Dust is a major problem in my shop and most home wood shops. My tiny shop has more dust than projects in it. Not only does my enormous "portable" wet/dry vac suck at sucking and is even worse at filtering, it's a major roadblock to sweeping up at the end of the day. I've long dreamed of buying one of those big suck-your-brains-out dust vacuums that they sell at tool centers. However, even those have bags for filters and I never liked the way the old household bag vacuums would billow dust every time you turned it on. I imagined that the big monsters probably did the same thing only more. That can't be good for the lungs!
Enter Bill Pentz, woodworker, geek, and DIYer extraordinaire. Bill designed and built his own dust collection system that out performs just about everything on the market. His system really sucks!!
Most manufactured dust collection systems available to the home woodworker provide miserably low air volume and static pressure. According to Bill, none of the dust collection systems available in retail outlets provide even half of the air flow necessary to actually keep the dust from escaping large tools like your table saw, planer, jointer, or router table. The dust that does get swallowed up is often just spit back out into the air. Many of the filters don't actually filter the size of particles they advertise. Of course, we all could have guessed that much of marketing departments! In addition, course sawdust and the inevitable chunks of debrit damage even the best cartridge filters. A cyclone seperator like Bill's keeps all but the tiniest particles from getting to the filter allowing it to last indefinitely.
The system Bill designed is based on the commercial units that use centrifugal force to separate out the dust and debris from the air, sending much cleaner air either through a filter or outside. Bill's is just better and a more reasonable scale for hobbyists
and small shops. His plans call for 6" piping, a hallmark precision engineered cyclone separator, a whopping 18-22" impeller to move some serious air and a 5 hp 220V motor to power it! The materials will probably cost around the same price as one of those top-of-the-line dust billows with a bag filter available for retail.
This uber hobbyist doesn't have a marketing department, at least not for his woodworking hobby. But of course, he's protected his jillions of hours in development and testing by patenting his plans. So... nobody should get any ideas about helping themselves to his plans for their own entrepreneurial endeavors!
On his site Bill has plans and instructions for building the cyclone separator as well as guidelines for making your own mods to fit your shop needs. He also includes ideas and guidelines for custom or improved dust hoods for various tools in your shop. You'll need a little self confidence, some basic sheet metal tools, and a lot of free time to complete the project but for the avid hobbyist or small-time pro the health benefits (and bragging rights) to taking on this DIY challenge is enormous! Bill's instructions are clear and precise and claim that experience is not neccessary for this project.
For those DIYers who have a little less time and a little more money can purchase a very cool clear plastic version of Bill's cyclone design from Clear Vue Cyclones Inc
. It might even be worth risking my DIY own reputation by buying a Clear Vue just for the coolness factor of getting to watch my dust and chips circle the drain at supersonic (almost) speeds! However, even the Clear Vue products are very customizable so you can adapt it to your unique shop setting and only include the seperator and blower so you'll still have/get to build the rest of your super-sucking system yourself. Your DIYness may still be safe with a Clear Vue!