Suck it up

A new (and relatively cheap, at about $35) tool caught my attention at a recent Festool demonstration, which I mentioned briefly at the time.  It is the Festool Dust Removal Nozzle, and it just goes to show that sometimes the best ideas are so simple, you ask yourself “why didn’t I think of that”. It isn’t the first time that a vacuum based system or similar concept has been used, but it certainly is a good example of one!


Drilling can be a messy business, especially when inside the house and the room where you need to do the work is perfectly clean otherwise, (well, again, relatively speaking!)  I’ve had this situation a number of times, and often in the kitchen when you want to install something above the kitchen bench.  You drill a hole, and the plasterboard produces that talc-fine dust that falls down from the hole you are drilling and lightly coats the bench surface.  You spend more time trying to wipe up that damned powder than the time it took to drill the hole!  That includes those plaster wall anchors that you either drill a hole for, or those that drill and self tap a hole.

I’ve seen many examples over the years of how people have tried to solve the problem simply and cheaply, even resorting to post-it notes


The Festool solution is a dual chamber system, which allows the dust collector to adhere to the surface (rough or smooth), as well as collect dust that is produced.


It isn’t a drill guide per-say (although I know Dennis is working on a mod for his one that does just that!), but it sucks onto the surface, and collects the dust right at the point that it is being produced, which is the best place to do so, especially rather than trying to wipe off the residue from the clean kitchen bench below!

As mentioned, overhead isn’t a problem, nor is rough surfaces, such as concrete, even when both ‘challenging’ scenarios occur simultaneously

19431So there you have it – a cool tool, Festool, and yet you don’t need to break the bank to have one!  And just think of all the times you’ve had to clean up after drilling into plasterboard.  Use post-it notes for writing reminders (or your next art work)

post-it-notesFor keeping drilling dust under control, there is a better solution!

New Festool Product Demo

Headed along to Carbatec this morning to see the new Festool products that had launched. Unfortunately the edge bander was not on show- demo’ed at a recent session, but now saved until some show in Brisbane.

Saw the new cordless hammer drill, and yes, impressive if that is what you need. Lightweight, shock absorber built in etc.


Comes with a really neat dust collector.


It sucks itself onto the surface, and gathers dust right from where the drill bit is in contact with the wall (or whatever you are drilling). Also available as a separate item for about $35. Definitely have to get one of those!

Saw the new cordless saw in operation too. Brushless EC-TEC motor, takes either 1, or 2 batteries, and that can be a mix of 15V and 18V. Depending on the available voltage, the max speed varies from around 3500RPM to around 5000RPM


Without batteries fitted


Dual batteries fitted, each with charge indicators.  The saw must have a battery in the lower slot to operate.  The second battery in the top position is optional.


Has a different handle, that prevents the saw being used on the CMS system.


New lever to allow saw to be tilted to -1º


Has a new design to the Fast Fix system, which allows the blade to be locked and lowered in a single operation for blade changes.

For a saw that can be used onsite, away from any available external power supply, I’m sure it will be of definite interest to many.  If you are in a shop-situation, you’d still stay with the TS55R (the corded version).  This one would be awesome to use with something like the Centipede Workbench to break down sheets before bringing them into the workshop.  No need to run cables etc outside!  Also if you were working in difficult-to-access locations (such as in a roof space), the portability would pay off well then too.

Saw with 1 battery attached.  Note, this was the first time the saw had been used with the rail, so you will see the sacrificial plastic of the rail peeling off as well.

Saw with 2 18V batteries attached.

Wearing pleats in the workshop

As a general rule, wearing pleats in the workshop is not the best idea. Other than being just a little too frilly to be shed-like, you’d get a lot of really weird looks from visitors!


Of course, there is a place for pleats in the workshop, and that is in the cartridge of the dust extractor. So why would something frilly be a practical accessory in the workshop?

