Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Best $50 I have spent in my shop.

One of the jobs I hate the most in my shop is emptying the dust collection bag. I have a small 1HP Jet dust collection system. I run it to my planner, table saw, drill press and the jointer. These are the tools that put out the most dust in the shop. I have dedicated shop vacs for the other smaller tools.

I almost always wait too long to empty the bag so it fills up into the filter section of the machine. When I pull the bag the dust goes every place. Even with a dust mask and shop apron I get covered with dust.

One upgrade I have put off for years is a cyclone separation system for the dust collector. Last weekend I went to Woodcraft and purchased the Trash Can Cyclone Lid. I wish I had bought this thing years ago. It works great. Makes the dust collector more efficient and all I have to do is empty the trash can most of the time. Technically the trash can lid cyclone separator is not a true Cyclone. I'll explain this more later.

What is a cyclone dust seprator and how does it work? A cyclone adds a second stage to the dust collection system. It collects the heavier dust particles before they reach the filter on the dust collector. This improves the efficiency because it helps keep the filter from being clogged. Another benefit is that the second stage is generally easier to empty.

A true cyclone also has two stages. The top tornado shaped part takes the dust in the air stream and swirls it into the shape of a tornado. The heavier dust is thrown against the side by centrifugal force. The dust then falls into a collection barrel below the cyclone. The air stream changes direction before it reaches the barrel and moves back up and over to the dust collector. Hopefully most the dust stays in the barrel and the exhausted air is mostly clean. 

The trash can cyclone lid differs because it is only one stage. The dust enters the in port and travels through an elbow which cause the air stream to swirl. The heavier dust then falls to the bottom of the trash can. The difference from a true cyclone is that the air in the trash can swirls all the way to the bottom. This causes the dust particles that have fallen to the bottom to be disturbed and possibly exit the can in the exhausted air stream. It's simply not as efficient as a true cyclone.

Okay so why did I buy the trash can lid cyclone if it's not as good as a true cyclone? Because it's much cheaper and I was not sure if I needed more. Now that I have seen how well it works I'm happy with it.  The cost was modest for the benefit. The lid was $33 and I think I paid $20 for the trash can. It only took minutes to add it to my dust collector.

I tested it with my planner. The planner is a dust monster. I estimate that over 90% of the particles went into the trash can. I normally have to empty the dust collector bag every month. I'm eager to see how long it will take to fill now. Emptying the trash can will be a breeze. I plan to do more homework on dust collection and maybe I'll be convinced to make the investment in a true cyclone. Right now I'm thrilled so we will see what happens. I'll keep you updated.

 The video below is from Mark Spagnuolo(The Wood Whisperer.) Mark does a shootout of three different cyclones. They are all for connecting to a shop vac instead of a full size dust collection system. If you use a shop vac on your tools I think you will find the video interesting. Check it out. Also if you are not familiar with Mark and his web site do your self a favor and check him out. 

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