Revisiting dust collection

Let’s face it, there might be a few reasons why you read this blog. Family. Friend. I spammed your site.

Or, you might just be in my position – a small shop on a small budget. Being in such a position, I don’t have the room for a real dust collector. Would I like one? In a heartbeat. I’d gladly hop on down to Harbor Freight and pick up their highly reviewed 2HP unit. I still might, if I can figure out a way to store it on an exterior wall. Until then, however, I have to make do with a lesser solution.

Wood Magazine, in their October 2012 issue, has a one page treatment for budget dust separators (if you go looking, it’s on page 68). Here they do a quick review of the Dust Deputy, Dust Right Vortex, and…look, the Woodstock separator lid. Sound familiar? It should, I reviewed it in May 2010 and did a follow-up review in March. The review basically states the Woodstock does what the Dust Deputy and Dust Right does at a third of the cost. The review stated that they had to make modifications to the lid in the form of weatherstripping. I’ll touch on that later. I was proud to see that someone else thought that this was a nice little unit, and backed it up comparing it to more popular and more expensive options. I also like the compact footprint and height, and stow it under my table saw where I have easy access.

Reading this review (go get the magazine, it’s pretty good this month) got me considering my situation. I don’t have much control over dust and debris off of tools. On my table saw, I can collect what comes out the back, but with the Shark Guard up top, dust and debris get ejected out the top and into the air. On my planer, I can hook up the vac to the port, but so much comes out the front I don’t even bother. At least that way most of it gets ejected out the side. Either way it makes a huge mess. Miter saw dusct control is an oxymoron. On the bandsaw, most dust is contained pretty well. If it doesn’t go in the vac, it sits at the bottom of the saw. On the jointer, there is no dust collection. It piles up on the motor or under the motor on the floor. Eventually, it gets so high it starts coming out of the top. The sander has a port, but I haven’t used the sander in forever.

It was time to make some advances, not only for my floor, but my lungs.

I took a trip to Rockler on Thursday in order to pick up some chutes and fittings. I had looked at plumbing PVC at Lowe’s and Home Depot, but nothing was satisfactory in price or fit. Most importantly, fit. So, I purchased three lengths of 2.5″ tube, three 90º bends, and several connectors. I used some birthday money earmarked for tools, but a birthday gift that extends my life is a damn good birthday gift in my opinion. I used a rubber connector on the table saw port, then used a T-fitting I already had. I oriented the short tee to the saw, and the long pass-through along the direct path to the separator. From the tee, the clear tube runs under the back rail to the end of the extension table, turns vertical to get above the table, then turns back towards the blade where a couple more lengths of tube and another 90º plus an odd size connector mates with the Shark Guard. I originally had a hard plastic 90º at the top right side, but I replaced that with a flex hose so it wouldn’t pop off as easily. Some refinements are in order, but it works fine for now.

Does it work? In a word, yes. I saw debris picked up at the blade and moved along most of the length of the upper hose. Enough where it wasn’t hanging around in the air, which was an improvement. I should mention at this point before I fired it up for the first time I made a slight adjustment to the separator setup. I had two full 7′ lengths of hose, the separator sandwiched between, to run from the vac to a tool. That was way too much distance to try and suck up dust and debris. Sure, it picked up stuff off the floor, but it wasn’t satisfactory. As stated, it didn’t work with the planer. So I cut up one hose into two lengths. The first was a direct shot from the vac to the separator, about 3′. No bends. The other was about 2′ in length that goes fairly straight to the tee in the back of the saw. Slight curve, but that’s unavoidable. 5′ with very little curve, compared to 14′ with huge loops. I saw a slight improvement.

Then I remembered the vac. I had not checked it since I put together the extension table in March. While the separator works great, some stuff can still get by. If you let the separator fill up, everything will get by. I had run 100+’ of pine through it in the last few weeks alone, emptying the bucket more times than I can count. As a result, the vac was fairly full and the filter was caked. Yeah, that would explain some things. While I could grab stuff off the floor, I was wasting airflow. I dumped the vac out and cleaned the filter fairly well.

The result? Wow.

I was back above and beyond where I started out. The 6HP Ridgid could suck my face off if I got the wand too close. The overarm dust extraction now wasn’t an issue at all. When I processed boards through the planer, the chip extraction through the chute was impressive. I had nearly nothing ejected from the front, and cleanup was very minor. A far cry from my last planing session.

Friday was a fantastic day in the shop, all around. I got a major upgrade to the shop done, plus I got to make some progress on my workbench. Can’t ask for much more out of an extended shop session. Here are a few pics plus a short vid. I’ll get some more pictures later.

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