By Carl Duguay
While a dust collector may not have the same panache as a table saw or planer, it is one of the most important machines that you can purchase for your shop. An effective collector is one that will remove virtually all the dust that your machinery generates, keeping your shop clean, and your lungs ever so healthy. It will also provide you with years of trouble-free, efficient service.
While conventional single-stage bag and canister dust collectors are the norm, a lot of woodworkers are opting for two-stage, cyclone collectors. A cyclone collector uses centrifugal force to deflect wood chips into a waste container, while diverting the finer dust up into an impeller, through a pleated filter, and then into a waste bag. You want as much of the air that passes through the pleated filter, and back into your shop, to be as clean as possible. When equipped with a HEPA filter, the two-stage dust collector is the most efficient dust management system you can purchase for your shop. That’s because the HEPA filter removes dust particles down to as small as .3 micron in size (the size of a staphylococcus bacteria by the way).
Over the past two months I’ve been using a DustFX 1.5 HP HEPA Cyclone Dust Collector (model DCP015H) from CWI Woodworking Technologies. While CWI is new to the Canadian woodworking community, it has over 47 years of management experience in the woodworking machinery industry.
Similar to just about all dust collectors, the DustFX comes unassembled. If you don’t have much experience assembling machinery, I suggest you allow for at least 3 hours to uncrate and put it together. Otherwise you should have the job done in under 2 hours. While the operation manual is reasonably easy to follow, it’s made somewhat complicated by using two methods of labelling the components – illustrations are labelled with letters, the text refers to part numbers, and the parts list uses both. It makes for a lot of jumping from the text to the illustrations, and then back to the parts list.
I find that first impressions are important when it comes to woodworking machinery. On the DustFX the weld seams were all clean, and the baked on enamel finish was consistently applied. Plus, none of the components were missing, and all fit together snugly.
There were a couple of small glitches during assembly. The included wrench was the wrong size, which didn’t matter as I find it easier and faster to attach bolts using a socket wrench. Two rolls of gasket tape were enclosed, but no mention of where to use them in the manual. The only place I initially used tape was along the rim of the waste drum. However, after using the dust collector for a couple of weeks I added tape under the lower hose clamp that attaches the 10″ hose to the waste drum (items 37, or letter J, and 38 or letter H) in the operation manual.
You need to lift up the top assembly (the cyclone unit, which includes the impeller and motor), and slip it onto the two upright posts that are attached to the base. The cyclone unit is pretty heavy and somewhat bulky, so you’ll definitely need a friend give you a hand. Two rectangular sockets slip over the ends of the posts, and the weight of the cyclone, plus gravity, combine to keep the assembly snugly together. However, you can bolt the cyclone unit to the posts if you wish.
The DustFX comes with two 4″ outlets that enable you to connect two separate machines to the collector. Obviously, you could connect more machines by adding a wye fitting and appropriate blast gates.
The 10-gallon metal waste canister into which the waste is deposited has a couple of nice features. Wheels make it easy to move the canister out from under the dust collector and roll it outside the shop for emptying. Additionally, the canister has a clear window that enables you to see when the collector bag needs to be emptied.
The DustFX comes with a single reusable clear poly collector bag that installs inside the waste canister. If you’re careful, the bag should last quite a while – certainly you should expect to reuse it several dozen times. Eventually though, you’ll have to replace it. A 6-mil replacement bag costs around $8.00. If you prefer to toss the bag out after it fills up, you can purchase 4-mil bags in bulk from Uline Canada for $.87 each (based on 200 units).
Of course, you can chose not to use a bag at all, and simply empty the canister into a garbage container, or a compost heap, when full.
I really like the system used to secure the lid onto the dust canister. There are two cam clamps attached to the cyclone drum, that serve to secure the lid to the canister. Simply flip up the clamps and you can pull the canister out from underneath the cyclone to access the collector bag. This system is way more convenient to use than a traditional metal band clamp.
To prevent the clear poly bag collapsing from the suction of the cyclone, the DustFX comes with a simple metal frame that you insert into the bag – it’s very effective.
