Portable Extraction

Now don’t get me wrong, I love my Festool CT36L dust extractor.  It has the handle and the overhead boom arm for the vac tube, and just does its thing as well as I’d want.

The only negative I’ve had, is when I do want to use my tools out of the shed – whether that is in the house, or off site.  It is a big bugger!   Even moving it around the workshop if I did want to use it on the other side of the shop (given mine is becoming increasingly cramped), I found I was just not using it when I should.  Lazy.

Screen Shot 2017-01-11 at 1.19.35 PM.png

So I’ve been investigating the options.  Still sticking with Festool for my solution.  I love it, and can’t find a reason to change (yes, I know $$), nor am looking for one.

I will admit, I have a couple of Ozito vacs in the workshop.  One doing dust extraction from the CNC, and the other from the Kapex.  I would have put a Festool CT17 on the Kapex, but no long life bag!  But I am getting ahead of myself.

So I wanted a unit that had auto start and stop (all Festool have that), and would be regarded as portable.

That gave an initial list of

CT17, Mini, Midi, CTL SYS mini

Next, long life bag, because as much as I will spend money on Festool, I hate spending money on dust extraction bags, especially when they are $10 a pop.  I am sure there is plenty of false logic there, but so be it!

That dumped the CT17 – it was close – it was the cheapest, was small and portable, had variable speed, but the lack of a long life bag was a deal breaker.

Now I had 3, with quite a cost range, and different features.  If I didn’t already have the CT36, then the midi would have won hands down, but it covered more criteria than I was wanting for this unit.  And in the end, the CTL SYS mini won out.

It is a weird machine, in that it doesn’t look like a vacuum.  It looks like a systainer.  In fact, it is a systainer! In fact, 2 systainers.

Screen Shot 2017-01-11 at 1.00.29 PM.png

The top one is the cable store, and vac tube garage.  The bottom one is the dust extractor.  The only negative, it doesn’t have variable speed.

Other than that – very portable, and I can combine it with other systainers for off site work (such as my TS55 circular saw).

down-s-ctlsys-584173-a-24a.jpegI haven’t made too much use of it yet – I have my sander plugged into it currently, it starts, stops, sucks, and isn’t really any louder than the sander so it seems good so far.  I’ll make more comment on its performance when I have had more experience with it, especially as the dust bag fills.

I could couple it up with a cyclone unit, such as the Oneida, but that would start to work against why I chose this unit over a Mini or Midi.


Picked the unit up from my usual Festool dealer – Ideal Tools.  You can chat to Anthony, get some advise, order it and it turns up with free delivery, often the next day (or so!)  Rather dangerous! 😉

Vacuum Systainer

An interesting concept- Festool now have a vacuum that is inside one of their systainers. Makes for an interesting option, especially in space-limited situations, or when needing real portability.

  • Power consumption : 1000 W
  • Max. vacuum : 20000 Pa
  • Filter surface area : 5357 cm²
  • Rubber-insulated mains cable : 5 m
  • Container/Filter bag capacity : 4.5/3.5 l
  • Dimension (L x W x H) : 396 x 296 x 270 mm
  • Maximum wattage of connected tool : 1200 W
  • Volume flow : 3000 l/min
  • Weight : 6.9 kg

Called the Mini Extractor, or CTL SYS

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 9.59.25 amScreen Shot 2016-03-15 at 9.58.59 am

Death of a Vacuum

It was almost 4 months ago to the day, that I built a vacuum table for the CNC router.

While it worked well, I was sure the lack of overall airflow would result in the vacuum carking it very quickly.  Job after job, and it kept going.  It was encased in a rubbish bin with noise absorbing material stuffed around it to drop it’s horrendous noise down to bearable levels (it was a ShopVac, and it always was a screamer). It ran warm- the exhaust was always hotter than was healthy.

Went out to the shed tonight to check on a job, and although the CNC has indeed finished, it was a lot more silent than usual.

Instead of the muffled sound of the vacuum, there was a familiar smell of burnt plastic and ozone.

Carefully switching it off then unplugging it from the wall, I went on dealing with the job at hand, and then went over to the garbage bin, and started unpacking.  Partway down, and the normally white insulation material started coming out black.  Desite being some time, the vacuum itself was still very warm.  A complete meltdown.

