Updated: May 24
If you're a woodworker, you know that dust and debris are an unfortunate byproduct of the trade. Not only can they make your workshop look untidy, but they can also be harmful to your health if inhaled.
A HEPA grade filter keeps your shop air clean by trapping the smallest particles down to 0.3 microns.
HEPA filters tend to be more expensive. So, how can you prevent clogging to prolong their life?
Enter: Cyclone Separators.
Cyclone separators are the 1st stage of a 2-stage dust collection system. These powerful tools are designed to capture and filter out dust and debris from the air, creating a cleaner, safer working environment. In this article, we'll explain why cyclone dust separators are essential for woodworking shops and how they can help keep your workshop clean and healthy.
Whether you're a professional woodworker or a hobbyist, a cyclone dust separator is a valuable addition to your workshop.
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How Do Cyclone Separators Work?
Cyclone dust separators work by using a high-speed spinning motion to separate dust and debris from the air. Here's how it works:
Air and dust enter the cyclone dust separator through an inlet.
The spinning motion of the cyclone forces the dust and debris to the outer wall of the separator, where it falls into a collection bin or bag.
The clean air is then expelled through an outlet, while the dust and debris remain in the collection bin or bag.
The collected dust and debris can then be disposed of or recycled, depending on the material.
Cyclone dust separators are highly effective at capturing a wide range of dust and debris, including sawdust, wood shavings, and other fine particles at up to 99% efficiency. This means less than 1% of the material sucked up ever reaches your air filter - drastically improving its life. They're also relatively low maintenance and easy to use, making them a popular choice for woodworking shops and other environments where dust control is important.
Cyclones separate fine and heavy particles. As the larger, heavy particles are captured below, the small, fine particles are ejected out of the top to be routed to a filter.
Small Shop Cyclone Dust Separators
There are several companies making cyclones and kits marketed to the small shop owner. These are the best dust collection for small wood shops from a low cost standpoint. They range from a simple cyclone you can mount to a container up to a full setup that includes the container, hoses and everything you need to get it running. You don't need to take out the second mortgage on a Festool separator. Cyclones are budget friendly.
First, the main component: the cyclone. There are a couple in the market, but Oneida's Dust Deputy is among the most popular.
This is as basic as it gets. The Dust Deputy 2.5 (Amazon)
You would need to supply the fittings, hoses and container to connect this to your setup. Many purchase this to install to the top of a 5 gallon bucket lid.
These are also great if you have the popular DeWalt 735 thickness planer. Since it has its own chip ejection built in, you don't need a shop vacuum hooked to draw air through the cyclone - the DW735 pushes the air and chips through the cyclone.
You can purchase the upgraded version that includes the fittings, bucket lid and a hose, but will still need to supply the 5-gallon bucket. Dust Deputy DD Plus (Amazon)
If you're set on using a 5-gallon bucket as the collection container, Oneida has a solution for that. With this kit, you get everything including a bucket with casters to help roll around your shop. The collection bucket sits inside the caster bucket making it easy to pull it out and empty the chips when full. Cyclone Kit from Oneida (Amazon) includes a cyclone, short hose, two 5-gallon buckets and casters.
This is a good option if you are looking for dust collection with the smallest footprint. On the downside, I've found this unit is regularly out of stock, and for the money, there are larger capacity systems at or near the same price point. Also, 5 gallon buckets fill up quick, so you'll have to get used to emptying it regularly.
Another small profile option is the Dustopper. I use one of these with my miter saw station since it fits well inside a cabinet. The Dustopper sits right on top of a 5-gallon bucket but has a much smaller verticle profile, so it fits in a cabinet nicely. It works great for fine chips, but I've noticed large wood shavings get clogged up in the cyclone quite easily.
If that isn't a concern, and you are using a 5-gallon bucket, these work great. You can order them on Amazon or find them in the Shop Vacuum aisle at Home Depot.
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Small Shop Dust Collection Kits
I mentioned small cyclone separators are gaining traction. These new complete systems may be the reason why. If you are looking for an easy alternative to building your own system, these kits come with everything you need and maintain a small footprint to conserve space in your shop.
Dust Right Dust Separator
Dust Right makes a sleek all-in-one package that includes the cyclone mounted on a 10-gallon translucent bucket on wheels.
This unit requires a shop vacuum to pull the debris through the cyclone, but as with the other separators, most of the chips and sawdust never make it to your vacuum filter.
This may be a good option for those who want an affordable all-in-one package.
M5 Dust Cyclone Collection by Mullet Tools
My only gripe with the dust deputy cyclone is that it is mounted to a separate collection bin. That bin has to be drug around the shop from tool to tool with your shop vacuum swinging around behind it catching on tools and knocking into everything along the way.
Mullet Tools has solved the problem with their all-enclosed cyclone collection with rigid connection to nearly any shop vacuum made called the Mullet Tools M5 Dust Cyclone Collection.
There are no seams, gaskets or gaps between the cyclone and the collection bin which ensures no suction loss in these areas.
DeWALT Separator with 10 Gal Stainless Steel Tank
DeWALT has entered the arena with their own version of the cyclone dust separator for wet or dry applications.
This unit comes with a 10 gallon stainless collection bin on casters and 7 feet of dust collection hose. This is a great solution that only takes up just over 2 square feet of shop space.
Cyclone Separator Bagger
A cyclone separator bagger enables permanent mounting of your unit on the wall allowing you to regain floor space back. It is a low-cost way to add a semi-permanent 2-stage dust collection to your wood shop.
Rather than emptying a container, when the bag fills, remove from mount, tie off and pitch it in the garbage.
Oneida Dust Deputy Cyclone Bagger
This bagger option from Oneida keeps your filters clean and prevents collected chips and dust from entering the air from emptying a container. Simply remove the clear bag, tie off and toss it in the garbage.
The Dust Deputy Bagger Cyclone Separator Kit comes with everything you need to hook up to your existing shop vacuum.
You cannot go wrong with a cyclone dust separator - especially if you are concerned about losing valuable shop space. Any one of these will be a great addition to your shop, and your lungs will thank you. And don't just throw that valuable sawdust away - put it to use! See how.