I don’t know why anyone in a small shop, particularly if it has limited ventilation, would purchase a dust collector without a HEPA filter. They provide significantly better filtration than cloth bag filters. The filter on the DustFX is rated to filter out 99.6% of dust particles .3 to .5 micron and 100% of all dust particles 1 micron and larger. Cloth filter bags, on the other hand, are only effective on dust between 1 to 5 microns. Which means your lungs are doing the fine filtering.
Turning the handle once or twice after each use keeps dust from clinging to the inside wall of the filter, maintaining the filters efficiency, Unless you inadvertently damage the canister, the polycarbonate re-enforced pleated inner filter should last for as long as you own the dust collector.
Below the HEPA filter is a reusable clear plastic bag that collects the finer dust. The dust you see in the photo above comes from about 70 board feet of lumber. At this rate, it’ll take several hundred or more board feet of lumber to fill the bag.
After 6 weeks of use, there isn’t a speck of dust coming from either end of the flexible hose that connects the canister filter to the cyclone.
You’ll note that there is no dust escaping from under the lid (A), where I used gasket tape. However, there was some seepage at the bottom of the hose that connects the cyclone to the waste canister (B). Installing gasket tape nipped this problem in the bud.
The DustFX is pretty darn compact, requiring only a 24″ by 48″ floor space. As it’s only 64″ high (above the motor housing), and because you don’t need to access anything on top of the dust collector, you can locate it under cabinetry or shelving (depending on the height of your shop ceiling). Non-locking wheels on both the cyclone frame and the dust cannister make it easy to move either of the units around the shop – together or independently.
The 1-1/2 HP motor is rated at 14 amps, which will draw about 1,680 watts, so you’ll have no problem running the dust collector on a standard 15 amp circuit. If you use it on a shared circuit, just make sure you don’t run anything else at the same time as the dust collector is running, else you may overload the circuit (trip the circuit breaker).
In operation, the DustFX is rated at only 74dB at 10 feet from the machine, which will make it one of the quietest machines in your shop.
Along with being pleasingly quiet, the DustFX is powerful. It’s rated to deliver 1,250 CFM of air at 9″ of water lift. Along with a dynamically balanced 13-1/4″ aluminum impeller, this dust collector provides sufficient suction to keep both my planer and jointer free of debris. Remember that air flow and water lift work together to keep air moving, and sucking dust. CFM is a measure of the volume of air. Ideally you want a high volume of air flow for moving the lighter weight dust. Water lift (static pressure) is a measure of suction force that the dust collector can develop along a specified length of ducting. You want lots of suction for moving larger wood chips. Both the CFM and water lift levels on the DustFX are higher than what I’ve seen on comparably sized collectors.
I’ve been using the DustFX for about 6 weeks, and have milled about 70 board feet of hardwood. For a small to medium sized shop without miles of dust hose snaking around the shop, the DustFX will, in my view, prove to be an extremely effective dust management system. The current configuration I have is one 10′ dust hose, which I simply swap between my planer and jointer. Eventually I’ll add a second dust hose to serve the jointer, along with a pair of blast gates.
What I especially like about the DustFX is that it removes all the dust generated from my planer and jointer, and there is virtually no dust seepage from the collector. The waste canister is a decent size – I was able to mill on average about 25 bf of rough lumber before the dust bag needed to be emptied. Removing the bag is a piece of cake, and, of course, the collectors low noise level is a real bonus.
I try not to be overly biased, but this really is a great dust collector. I’ve just moved it from the area where I process my lumber into the workshop area, and I can really see the difference in how much less fine dust is in the air, on the projects, on my workbench, and in my hair.
Pro rated across the 5-year warranty, your cost of ownership for this dust collector is about $300 per year. If your looking for a well built, efficient collector that will do a superior job of dust management in your shop, the DustFX DCP015H is well worth considering. If you have a larger shop, or if multiple machines will be used simultaneously, CWI also has 2, 3, and 5 HP cyclone collectors on offer.
- 1.5 HP, 15 amp TEFC motor
- 1,250 CFM
- 9″ water lift
- HEPA filtering to 99.6% of .3 micron and 100% of 1 micron and larger
- Manual HEPA filter cleaner
- 10 gallon dust capacity
- Quick release dust canister
- Dual 4″ dust inlets
- 74 dB sound level at 10′
- 63″ height
- 20″ x 40″ foot print
- 5 year warranty
- Includes: 1 reusable waste drum bag, 1 resuable canister filter bag