Not as bad as the last vacuum though.  Years ago, I had a household vac for dust extraction, and it also failed in spectacular fashion, actually melting until it literally fell apart, and the motor fell out of the housing.

So the machining tonight has stopped, slightly prematurely.  I haven’t added up the hours the vac did in those 4 months, but it would legitimately be into the hundreds of hours.  Hundreds of hours, in a MDF laden atmosphere, with poor airflow. I think it did a pretty good job in the end!  Not even sure what the designed duty cycle of the vac was, or the model’s MTBF (mean time between failure).

So now the decision is “what next”?

Another cheap vac?  A vacuum pump?  If so, which one?  There’s a bunch on eBay, all different cfm, and I have no idea what cfm I’d actually need, let alone my current table would leak like a sieve, so would never actually be able to maintain a vacuum.  And that means the vacuum pump would be running continuously, unless I make some real mods (rebuild) to the table itself.  What do commercial machines do for a vacuum table, and the pump for them?  Too many questions, not enough answers (yet).

Fitting a silencer

Thought I’d try out one of the exhaust silencers on the ShopVac to see what difference it could possibly make.

The design is pretty basic – a tube with an opening and exit the diameter of the exhaust of the vac, and a wider diameter between with a foam tube inside.

When fitted to the outlet of the ShopVac, there was a noticeable difference, although not particularly significant.  The noise is more the motor than the exhaust it seems.  Nor does the silencer work particularly well in its as-supplied state.


And yes, given how simple the design is, you could easily make one at home.

What I am thinking is to block the outlet, and cut slots around the circumference instead, and see if that makes more difference. I’ll research that another time.

Out of interest, I measured the sound levels in the workshop.

Outside (at the time): 40dB
Inside workshop: 38dB
1m from Sherwood dust extractor: 77dB
1m from ShopVac (no silencer): 86.5dB
1m from ShopVac (silencer): 84dB


In Principle vs Reality

I finally got around to tackling the vinyl-wrapped doors on the kitchen unit that have delaminated/had the vinyl detach.

Thought I would be able to glue them back on, so tried on the first door.  The glue was not the issue, but how to apply an even pressure over the whole surface, including inside the detail (faux raised panel).  A vacuum press (pretty much the same process that is used to apply the vinyl wrap in the first place) would be the way to go, but unlike the factory where they are done, I just don’t have a door sized vacuum press out in the workshop.  The one used for veneering is large, but just not big enough for the doors, and the heavy duty plastic is good for flat or curved veneering, but not to get into the tighter detail.

Instead, I thought I’d give those space bags a try.  The principle is exactly the same – remove the air from inside the bag, and the air pressure from the outside provides a significant amount of pressure.

Please note, I say space bag, but I am referring to the concept, not the specific brand.  The brand of bag I used isn’t important.

So after applying and spreading the glue, and reattaching the vinyl, the whole lot was placed inside the space bag, and a vacuum applied.

It looked to work swimmingly.  The bag pressed down tightly across the surface, and right into the detail.  It would have been perfect, except for one little detail.

These clothing vac bags seem to do a great job with clothes, as everything squashes down to significantly smaller areas (never as neatly as the photos mind), but I have yet to find a bag (irrespective of brand) that holds a vacuum.  And in this case, it couldn’t hold a vacuum long enough even for the glue to dry.

So the principle was great, but reality sucked.

Unfortunately, I really wanted it to suck, and remain so.  Hmm – wonder what that says?!

Veneer Packs

At the recent Ballarat Wood Show, I had a chance to catch up briefly with “The Timber Benders” from Daylesford.  At some stage I will have to have a good look at their primary business, but in the meantime you may be interested that they have veneer packs for sale ($20 for an assorted pack)

This is one such assortment:

Timber Benders Veneer Pack

I’m no expert on veneering, so cannot lend any expert tips, however on the other hand that I can get a result means at least the basics are very straight forward!


I’ve taken one of the veneers, and applied yellow PVA glue to one side (yellow is about 30% stronger than white, and more water resistant, fwiw).  I’ve brushed the glue on using one of the disposable glue brushes from Professional Woodworkers Supplies.  Next, I’ve applied the veneer to an oversized sheet of MDF, and using the rubber roller to carefully push the sheet down, remove any air bubbles etc.

Roarockit non-stick pad

I’m using one of the Roarockit kits as a vacuum press, and it comes with this piece of plastic mat.  Laying this over the surface means any glue is not as likely to stick to the actual vacuum bag, and assists the air to escape when creating the vacuum.

