5 micron, and the separator keeps enough out of the filter inlet to keep it from clogging too fast.

A smaller cyclone would do about the same. It’s just that the Thein baffle is cheaper and smaller. You can mount the baffle INSIDE the HF DC, which means it separates into the bag provided with the DC, rather than a separate drum. Because you want a SHORT duct, that matters a lot.

So, for about a grand, and a whole bunch of your time, you could build a cyclone, a blower, with a 15” impeller and a 5HP motor, equip it with a very good filter, and have enough power to run a full 6” main duct with 4” drops to each of your machines, with blast gates, and get what you really need. You can spend more money, and take less of your time by purchasing more from Clearvue. You can spend a whole lot of money, and no time, buying it or (probably) a high end Oneida or PSI system.

Or you can spend $139 for the HF DC, $105 for a filter upgrade, and a couple hours of your time to build a Thein baffle. That’s my choice. I understand that the real down side is I’m very limited on duct length, and I’m not going to get all the dust. Which means I need to continue to use my respirator.

The one thing I think you should never skimp on is the filter. Whatever you get, make sure you have a .5 micron filter. It’s $105 if you have to buy it. Do it!

View LucasinBC's profile


62 posts in 2489 days

#12 posted 02-27-2011 07:43 AM

Thanks for responses everyone!

Yeah I pretty much figured that the DC + Upgrade Filter + DIY Cyclone is the same or better as one of the pre-made small-scale cyclone (like the Oneida Mini Gorilla.) I suppose with the small dust collectors you are essentially paying more for ease of assembly since it’s all pre-made for you.

Alright then, I have ordered the HF DC, they are at 150 now…not quite the 139 as some got it, but pretty decent anyway. There’s a new HF location in Bellingham so I can just drive to pick it up. Then Wynn upgrade filter, then Thein baffle here I come. Thanks to everyone for the comments, I know it seems that dust collection is getting to be a never ending saga!


-- Making mistakes is essential in learning woodworking.

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