Thursday, February 23, 2012

New Dust Catcher: Part 2. Shiny new duct work

Hi there PORC fans.

In preparation for our big Anniversary Party on March 29th. I've been working to get the shop ready for visitors. I got one of the two signs hung on the outside of the building, and am removing things like extension cords laying in the middle of the floor, using air hoses to hang stuff from the ceiling, and covering outlets with actual covers, and NOT duct tape. Nothing says happy anniversary like a electrocuted patron laying on the floor after tripping on a chord buried in a pile of wood chips.

My wonderful and loyal reader(s) are aware of my ongoing battle with collecting dust. Asthma is no stranger to my day, and I know that a visit from the fire marshal isn't too far down the road. For this reason, I bought a new cyclone a while back and finally after saving all my pennies, I've put in some wicked awesome pipe to complete the deal.

That's right. I said wicked awesome.

Keep on reading for the full report.

I chose to go with Nordfab ducting. And let me tell you, I am glad I did. The product is amazing! I found an amazing local supplier that really made the process effortless. The product is well engineered and snaps together in seconds. It allows me to move tools and rearrange the shop as needed. The piping has welded seams and at each union there is a rubber gasket to make the entire system airtight.

Filter Technology is a small firm that deals with moving air and the crap that floats along with it. They predominately do large warehouses and manufacturing facilities, but they were more than willing to help me from a dollar bill or two.

From my initial contact with them to the very end, my experience was exceptional. I had a very good idea and plan of where everything went, and the parts needed to make it happen. Even with that, Eric, my engineering God/partner in crime offered to tweak my plan and make sure I had everything needed. This man has an eagle eye for detail. He is after all a Mechanical Engineer who just happens to also sell duct work.

If your in the NW area of the county, CALL THEM! They are a great company that stands behind their product and has the knowledge to get you just what you need. Nordfab locks in pricing pretty tight I think, so you want to shop locally to help with the shipping costs.

After I picked up all the parts, I brought them back to the shop to sort them. I saw no reason not to enjoy my time doing so with a carbonated beverage.

Lots of parts.
It's like dinner in a glass.
My OCD may have said hello.

Solid, well built and airtight unions.

After everything was sorted, I needed to come up with a plan to hang this stuff. I chose to use aircraft cable. It has a weight rating of like 4 million tons or so. It should do.

I needed to fabricate two parts. One that went into the cyclone, and another to make the bend out of the collector. After a bit of head scratching I got it.

I cut a flange, and inserted it into the opening. I then sealed it with A LOT of caulking. No leaks here.
I wanted 5' of strait airflow into the unit. My rigging consisted of wire, turnbuckles, and temporary vice grips.
Two collars, one with the correct angle, one with notches. I then screwed them together and ground off the screws inside so it stayed smooth. I kept the airflow direction in mind as well.

I covered the union with a overlapping rubber, and band clamped it air tight.
This the first section of branches and wye's that make up the main trunk line.

One of the great things about the Nordfab pipe is the ease at which you can insert a piece. Below I show an example.

I took out a branch and needed to replace it with a strait shot. The adjustable nipples make this quick and easy. You cut a pipe to finished length minus 4", slip the nipple over the top, add a clamp and ta-ta. DONE! Awesome!

I was moving the branch in order to get the elbow and drop in the right location. Once I knew I had the drop in the right place, I cut the adjustable piece to slide into place.

Totally adjustable and done with one set of hands.

The entire system is put together with a main 8" main trunk and 6" branches off of it. The 6" runs all the way to the tools. In some cases, it get's split into a dual 4" splitter. I still need to modify a few of my tools in order to keep the ports at 6".

The longest run of pipe is just about 30'. That includes a couple elbows, but for the most part it is a clean strait run. No hard bends, and very little flex hose. Both of which kill airflow. As a result, you have a lot of vacuum. Below is a picture of a 6" port at the furthest point from the collector. The machine is running, and holds the metal reducer in place. These pieces are not light. They are solid and heavy welded connectors, not cheap 28 gauge sheet metal. THAT is a lot of vacuum!

Open 6" port with the collector running.

A 6"-4" reducer is held just below the opening, and it gets sucked up and held in place. Keep in mind their is a 4" hole that is wide open and it's still held in place.

The web is starting to take form after setting the main line and first couple branches.

You can see 2 of the branches not yet hooked up, but the pipe is ready for the union.

I found very little joy and satisfaction in cutting a 6" hole in the back of my table saw, but it was needed. I also sealed up all the seams to create a big airtight base. I get some dust flying back at me above the saw, but the cabinet is nearly spotless. The European saw makers have a dust shrouds around the saw blade to capture even more of the dust. They've used this for years and years, but sadly American makers are just starting to catch on. No such luck with this saw.

I strait shot right into the saw again. No flex needed.

Overall, the system is up and running. I still need to modify a few tools to maximize suction and dust capture, but that will just have to wait. I need to do a few jobs in order to pay for this dang thing. My guess is that I will need to make a few adjustments to really tweak it, but for now it's a huge improvement.

I added a drop for the BS. They both run off of the 6" line, so I need to make sure I only have one gate open on this run in order to keep flow up.

In total, to cover the whole shop, I've got 9 drops to tools.

For fear of putting you all asleep, I will wrap it up here. If you come up with any questions, hit me up in the comments, or send me an email. I have learned a ton in this process, and I'm happy to share what I've done right and wrong.

And lastly. Do you think this system looks cool? You should see it in person. A good chance would be at my shop party on March 29th!  See ya then.

As always, thanks for reading. Cheers.


  1. Don't you need a little airflow INTO the table saw? If it is too airtight will be like trying to suck dust out of a coke bottle.

    Surely you have a tight tolerance blade guard, so very little air comes in from there.

    Just thinkin' there should be an small vented inlet on far side of hose to allow a flow from one side to the other in addition to the sawblade.

  2. You should send a link for this article to Norfab and filter technology. Its a great example of how there product works in multiple environments and how user friendly it is.

    Cool photos where you have all the ducting lined up on the table!

  3. Lenderboy, you are dead on. Yes you do. I may have over tooted my airtight horn. I don't want a complete vacuum. I have air coming in the throat plate which has a hole in it in addition to slop around the blade, and I can control via a flap of rubber around the tilt control on the front of the saw. I am experimenting with just "how much" is too much. Your dead on. You should come on by and see it.

    @Anonymous. I sent a link to the awesome folks at FT. I will send a note to Nordfab too. I may do the same to the makers of the cyclone. Thanks for reading.

  4. You make duct work almost art like. :) Very nice - I remember that Bill Pentz is a fan of 6" ducting. I am impressed you get such good air flow 30' from your collector.