This is all slipped into the vacuum bag itself, which is a very heavy duty plastic with a valve on top and a seal at one end.

Roarockit came about from skateboard makers wanting to veneer the ply to make their boards.  Basically the same as what we need for other veneering processes.  Also useful for creating curved timber (for those times you actually want the timber warped in a controlled manner!)


The seal is this super sticky/super gummy black substance – it tries to stick to anything, but is really good at holding onto the plastic of the bag.  I keep it clean by reapplying the protective plasticised paper strip when I have finished use.

Once the bag is sealed, the small handpump is used to evacuate the bag.

Nature Abhors a Vacuum

With the air pumped out (no, not to 100%, but as best as I could achieve), the immense weight of the kms of air above the bag push down (total force theoretically is 1 atm, which is roughly (and someone can correct me if I am wrong), around 1kg of force per cm2.)

That is a pretty good amount of force quite frankly – that veneer is getting quite flat from that!

Once the glue is dry, the veneered board is removed from the press, the press is carefully stored away again in its box.

The veneered board is then sanded (not a lot, given the veneer is <1mm thick!), and your choice of finish applied.

Final product, ready for a project

Here is the result, and I haven’t decided what to do with it – make a box lid, or base, or something.  The process seemed to go well, seeing as I am a beginner!

If you want your own pack of veneers to play with, have a chat with The Timber Benders

I Shot the Sherrif

“But I did not shoot no (Dust) Deputy”

As I demonstrated recently, I can fit (with a bit of a violation of a systainer) a Dust Deputy to the Festool Cleantex.  If you don’t have a systainer to do that to, or you prefer a commercial solution, or……you prefer being able to use a plastic bag to actually collect the dust, while still enjoying the benefits of cyclonic dust separation, then this is for you.

The Ultimate2 Dust Deputy, from PWS. On top is the familiar Dust Deputy, and below a systainer-like collection bin, that will lock to the top of a Cleantex using the standard connectors.

Dust Deputy Ultimate2

The Cleantex hoses fit straight onto the Deputy (as you’d expect).

And the point of difference with the original Ultimate: the plastic bag.  Much more convenient for emptying, and you can avoid the billowing dust when you do (which is a point of difference between this pre-separator and pretty much every other one I’ve seen on the market).

You can’t just jamb a plastic bag into the collection bin of other cyclone separators.  Give it a try if you don’t believe me!  Go on – I’ll wait 🙂




Back yet?  So what did you find – bet it was the plastic bag sucked straight up into the vacuum port of the cyclone!

Now have another closer look at the front of the Ultimate2 and you’ll notice a little tap to the left of the handle, with a thin clear tube attached.

Vacuum Port

It is in the off position here when I took the photo, but what it is doing, is drawing a vacuum from around the outside of the plastic bag, allowing the bag to remain in position.  If there was air around the outside of the plastic bag, when a vacuum is drawn inside the bag, and container by the Cleantex, that air would try to follow taking the plastic bag into the vacuum tube.

So what stops the plastic bag being drawn into this port, blocking it?

Well inside the handle there is a foam insert, allowing air to pass through, but dispersing the flow so the plastic bag doesn’t get sucked in that tube.

To draw a vacuum in the tube, at the other end it connects directly to the port that connect to the Cleantex itself at the inlet.

There is no valve this end. The tube pushes straight in and is held firmly by the connector.

I’m still a bit mystified that there is enough air drawn through this tube to create a vacuum outside the bag that can cope with the amount of vacuum drawn inside the bag.  But I guess the people at Oneida have figured that out so I don’t have to think about it.

I did find the sealing around the lid was insufficient straight out of the box – too thin, and too short.  This problem was easily solved with a additional length of stickon dense foam (window seal/draught stop, from Bunnies).

As far as how well it worked – brilliantly.  I tried overwhelming it with large piles of dust, I tried large volume generation (such as surfacing with the Torque Workcentre), and it handled it all.  And if there was any fine dust that did get through, the vacuum’s HEPA filter dealt with that.  Not that I saw any evidence of dust getting through: the HEPA filter remained clean, at least to the eye, even after 2 days of surfacing redgum.  The dust from redgum is very distinctive, and dark, so if any had gotten through I’d expect to see it in a discolouration on the HEPA filter.

