Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Dust Catcher: It's like a Dream Catcher except healthier.

A shop in need of dust collection..
For years I have suffered from Asthma. Being a woodworker is really not the best career decision, but none the less, here I am. Several years ago, I began doing research on lung health and the damage done to them by wood dust. Turns out. Wood Dust=Bad, Very bad! But I already knew that seeing as though I can barely breath after I leave the shop each day. I do the respirator thing. It helps. I have fans. They help, but what I don't have is a GOOD collector. Well, that changed early September. I bought a new central dust collector that should keep me breathing cleaning and clear for years to come. My doctor friends will like this one too, and I might just point them towards some helpful info.

Keep reading for a bit of my findings and a review of my new machine. 

Let's start with my Dust Bible. I love the internet. So much great stuff out there. Case in point. Bill Pentz. This engineer/woodworker nearly had to leave the shop permanently after prolonged dust exposure put him in the hospital. For years, he believed all the magizine hype and paid ads that made him feel safe in his shop. It wasn't until his health took a sour turn that he took the bull by the horns and opened the eyes of the wood working world. In the process he sure did piss off some manufacturers and long time "experts" in the industry. I raise my hat to his accomplishments.

After reading every word on his site and doing lots of my own research, I have come to fully trust his findings.

Don't buy the crap they sell at your local wood store. You are wasting your money and killing yourself slowly.

My new found knowledge and understanding led me to ClearVue Cyclones outside of Seattle. They make and sell very efficient units for small shops such as mine. I've had my eye on them for quite some time, but finally had the space and funds to get one. Today, I'm showing you the installation process.

First impressions.  ClearVue does very well here.  Their website is simple and easy to navigate. Their customer service has been fantastic.  The office caught a mistake I made when ordering, and called me instantly to alert me of my own mistake, saving me several $$ in the process. The order shipped when it was supposed to, and arrived with no incident.  All in all, it was about 6 boxes with the filters, extra hoses, and blast gates.  FYI- UPS=Good.  FedEx=Bad.  Just sayin'.

*I should note that ClearVue frequently has online sales. Mine happened to be free shipping.  I saved several hundred dollars. Keep an eye out for sure.*

OK, now that we're unpacking parts, I should note that the assembly process of my CV Max took some time. Several days in fact to get it on the wall all wired up and running. The manual they provide via download is good. It is fairly clear and concise. However, the photos they have are simply unacceptable in my opinion. My 3G iphone has better resolution than the instruction manual. Not cool, and very annoying when your trying to zoom in and see what direction a bolt should go. I would like to see ClearVue improve that.

Lots of MDF and assorted hardware.

Painted and several of the 1/4-20 hardware added.
Close up that is typical.
 The 3 Phase Leeson motor is big and burly, as is the 16" impeller. Two of the most important things when buying a cyclone. Carefully following the manual, all the parts went together very well once I painted them. If I had my way, the MDF parts that make up the unit would have a bit better feel and finish to them. But then again, I'm kind of a snob. All of the clear plastic fit like a glove into each opening.

Very nicely made motor.
Motor mounted to support and blower housing cap.
Addition of the impeller.
Complete assembly before putting on the wall.

Close up of the taper lock to hold the impeller to the motor. This took some playing with to get it right.

Once I had all the pieces assembled and sealed with silicone, I invoked the help of some serious muscle. My buddy Ryan lifted the unit up on my wall stand offs while I bolted it all together from atop the 8' ladder.

My trash can worked great to hold it upright.

10' in the air is no small task. It's big and awkward.
Complete with dual trash cans and filters.
The main trunk line will come across the shop at 45 deg and feed tools from there. I like the piles of chips everywhere.
The electrical hook up took a fair amount of time and work for me.  I really do love playing with electrical stuff.  I've rewired my home from the street down to the last recepticle.  I also wired up the old shop with it's own 100 amp panel, and my new space has a large 3 phase set up that is proving to be fun as well.

I decided to buy the 3 phase version of the motor because they run far more efficiently than single phase, and cost less to operate day to day.  Unfortunately the electrical info provided from ClearVue is again not that good.  All of their literature is for single phase motors.  Granted it's really only one wire different, but if you are learning, this is not terribly helpful. They are however keeping their hands clean of any liability issues by suggesting the use of a professional electrician.  I would make that same suggestion.

DON'T get near an electric panel if you don't know what you're doing.  220 Volts at 20-30 amps will KILL YOU IF YOU SCREW UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!  DO YOU HEAR ME!!!!!!!!!!!!????????

After more research and calls to several electricians I work with, I came up with my plan to run the machine. You see, when you buy a big 220 machine, you don't just plug it in and go.  There is some work that needs to be planned for. One of those such items is how you plan on turning it off and on, how to protect the motor from overheating, and how to protect the unit from a surge or stall.  THIS is why electricians get the big bucks.

The completed set up.
EVERY large motor should have a dedicated circuit breaker in the main panel, manual disconnect near the motor (ie it's own fuse box and switch that keeps the motor from overheating), and thermal overload protection.  Each does something different than the other, and put together they protect your building, the motor and YOU.

When you buy a new table saw for example, one of the options is a "Magnetic Starter." This starter is made up of a couple things. One is the "contactor," the other is the "thermal overload."

A contactor is a really big relay.  The way it works is power comes in and energizes a coil to make an electromagnet that "closes" the circuit. This pulls two conductors together and power goes out the other end. In the event of power loss, or turning the machine to the OFF position, the magnetic coil looses it's charge and the circuit opens back up.

The top half is the contactor/relay. The bottom is the thermal overload.
The other part of most magnetic starters is the thermal overload to protect your motor from a stall.  In the event you suck up a 2x4, and it wedges itself in the impeller and stalls the motor, the thermal overload kills the power to the motor before the motor turns itself into a 70 lb paper weight that smells of burnt metal. This is what I put on the cyclone, and would recommend you do the same.

The left box is the disconnect with fuses and big red ON/OFF handle.

The contactor is operated with the lit green/ON push button, and red/OFF panic button.

I found the stainless steel enclosure at a salvage yard for $8. The ammeter monitors the power being drawn by the motor and it also indicates the health and cleanliness of the filters.  More amps=dirtier filters.
At the time I bought the machine, ClearVue didn't have a starter that you could buy for plug and play.  They do now. I built mine from scratch for about 1/3 the cost, however I like this kind of thing. If your not comfortable with electric work or don't want to spend the time, buy the starter all wired up for you. 

The ducting is the next phase. I've decided to go with Nordfab Quick Fit pipe. Very cool system that allows me to adjust the system as my needs and workflow change. It also has a very smooth interior and is laser welded to minimize leaks, therefor increasing efficiency. It comes at a high up front cost, but will pay for itself over time. I hope to have it ordered in the next 2-3 weeks or so. Obviously another post will be in order.

That's it for this week. I like the system thus far and can hardly wait to hook it up to some pipe. The shop needs it for sure. Feel free to hit me up in the comment section with questions or comments.

As always. Thanks for reading.


  1. Utterly envious. Been wanting a Bill P approved system for a while. Cycling and wood dust is not good.

    Few consecutive days in the shop would notice the aerobic loss on next ride.

    Maybe I can get my new shop prioritized this year!

  2. I hear you James. When you get your shop up and running, lets chat and I can do my best to point you away from the million mistakes I've made.

  3. Of all the shop upgrades I need, improved dust collection is at the top of my list. For me, woodworking equals Afrin at night. Thanks for the detailed post. I am bookmarking this page for future reference.