Dust Collector

Dust and chips are the bane of woodworking. They get tracked into your house, they're a pain to clean up, and they're unpleasant—maybe even dangerous—to breathe. But you can breathe easier with the right dust collector.

What Size Dust Collector?

The first thing you need to do is figure out how large a dust collector you need. A 1-hp collector is adequate for almost any tool, if you move it from one tool to another. For small central systems, like you'd have in a garage or basement, 1-1/2 to 2 hp is usually enough.

You can find the cubic feet per minute (cfm) requirements for woodworking tools, and lots of other necessary information for sizing and hooking up dust collectors, in "Dust Collection Basics: Recommendations for Home Shop Systems," available at www.amazon.com for $6. Also, Oneida Air Systems offers a free system design service (800) 732-4065.

Central System or Roll-Around

All of the 1- to 2-hp collectors come on mobile bases. This allows you to roll the collector from machine to machine and hook it up directly with a flex hose. The small 1 -hp collectors are the easiest to move around and have adequate cfm to collect from one machine at a time.

If you plan on hooking up your collector to a central system you'll need a collector that develops enough cfm to move the dead air between the collector and the machine.

Keep in mind that collectors over 2 hp will require a 240-volt circuit. Some manufacturers say you can run these bigger motors on a 120-volt circuit, but the amp draw exceeds the 20-amp limit found in most household wiring. Either way,

Visit vwvw.americanwoodworker.com for a complete list*

Cyclone Dust Collector Plan
Oneida Systems 5 hp cyclonic collector; $659.

Single-Stage Collectors

Two-Stage Cyclonic Collectors mpeller housing

Fine Dust Filter Bag

inlet external filter bag (typ.) for fine dust

Two-stage cyclonic collectors use a cone-shaped canister or "cyclone" to separate most of the debris before it reaches the impeller. The debris collects in a barrel, which is easier to empty than a bag.

barrel holds most of debris filter bag bag flange filter/ storage bag

inlet impeller housing inlet

A I-hp, single-stage collector works best when hooked directly to the machine it's collecting from. These collectors are easy to wheel around from machine to machine, but their bags require more frequent emptying. However, their small size is an asset in a shop where floor space is at a premium.

filter bag

you'll have to run a dedicated circuit for these bigger machines.

The Family bag flange inlet flex hose impeller housing bag flange filter/ storage bag filter/

storage bag inlet

A I-hp, single-stage collector works best when hooked directly to the machine it's collecting from. These collectors are easy to wheel around from machine to machine, but their bags require more frequent emptying. However, their small size is an asset in a shop where floor space is at a premium.

Two-Stage Cyclonic Collectors

A 1-1/2- or 2-hp singlestage collector is better able to handle the cfm demands of a small central system. The

1-l/2-hp units can run on a 20-amp, 120-volt circuit while the

2-hp models may require a dedicated 240-volt circuit.

mpeller housing

Single-Stage Collectors

In these machines, chips and dust travel through the impeller and accumulate in the lower bag, which doubles as a filter. The collectors range in size from 1 to 3 hp. One big drawback to single-stage collectors is the drop in cfm that occurs as the lower bag fills with chips and dust. For effective filtration of small dust (the stuff you can't see) make sure your single-stage collector comes with two 16-oz. felt bags (see "Bags and Filters" page 49).

Single-stage collectors need durable impellers to handle the occasional offcut or chunk of wood that gets sucked up with the dust. Steel impellers are the strongest. There is some speculation that steel impellers can produce a spark if a piece of metal is accidentally ingested and this may be a fire hazard. Aluminum and plastic impellers, while less durable, are incapable of producing a spark.

Two-Stage Cyclonic Collectors

This is a more efficient design than the single-stage collector because the filter doesn't have to do double duty as a dust-collection bag. That makes for more effective filtration and there is no drop in cfm performance as the barrel fills with debris. Because the debris never reaches the impeller, it can be designed for maximum airflow rather than durability.

inlet a external filter bag (typ.) for fine dust

Two-stage cyclonic collectors use a cone-shaped canister or "cyclone" to separate most of the debris before it reaches the impeller. The debris collects in a barrel, which is easier to empty than a bag.

barrel holds most of debris

Features

These are the features we considered for our tool test of 1- to 2-hp models costing less than $1,000.

Inlet Diameter

A large inlet diameter is more important than hp when it comes to cfm performance. A 1-1/2-hp collector with a 6-in. inlet will outperform a 2-hp unit with a 5-in. inlet.

Most manufacturer's cfm ratings are suspect. We took our own more accurate readings when we did our tool test. "Max cfm" is the performance you can expect when your collector is hooked directly to a machine. "Under-load cfm" represents the real-world performance you can expect when the collector is hooked up to a small central system with bags that have developed a dust cake. Note: cfm ratings on our online charts are manufacturer-supplied numbers.

Bags and Filters

There's no sense pulling dust-laden air into a dust collector if it's going to be spewed right back into your shop. A proper filter is essential. Most collectors use bags to filter the air. To do a good job, bags should be made from 16-oz. polyester felt (Photo 1). Unlike the woven bags that come with most collectors, felt is a rated filter medium that really does trap the fine dust (that's the stuff you can't see but is the most damaging to your health). Beware of manufacturer claims that say their woven bags will filter out 5-micron particles. The truth is, they capture maybe 20 percent of the particles this small, and the rest are blown through the bag and back into your shop! Undersized bags are another problem. You should have one square foot of filtration for each 10 cfm of airflow. So, if your collector is pulling 500 cfm, you need 50 square feet of 16-oz. polyester felt. Most stock bags are too small. Also, the filter should have double- or triple-stitched seams (Photo 1).

Spring Clamps

Look for an adjustable spring clamp for holding the bags (Photo 2). They provide the best combination of tight seal and ease of use.

Dealing with Dust Leaks

• Use silicone caulk to seal dust leaks around ductwork welds.

• Plastic bags for chip collection look like a good idea, but they're really a poor choice. It's almost impossible to get a good seal around the bag flange no matter how well they're attached. Also, plastic bags don't filter air and are a pain to attach.

• Improve the bag-to-flange seal on any bag by applying self-stick weatherstrip around the metal flange to help form a better seal.

Sealing Table Saw
Poor welds create leaks, but they can be sealed with silicone caulk. Plastic bags tend to leak because it's hard to get them to seal tightly.

16-oz. polyester

16-oz. polyester

Polyester felt filter bags do a far better job of trapping the small stuff (less than 10 microns) than woven cloth.AII bags should be constructed with triple-stitched seams to prevent dust from leaking out.

Adjustable spring clamps are best. They make a tight seal and are easy to get on and off.

Aluminum or plastic impellers won't produce sparks that can lead to fires from accidentally ingested metal. But they are less durable than steel impellers.

adjustable spring clamp

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