Many dust extractors use a cloth bag. Cloth bags are great. They are cheap, which is great. They are easy to clean, which is great. And they are great at spreading as much fine dust as you’d ever not want to see around the workshop. Sure, the large stuff gets captured, but that is stuff you can sweep up with a broom and shovel, so one way or the other it is easy to dispose of. The fine stuff will get you every time. In Australia, all wood dust is regarded as carcinogenic.

Many cheap dust extractors would have a cloth bag at the top and bottom. Awesome – two cloth bags to let the dust fly!

sealey-dust-extractor-2hp-240vIt is probably not fair to badmouth cloth bags too much – reasonable ones are running 5 micron, which isn’t much worse than what a pleated filter can achieve anyway.

So what is the advantage of a pleated filter?

A dust extractor pushes through a certain quantity of air. And what goes in, must come out. If you have a cloth bag, the air that leaks through the holes in the cloth to equal the amount of air that is sucked in the hose. As the holes clog, the total amount of air that will flow will decrease. So a filter that is easy to clean is an important consideration. Cloth bags can be banged out, blown out with compressed air, even washed in the washing machine. The limiting factor though, is the total surface area of the filter (the bag).

If you increase the surface area, the total amount of air that will need to pass through doesn’t change, so as the surface area is bigger, the holes can be smaller and still achieve the same through-put of air.

Where it comes to cleaning, pleated filters have a system where you wind or move a handle, that causes the internal baffles to be impacted, dislodging dust and allowing it to fall into the lower half (collection) for the extractor.

Pleated filters used to be only available on expensive dust extractors, but these days you can pick one up to retro-fit to your machine for under $180.

Considering a cloth bag replacement is around the $80 mark, this is a viable, and a superior option.

Even so, in saying that, any dust extractor that is allowing particles back into the workshop environment is not ideally placed. I get a bit of flack on here about my preference in not having the dust extractor in the main shed, but then I’m not breathing air that has been filtered to allow the lightest particles to remain. Once the dust-ladened air is removed, it doesn’t matter how fine the filter is.

However, when used in combination with a good air filter you can get the dust collection, and the air quality you are looking for, or at least closer to achieving the ideal.

So if you have a cloth-bagged dust collector, consider the pleat as a desirable fashion accessory, that is also a desirable feature improvement!

Festool Vandal

If I hadn’t been kicked out of the Festool ‘aficionado’ already for hacking into the boom arm of the dust collector, this may push them over the edge 😉

Take 1x Festool Systainer.


Now granted the lid of this systainer has already suffered some wilful damage, but what I’ve done next puts the icing on the cake.

Systainer: meet tablesaw.


Using the same technique used in boxmaking to detach a lid from the just-made box, the systainer is run through the tablesaw on each side, just above the base (but not high enough to impact the clips). High enough to retain the clip points for a lower systainer to still be able to lock to the base.



So why in the world would I do that? There is method to my madness.

The detatched systainer base can still lock to the top of any other systainer…….or Festool Cleantex vac.


So the final piece of the puzzle. Now taking a typical bucket, a few holes drilled through both the base of the bucket and into and through the systainer base, and finally some steel blind rivets to lock the two together. Now, I have a bucket that can be locked to the top of a systainer or vac. The bucket? Collection bin for a cyclone separator! Given the systainer cost $10 2nd hand, this was so much cheaper than any custom made systainer-like collection bin. A normal systainer cannot be used for dust collection as the walls are too thin to be able to withstand the generated vacuum.


Must admit, I’m pretty pleased with this solution. Nice thing is the cyclone separator has 2 1/2″ connection points, so it plugs directly inline without needing any modifications, changes in tube dimensions etc. Not sure if I will use it all the time, or even if I actually need it for the Cleantex at all (I use the reusable Festool bag which works exceptionally well), but I wanted to demonstrate just how feasible the concept was.

Green Steam

As I have mentioned, the dust extractor is now in the other shed, and because of the no-volt release switch, I can’t easily switch it on and off from the main shed just by switching the power on and off, either directly or with a remote control powerpoint switch.  There is a remote control unit available for the dust extractor…..for $300.

