Small-Shop Cyclone Advice

Even for fine dust, a cyclone is the key to keeping filters free-flowing. April 13, 2012

We do a lot of sanding. Probably 25% of our dust collection needs are sanding dust. I'm looking at dust collectors in the 5 hp range, priced at 3-4K or less. An Oneida Direct Drive system is the front runner right now. I've seen Belfab recommended a few times here, but they seem kind of low-tech. Is that a misconception?

Forum Responses
(Dust Collection and Safety Equipment Forum)
From contributor I:
What do you consider a medium sized shop? We are a 3 man shop and I finally am happy with my dust collection after installing a used Torit 36" fan/cyclone and 30 HP direct drive motor. Our bag house has a total of 12 bags that are 15 ft long and 12 inches in diameter. We're still get sanding dust and fine dust around the shop so we run 2 Jet 1100CFM air filters. We had a Grizzly 10hp before that with added sister bags. As soon as the bags clogged with sander and fine resaw dust, we lost most of our CFM's and velocity. Properly engineered ducts with proper reductions at the branches are also crucial to getting the most out of a collector.

My 30HP cyclone and after filter was $7k used. I shopped a long time to get that sweet of a deal. If you plan on growth or adding machines such as moulders, multiple shapers, planers or jointers, I doubt 5HP will even be close to what you need. There are plenty of good used deals out there right now!

From contributor J:
I'll second the previous response. I picked up a used 7-1/2 hp Torit (one of, if not the best, out there) and it works great for my small shop. There's plenty of them available on the used market too. You could probably even get one of the Vibrashake models within your budget, which would be useful for someone with a lot of sanding dust.

You really need to determine what your actual needs are in CFM. HP doesn't tell you what you need to know to buy a collector. Once you know what you need, you can make a better buying decision.

From contributor D:

30 HP - wow! Okay, I think I need to adjust my expectations a bit. We have 3 in the wood shop, but machining is only done maybe 2-3 days per week. The rest is sanding or assembly work. All solid, no MDF.

Good tip on starting with the CFM first. It only makes sense. Are cyclones all that necessary if the majority of dust collection is dealing with sanding dust? Too many years of reading Fine Woodworking has got me thinking that cyclones are the only way to go. However the majority of Torit and Belfab machines seem to be single stage.

From contributor A:
People have a misunderstanding of cyclones. They think they are supposed to separate the chips from the dust. They are designed to keep as much of the debris (fine dust included) away from the filtration. Clogged filters limit a system far more than large motors can overcome. My Oneida system barely gets any dust below the filter canister. The tech said that is ideal. I concur with the other posters. Find a good Torit cyclone (or the like) system at auction, Craigslist, or Ebay.

From contributor J:
Yup, cyclones are even more necessary for fine dust. Without a cyclone, the fine sanding dust quickly clogs filters and rapidly decreases the amount of suction you're getting from your collector.

Before I moved up from portable collectors to a single whole shop system, I experimented with a variety of different filter fabric bags and cartridges. I found nothing worked well on the drum sander. With the cyclone I run stock though all day without a problem, as almost all the dust goes directly into the collection bags, leaving the filters to breathe freely.

From contributor I:
We make a lot of fine dust from our 52" widebelt sander when we pre-sand flooring to 150 grit. We will run thousands of sq/ft days in a row. We shake our filter bags once a week and empty 6-10" of dust out of the bottoms of the bags maybe once a month. The rest comes out of the cyclone's air lock. I am so happy to not be empting drums, bags and filters every day like we used to when we had a four 55 gallon bag setup.