Breathe Easy

I’ve been talking recently with Microclene, and particularly Carrolls Woodcraft who supply their air-filtration systems.   There is no question that the Microclene air filters are a quality unit – anyone who has been to a woodshow is likely to have seen one hanging over the high dust generating (but rather dust-absent!) stand of Arbortech, and recently I happened to be using one on the Torque Workcentre stand.  Let alone seeing them on the Microclene stand itself.  I have a couple in my shed – one for overall air filtration, and one to be placed next to where you are working for high dust (or particularly obnoxious dust) generating procedures.

However, when you boil it down, cost is very much a driving factor in shop purchases, particularly when it comes to safety.  It shouldn’t be, obviously, but who doesn’t consider another plane, or jointer, router etc before putting their hand in the pocket for safety.  And where it comes to safety, eye protection is pretty easy to justify – if it goes wrong, the pain is immediate, the consequences obvious.  Foot protection – pretty much the same, but how many occasionally head out to the shed in thongs (no, not a thong….thongs!!) on occasion, as convenience gets before sensibility?  Hearing protection is even more scarce – and that comes down to the immediacy of the consequence.  Having the ears ringing a bit after working next to a router or saw that goes away isn’t often enough of a motivator for many to actually put on some hearing protection.

Dust I would hesitate to say is the most ignored hazard (note, I didn’t say risk).  How many do a cut, holding their breath and feel that is good enough?  And the consequences seem even less tangible at the time.  If smokers are hard to convince to give up for the obvious impacts on their health, what hope to convince a woodworker to buy an air filtration system?

But that doesn’t mean it should be ignored by complacency.  I did, for a long time, but when I finally capitulated and bought an air filter, I really noticed the difference, especially during the night after a day in the shed – talk about breathing easier.  You can wear a dust mask (and that is still important, even if you do have an air filtration system), but that doesn’t stop the fine dust coating surfaces, ready to lift off again and be breathed in when you take the mask off again, this shed visit, or the next, or the next…. (let alone wrecking finishes etc)

So when you do decide that it really is important to have air filtration, there are a few choices out there, and Microclene is no doubt one of the more desirable systems for its effectiveness, quality, and even the torus-shaped airflow that it produces, but cost? They sure do…or should I say did?  With some serious navel-gazing and evaluation of pricing, Microclene have managed to slash a good 25% or so off their retail price, such as the $660 MC1200 with 1200 m³/hr, 0.4µm filtration.  That is not by changing to a Chinese manufacturer, outsourcing, dropping quality or other typical methods for getting the price down.  They are still the same machines, but by changing shipping quantities, cutting margins etc they have achieved a much lower, more competitive price.  And still filter down to a mean size of 0.4µm.  It might look effective for machines to filter the big stuff.  It’s the small stuff that will get you in the end.

There are some new products in their lineup to – some of the cost reduction is by rationalising the range.  In recent discussions with Microclene, it sounds like Stu’s Shed will have a chance to review some of the new offerings in the near future.  However if your lungs can’t wait any longer, have a chat to Jim or Irene from Carrolls Woodcraft and do yourself a favour.  Seriously.

One Response

  1. I think some caution is needed here; the comment made about SEEING how clear the air is on exhibition stands is slightly misleading as, when you’re talking about harmful wood dust particles of less than 10 microns, even the best eyesight can not see them. Microclene themselves state that.

    I was about to buy a Microclene unit the other day, but was very disappointed in what I found looking into the detail, having believed these were the business. While the advertised particle size sounds good, the efficiency of the filter does not measure-up. From what I can gather, these units only have a single-stage system, and use a ‘G4’ filter specification. From what I read (even comments quoted from Microclene themselves) this can only capture 65% of particles at 1 micron or smaller.

    My 3hp primary extraction unit does a good job of sucking up particle down to about 1-2 microns. But it is well known the exhaust air from extractors is actually leaving smaller microscopic particles airborne, so actually creating a secondary problem. I was looking at an fine air filter (as Microclene is advertised to be) specifically to deal with these microscopic and very dangerous particles 1 micron and less in size; an ‘ambient’ filter I could leave running to capture these potentially very dangerous particles (dangerous for their size, not wood type). To know 45% or these particles would not be caught in the filters is disappointing. Why they only use a single filter is beyond me.

    Personally, to cite particle size without also quoting efficiency in capturing that stated size is misleading. I am glad I looked into it more. I’m not leaving this to cause trouble, but to urge others to look into the full specification of filters before buying.

    I ended up buying a TWO-stage fine air filter, which states captures 99% of particles of 5 micron size, and 89% of 1 micron size; a much more effective filtering process. And that’s combined with a higher airflow, washable filters, and same price tag as the Microclene I was looking at.

    While this was for my home workshop, I should say I work in the wood industry, and studied cabinetmaking alongside Wood Science, so am not ill-informed about H&S and wood extraction systems.

    I hope this is useful, even only to ensure customers seek the necessary assurances if it is believed I am incorrect.

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