I know I am not alone in using a wet / dry vac based sawdust collection system for my home workshop. I wanted to share some ideas, and the upsides as well as the down sides to such an endeavor. I am not wanting this to turn into a shop vac system vs. true full blown dust collector type thread, that has been hammered out already quite well, and I would appreciate not having my thread hijacked. Rather, I want this to be about how to make a shop vac system work as well as it can, with the understanding that there are some drawbacks...
After reading through Bill Pentz' website http://billpentz.com/woodworking/Cyclone/index.cfm
i was convinced that for tool at a time usage, there is little advantage to using a "true dust collector" over a shop vac based system. Particularly with the equipment in my workshop.
I should introduce you to the equipment that makes up my shop, so you'll have a better idea of what is connecting to it. My shop equipment is not all that unusual. Not particularly high end, but very effective for the $$ invested...
#1. Table Saw. Ryobi BT3100, 2.5" shop vac dust port.
#2. Band Saw. Central Machinery 32208 14" 4 speed band saw with 2" dust port, shimmed to fit the shop vac hose...
#3. Oscillating Sander. Ridgid EB4424 with 2.5" shop vac dust port.
#4. Planer. Ryobi AP1301 with 2.5" dust port.
#5. Jointer. Sunhill SM150-B with 2.5" dust port.
#6. Compound Miter Saw. B&D FIrestorm, 1.75" dust port, shimmed to fit 2.5" shop vac hose.
#7. Sanders, Misc Ryobi and Skil with tool adapters to fit the 2.5" hose.
#8. Router Table. Wolfcraft 470 with built it 1.25" dust port necked up to a 2.5" fitting.
So you can see advantage #1 of using a shop vac based system. It fits my equipment with minimal adapters needed.
The next issue, is cost. Even using a Harbor Freight 2HP dust collector, with proper piping, and a filter comparable to the HEPA in my shop vac, I would still be looking at $700.00 after shipping and handling.
And of course there is the space issue. In the tight confines of my workshop, especially if I ever want my wife to be able to park the car in there again...
Now we know that shop vacs are not dust collectors, and dust collectors are not shop vacs. BUT, the shop vac can work well as a dust collector as long as you know its limits, which are pretty similar to the limits of small dust collectors. The advantage of the shop vac is the actual vacuum it pulls, compared to a DC. The DC will move more CFM for sure...
So if we are to accept the fact that our hobby wood shop dust collection systems are NOT true dust collectors in the sense that very vew of them would actually pass air quality tests, and if we understand there are situations with equipment that makes fine dust that is the unhealthiest such as sanders etc... where strong vacuum is preferred over larger air flow, it would make sense the look to the shop vac for dust collection as PART, but not all of the soltuion to safe workshop air.
In my setup, I have done what I can so far, but feel there will be more in the months and years to come.
My "system" is based around a 2 stage collector. The "power head" section of the collector is a Ridgid 12 gallon wet dry vac model WD 1246. This particular vac offered the most bang for the buck as it were when I was looking. Many examples of this particular vac can be found on Craigslist for a bargain basement price.
The filtration for this vacuum was initially provided by a Ridgid VF6000 HEPA filter. This filter became clogged quickly with chips and shavings from the planer, and as it was paper based and as such was not able to be washed and reused. (But was included in mine as a promot thing). Due to the clogging and cleaning issues, I have added a second stage, and a Gore CleanStream HEPA filter. ($32.99 online, $28.99 locally).
The second stage is an in the construction process Thien Cyclone Separator lid mounted on a 20 gallon galvanized trash can. http://www.cgallery.com/jpthien/cy.htm
if you review Phil's site, you can see he has done his homework on designing this thing. I do not yet have mine finished due to budget constraints and a busted router bit, but if the reports are to be trusted, this separator design will keep me from having to empty my vac, and in turn, the HEPA filter for a long time to come.
The connection to the tools is done via a Shop Vac (notice capital letters? Brand name there!) Sawdust Collection System. This provided clear PVC pipe, fittings, and blast gates.
Hose to connect the machines to the blast gates is the 2.5" hose from Peachtree with screw on fittings.
I know I need to rearrange things so that I can eliminate the 90 degree bends, and the Y fittings will be replaced as soon as I can find some with a large radius instead of the tight 90. So far it isn't posing a problem, but I think from what I have read, a larger radius Y will help improve air flow...
So with this setup, connection from machine, to 2.5" DC hose, to hard pipe with minimal bends, to Thien Cyclone, to vac with HEPA filter, I think I have the DC set up as well as possible using a shop vac.
Along the lines of Pentz' advice, I have also added a makeshift air cleaner, not my final solution, but I have a 20" box fan, with a 20x20 Filtrete filter added into the intake side of the fan with duct tape. Not fancy, but certainly functional...
With all of this going, I still am not comfortable working in the garage with the door down, for several reasons, not the least of which is dust. But climate control is another. During most of the year, the garage is too stinking hot to work inside without the door open...
So now that I have this long winded write up to this point, I am going to ask other shop vac users, how is your set up done? What do you think you could do to improve the function of your system? And how well do you feel it is working for you? Are you happy with it, or do you think you'll want to go to a full on DC at some later point?
Again, I did not post this to start a shop vac vs. dedicated DC discussion, but rather want those that have shop vac based dust collection to discuss their systems and how to get the most out of them...