Left in the Dust

We accomplished another big milestone in the shop. We set up the woodworking tools and dust collection system!

The shop will be divided into several zones for woodworking, metalworking, brewing, etc. Having the woodworking tools confined to a space makes it more efficient to move a wood board from machine to machine. It also makes dust containment easier.

Sam began with a model, which we iterated upon over the course of a year. By the time we were ready to start moving the big tools into the shop, we had converged on a layout.

The model also helped Sam determine the length of ducting needed. Calculating the length of pipe and number of angled pieces was the easy part. The hard part was choosing a Cyclone, the power house of the system, and sizing the duct diameters. Luckily there are a number of dust collector geeks on the internet who published calculators to help solve these problems.

Most entry level dust collection systems use 4 inch ducts, which don’t work very well. We learned that you need at least 1000 cfm at each woodworking machine for adequate suction. It is also important to maintain adequate velocity in the ducts so the sawdust doesn’t collect in the ducts. Sam used these principals to size our system. We ended up with a 5 HP Clear Vue Cyclone and 7 inch ducts. Some of our machines required adapters to step down from 7 inches to a smaller port on the machine. Sam eventually placed a giant order with The Blastgate Company. While we were waiting for all of the parts to arrive, we moved our woodworking machines into the shop.

We moved everything in two trips. We had a slight hiccup when we tried to move the table saw and tractor together. The trailer was weighted too heavily in the front to make it down the hill, and we had to pull over and rearrange the load. Luckily there isn’t much traffic here.

We added two “new” machines to the collection. Sam found this neat bandsaw on the classifieds. We picked it up from a nice man in The Dalles, who gave us the family history of the machine, dating back to the 1920’s when his grandfather owned it.

Sam also found a used shaper, which I thought was unnecessary at first. Once we got it, I saw it’s value and capability. We can use it to round the edges of trim boards or make more complicated profiles for baseboards and moldings. I’m pretty excited about the new machines. They passed Buster’s thorough inspection too.

The big day came when everything arrived! We picked the load up from Portland.

I don’t know who was more excited- Sam or Buster. Within the first half hour of unpacking, Buster tested out every unique duct.

His favorite item was the Cyclone. It was lying on the floor for a week or so, and Buster played in it every day. “Dust Buster”!

Smokey is claustrophobic and was horrified by all of this.

The following week, Sam assembled the motor for the Cyclone and was ready to see how it would fit in the attic. We wanted the Cyclone in the attic for several reasons. It is loud, it takes up space, and it is full of dust. However, its placement was a bit of a design challenge since the it’s so tall. We had to work around the giant attic hatch and sloped ceiling without adding too much length to the ducting.

We eventually found the perfect spot for the Cyclone and the perfect spot for the duct to enter the attic.

Our friend Adam visited for a weekend, just in time to help set it up (and to relieve me on my birthday). First Sam and Adam assembled the pieces on the ground floor, stacking the Cyclone on a 55 gallon drum. The motor is very heavy, so they used the crane to mount it on top of the Cyclone. Then they hoisted the whole assembly up into the attic.

Sam and Adam got everything in place and then connected the Cyclone to the attic ducting.

It was a big month for visitors. John returned from Australia for a short trip and helped with the next steps. We set up the filter for the Cyclone (tall cylinder below) and built a box around it to dampen the noise and to direct the filtered air back into the shop through a return air duct. This way we won’t lose tons of warm air in the shop when we run the dust collector.

Now, we were ready to connect the duct in the shop to the duct in the attic. Sam and John cut a hole in the ceiling and pushed the connecting pipe down from the attic while I guided them in from below.

Then we worked our way down, branching out to all of the machines. And in some cases, we built things backwards.

The Blastgate Company has a somewhat unique system for connecting the ducts. All of the duct parts have flanges that can be clamped together. As someone who has never had a dust collection setup before, this seemed like a good alternative to the common method of gluing the ducts together and living with them forever. The ducts clamp together quite easily, and they have rubber gaskets to seal them. Sam attached threaded rods to the steel beams to hold up the horizontal ducts.

Connecting the ducts to the machines presented a few challenges. For example, the chop saw is notorious for shooting saw dust everywhere. Sam got “pants” to split the suction to both sides of the saw and some “shoes” that prevent some dust from falling downwards.

The planer required modifications to get the duct to fit. Sam cut part of it off in order to fit a larger diameter duct over the port.

We nestled the ducting for the table saw under the planer. We finished hooking up the jointer and table saw.

We ran a long slinky hose to the shaper. We can disconnect the flexible hose and store it out of the way when we’re not using the shaper.

The setup seems great. We’re happy with the placement of the machines.

We fired up the Cyclone! It has a remote, so we don’t have to go in the attic to turn it on. Each machine has a blastgate which can be open or closed. The system works when every blastgate is shut except for the one on the machine in use. Then all of the suction is directed to that machine. These also prevent cats from getting sucked up.

The dust and wood chips get sucked up through the ducts, into the Cyclone, and deposited in the 55 gallon barrel. Sam got two barrels and mounted them on wheels, so the full one can easily be swapped out with the empty one. One barrel filled up after just thirty minutes of using the planer! We might need a third barrel and perhaps some farm animals.

Sam retrieved the full barrel with the scissor lift and dumped it outside.

Another neat feature is the floor sweep. It’s basically what it sounds like. You sweep the escaped particles on the floor into a pile in front of it, open its blastgate, and up the pile goes! If only there was a floor sweep in every corner of our house…

The dust collection system works well! We’re very happy with the performance of everything and our packaging. Our 1985 Nordic Track is no longer our #1 dust collector!

One thought on “Left in the Dust

  1. lols at the last sentence. well played. so cool to see this system operational!! and the floor sucker is brilliant!! i want that in my kitchen.


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