Thinking about the different ways to remotely start and stop the unit (other than using something as crude as a broom handle through the wall!) and I decided to use a toggle, rotating around a central point, and use solenoid actuator to operate it.

Went to the first electronics shop – a “One stop shop for all your electronic needs” with a name like “All Electronics” but they didn’t have small motors, or solenoids.  Apparently I had to go to another electronics shop!

Jaycar had a couple of actuators – for about $40 each, and although that would have worked, $80 + switches etc was more than I could be bothered spending for a jury-rig.

But they had another solution – central locking solenoids for car doors.  12V, push and pull.  Perfect.  And a massive $14.

Car Central-Locking Actuator

With a bit of a test run using a breadboard, and a 240V – 12V, 2A transformer I repurposed and a 2-way momentary switch, the actuator worked exactly as I would want.

Breadboard Circuit Test

Next step is to convert the linear motion of the actuator into a toggle that can trigger both start and stop buttons of the dust extractor (and replace the basic switch I got to test the setup with a couple of nicer, non latching, illuminated, momentary push switches.  Jaycar didn’t have any suitable, so I guess I’m off to another electronics store!

Scaring up a Storm

I have long been absolutely sold on the benefits of cyclonic dust separation methods – the combination of the convenience of easily emptying the collection bin, combined with a negligible amount of dust getting to the vacuum itself (and filling its dust bag).

Filterless, efficient dust collection – sounds like an advert for Dyson.

The fascinating thing is the concept is incredibly simple.  Pull a vacuum in an inverted cone through a central vertical port, and have the collection hose coming in the side of the cone angled so the dust-laden air is caused to spin all around the edge.  The dust is heavy, and spins to the outside where it impacts the container wall, slowing it and causing it to drop down towards the bin at the bottom.

The air on the other hand follows a torturous path from the entrance to the cone to the central exit – a path too convoluted that the dust can’t follow the twists and turns, so the dust that wasn’t removed by hitting the wall still drops out of the air stream.

You can make your own, particularly if you can work with sheet metal, but if you don’t have the skills, or simply the time there is finally another option available.

The Oneida Dust Deputy is now available under the Carbatec banner, and I was putting one through its paces today, and it was definitely achieving what I would expect of a cyclone dust collector.


I fitted it to my ShopVac vacuum, and the very nice thing is the fittings are compatible. The heavy hose leading from the vac to the top of the cyclone came with the cyclone, and it plugged straight in. The hose coming out of the side of the cone leads to the collection point from the tool.

The cyclone unit came with a few variety of fittings to ensure a wide variety of vacs would work with the cyclone.  It also came with 2 collection buckets – they do fill quickly, but I didn’t think a second bucket was necessary.  No matter – bonus.

Connecting the Cyclone to the Vac

A number of different methods are documented in the user manual, and I came up with this one as being particularly suitable for the model vacuum I am currently using .  I attached a couple of metal hooks to the top, which the bucket hangs off by the handle.  A brick in the vacuum itself at the front provides a counter balance (in this case, a couple of lead dive weights).

Cyclone conical section

It is interesting that the plastic chosen is both antistatic (a cyclone can build a significant charge!), and semi-transparent, so you can see the dust swirling.

All in all, an excellent unit, and if you are not inclined to make your own, this is a ready-made commercial version. I’ll shot some video of the unit in operation in the near future.

Trupro 2HP Dust Collector

I’ve referred to my new dust collector (or dust extractor, depending on your terminology) in a number of posts, but noticed I have been rather lax in not discussing the machine itself.

Where it comes to dust collection, bigger is definitely better. Oh, and while we are on the topic of bigger, let’s quickly touch on what we are trying to collect.  In a workshop, sawdust takes all sorts of forms – and even the term sawdust is misleading – the saw is only one of a phenomenal range of machines and tools that can turn wood into a waste product that we want to collect, store and dispose of.

The waste can be fine dust through to heavy wood shavings from a handplane, and everything in between.  Some are easier to collect than others!  Fine dust is nasty for the lungs, and relatively easy to collect, so long as it is actively done as the dust is generated.  It is very light, and is picked up by pretty much any type of extractor.

