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The Monster in My Closet

Posted by on February 18, 2008

OK, so maybe not exactly a “monster,” but the old Woodtek 3HP double-bag dust collector I bought sure does sound like one…and appears to live up to its 2100CFM (free-air) rating.

Dust Collection Closet Door
Dust Collection Closet - The Beast Within
Dust Collection Closet - The Beast Within

I’ve finally finished the main duct work runs and over the weekend I cut the hole from the shop into the external “dust collection closet” and ran the 6″ main through. As I had feared, the dust collector argued mightily against being confined in such cramped quarters. The closet is <30" deep and ~60" wide with a standard 36"x80" door. The two-bag collector simply wouldn't make the tight turn through the doorway. Fortunately I'd half suspected this would be the case and was already mentally prepared for the situation...which likely saved my neighbors an earful. The solution: disassembly.

I removed the upper-half, post-fan section that holds the bags to the blower and then removed the lower half, including the motor from the base. I’d already purchased a length of 6″ flexible hose that I’d planned to use to join the collector to the 6″ S&D piping…figuring that it would likely be a rather convoluted angle and possibly too tight a fit for a hard plastic 90-degree elbow. By mounting the base directly to the floor of the closet, I also gained an additional couple inches – making it now possible to use rigid fittings. Ultimately the hookup turned out to be “do-able” using rigid piping as well, eliminating the need for the rather pricey 6″ flexible hose. Anybody need any 6″ hose.

Though I don’t have any tools for measuring CFM or static pressure, my quick test sweeping some sawdust piles into the floor sweep at the very furthest end of the longest/narrowest run and hearing the swooooosh as the debris found its way swiftly into the waiting collection bags was enough to convince me that the system should do just fine. I’m hoping to do a test using the planer tonight — if it can keep up with the 13″ planer, it should have no trouble with the other tools.

My one real disappointment is with the on/off mechanism. I outfitted the 240v 20A circuit with an X10-controllable outlet and programmed the “D” button (for “Dust collection” of course) to send the appropriate on/off commands. It worked the first couple times I tried it, turning the collector on and off as expected. However, the third time I tried using the second keypad (linked to the first) and this time…nothing. I went back to the first and tried it a few more times. Again, nothing. I recall reading some forum posts (don’t recall where) by some unhappy woodworkers/X10 enthusiasts complaining about the poor reliability of X10 — specifically in the context of dust collection systems. I was planning on purchasing a “Long Ranger” or similar system and using a combination of manual switches and blast-gate mounted microswitches in the future…apparently this will need to happen a bit sooner than I’d anticipated.

As usual, the entire installation process — well, the indoor portions at least — was covered by my trusty D-Link wireless cameras. Here’s the finished video:

UPDATE: Last night I completed the “planer” test as planned. I hooked up my Rigid 13” planer to a port at the end of the run and took some fairly decent passes on a 9” piece of poplar. The dust shroud was empty. I opened a couple other blast gates and repeated the test. Still clear. Looks like this “monster” will do the job!

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