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Building a Two Stage Dust Collection System For Our Woodshop

We had a big upgrade in the woodshop last year.  We were very lucky to have purchased a new (to us) Grizzly 8” jointer and a Woodmaster 18” thickness planer.  These units were a huge step up from our Porter and Cable portable units.  While the P&C units were great (would absolutely recommend to anyone starting out or for hobby use) they were very much limited by their size. 

These new units were such a large upgrade for us that our old dust collection setup simply wouldn’t keep up.  We have the 2HP Dust Collector from Harbor Freight, which works great, but the inlet has a grate on it that sometime clogs if it is pulling too many large chips.  Each time we would run the Woodmaster planer, it would clog.  

We decided it was time to upgrade to a two-stage system.  Having just purchased these machines (from a rocket scientist no less……..yep true story) we didn’t much feel like dropping a lot of cash on a new DC.  With that in mind we ordered a very affordable 4” Cycle Kit and decided to piece something together with a rain barrel and some spare hose we had in the barn. 

    Since this was our first experience with a two-stage build, we thought it a fine idea to post a quick little blog about how we did it and a short video to show the process. Hopefully it helps anyone else in the same boat.

    The first thing we did was drag an old rain barrel into the shop and remove the lid.  Unboxing the cyclone plumbing kit, we lined up each piece on the lid across from one another and drew a line on the inside of the pipe to use as a guide.  The plumbing had a pretty wide lip on it so we weren’t too concerned with the circle being absolutely round or perfectly snug. 

    Next, we drilled a couple of starter holes and cut the circles out with a jigsaw.  These particular pieces bolt together with four nuts and bolts each so we marked each hole and drilled them out.  After a quick test fit, we applied a layer of caulk to seal it off (optional really) and bolted each of the two pieces together with the 90 degree segments down, on the inside of the barrel.

    The most important point here is to make sure that the 90 degree elbows are pointing in the opposite direction.  Choose one as the inlet and one as the outlet.  We attached the inlet to our machine’s dust collection port and the outlet to the dust collector using a 4” hose.

    As long as the plumbing is correctly oriented opposite one another, this system will create a cyclone inside the barrel allowing all the large chips to fall to the bottom, passing only the finest of dust along to the collector bag.  A quick test with the planer and a large poplar glue-up showed us we had it just right.  

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