The heaviest stuff (shavings from turning, or from handplanes), is almost easier to get with a broom……or a shovel.

In between, we have the jointer/planer and planer/thicknessers.  These produce a wide range of results, at the same time, and huge quantities of it so that is what is really desirable to pull away with an extractor.  It can be quite long and thin, and can easily block a pipe when air flow is insufficient.

So onto the dust collector itself.  Sourced from the Woodworking Warehouse, value is $A1175.

Trupro Dust Collector

Trupro Dust Collector

(yes, it is a photo I’ve used a couple of times already, if it looks rather familiar).

The collector has 2 main components – the motor and extraction fan, and the collector itself. The motor, as mentioned is 2HP, but boy does it draw a current on startup!  It tripped out the breaker on a powerboard every attempt to start it, so have had to dedicate a primary power point to the machine (still 10A), and that has solved any startup issues.

The motor drives a rudimentary centrifugal fan.  This is not uncommon in dust extractors, the clearances cannot afford to be too tight, or the parts too fine due to the bulk of the particulate that the fan is expected to cope with.  Also, given that it is sucking from a workshop there are all sorts of other bits and pieces that can also be picked up and fly through the tubes into the fan blades.

The motor is not particularly noisy in its own right (it is an induction motor), the noise is certainly from the air flow.  I’m not sure if the design could be improved to smooth out the airflow to reduce the generated noise.  However, it can’t be a particular criticism of this unit, because it is a very common design. The overall quality of the unit is apparent in the build of the 60kg unit.

Airflow rates: The machine is rated at 1200 cfm (2040 m3/hr).  This is around the median for a 2HP machine.  If you put it in a different vein, the total shed volume is 80 m3, so in theory this machine could empty the shed 25 times in an hour.

In practice, using an airflow meter, I’ve estimated the actual performance of the machine in 3 orientations:

As supplied with the twin 4″ connection points, both open.  Flow rate 28 m/s

As supplied, with one 4″ connection point covered with the supplied cover. Flow rate 45 m/s

With the twin connector points removed revealing the 6″ entrance. Flow rate 33 m/s

These figures are much higher than they should be, so our guess is that my assumption that the measure of flow speed being the average across the range of speeds experienced (between the edge of the pipe and the centre) doesn’t hold true, and it is really picking up the peak speed only.  I’ve removed my conversions, because the ones in the comments make a lot more sense than what I came up with!!

The other side of the DC is the collection aspect.  A basic form of collector uses a dust bag top and bottom.  These need to be air permeable, as the air being pumped in has to have somewhere to go – through the sides of the bags filtering out the entrained dust.

This unit uses a tough plastic dust collection bag on the bottom, and a spun-bound polyester pleated filter on the top.  This is where the air escapes the system.  This pleated filter can filter out particles as small as 1 micron.

You’d (correctly) imagine that a pleated filter would fill with fine dust, and the filters are not particularly cheap.  There is a way to clean them, or at least knock a lot of the dust loose so it falls into the lower bag.  Built into the pleated filter is a 3 paddle cleaner, and by rotating the top handle through 120 degrees results in the paddles beating every pleat, releasing the trapped dust.

Pleated Filter Cleaning Paddles

Pleated Filter Cleaning Paddles

This is a photo up into the top filter.  You can see about 1/2 the pleats, and 2 of the rubber tipped cleaning paddles.

So an effective dust collector / dust extractor and one that you can use in your main shop because of the 1 micron filtering of the air being exhausted.  There is quite a bit of noise generated by the unit, so either you wouldn’t want it running until needed, or some form of noise block wall shielding it from the rest of the shop.

Overall, this is a solid machine that performs.  I have some problem with the intakes getting blocked with large particles, such as planing shavings, and the long fibres formed with the thicknesser, but this can be addressed with either an added 1st stage cyclonic collection, or perhaps by removing the coarse grate the is across each port (to protect the blades). Otherwise, it has plenty of suck, and that is what counts in the end!

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