So that is the Ultimate2 Dust Deputy from Oneida: It will significantly extend the life of the HEPA filter in your vac (assuming you have one), makes emptying easier (instead of having to lift the entire vacuum motor off the top of the Cleantex to access the bag). And saves you significant money in bags for the vac.  The paper ones are expensive to keep replacing, and the long-life one (which is empty-able) is $375 for my Cleantex.  For an extra $22.50, you can have all the benefits of cyclonic dust separation, and not have to change your consumable bag for a VERY long time!

The Ultimate2 can be purchased here.  As far as I know this is the only supplier of the “2” in Australia.

(As to the lyrics, excluding my addition, before anyone gets their knickers in a twist that the line is wrong, I chose the Bob Marley version, rather than the Eric Clapton one!) 😉

Civilization: a thin veneer over barbarianism

John M. Shanahan

And there is one truth with all veneers: the last thing you want, is a veneer to be painfully obvious. And that means how the veneer is attached is vitally important.

So why use a veneer at all? Isn’t it just a huge cheat, for the woodworker, and for the recipient?

That really comes down to what is done, where and why. There are many reasons why a veneer is a good choice. Sometimes where a timber is in too short a supply to do the job otherwise, or so vastly expensive as to be prohibitive otherwise. If you are doing a large pattern -bookmatched tabletop for example with multiple leaves, then veneer is a definite way to achieve the multiple bookmatches required to achieve it.

Some items only come in a form that must be attached to a substrate to use it, and again, they have to be attached well.

So how do you clamp down a veneer when you are gluing it?

Some people use a pile of bricks, some a screw-press arrangement (similar to a flower press). Me? I intend to use the significant weight of air. And a significant weight it is too, yet surprisingly easy to harness, and manipulate to create an even distribution of pressure over a whole surface, even complex shapes, perfect for gluing a veneer.

It is harnessed by drawing a vacuum – nature abhores a vacuum as they say, and even by creating a partial vacuum, nature attempts to crush it out of existance.

Carbatec sell a simple vacuum press kit, by Roarockit. You may have seen the kit on numerous occasions without realising what was hidden in a plain box – the veneer of cardboard hiding the power of the contents.


Inside is a strong plastic bag, that can be closed at one edge with a very sticky seal. There are two sized bags available in a kit form (which contains the sealing tape, pump etc), and can also be purchased as additional or replacement bags as required. I preferred the square version- still significantly sized at 26″ x 28″. There are much bigger as well – 36″ x 52″


Veneers are not just for gluing a flat piece of figured timber to a plain core stock. It can also be used to create bent forms, by gluing multiple veneer layers together, and bent over a form.

In this example, it is the simplest version: a flat veneer glued to a core of MDF. I didn’t actually use any glue, or softening agent for these photos. (Veneers buckle easily, especially veneers from burls)


A plasic netting is laid over the top of the veneer, inside the bag. This prevents any pockets of air from preventing a full even pressure over the whole surface.


With the bag sealed shut, a simple hand pump is used to evacuate the bag. You won’t get all the air out- machines that can achieve a near perfect vacuum cost 10s of 1000s more than the $99 this kit cost, but that is not necessary. Even pumping out a small amount of air quickly results in the external air pressure crushing in, squashing the contents together.


For a small investment, this kit is a real asset in the workshop, and can be used to make easy work of what can be very complicated clamping situations. Create a vacuum, and let nature do the rest.

Vacuum Storage

The other question I had recently was about the CT36 – the Cleantex Vacuum from Festool (Ideal Tools)

Storage of the components (particularly for transportation) for the CT36 is very easy – there is a holder at the back of the machine to wrap the power cord around.

The hose coils up into the cavity in the top of the machine, and you can also store the floor nozzles and tubes in there as well.

Hose Storage

Alternately, you can use a Systainer1 which is a perfect size, and of course attaches directly to the top of the Cleantex

Systainer for Nozzle Storage

Finally, as far as the size of the cavity – 36L sounds like a lot of dust, but what the dust collection area looks like:

Dust Compartment

No – I didn’t suck up a blade – I put it in there to give a sense of scale!  That is a 10″ blade (250mm), so just a little more capacity than the standard house vacuum!

I’ve given up on house vacs (even though I was buying them cheaply) for the shed.  My record so far

Vacuum 1: barrel model: melted, to the point that the motor physically fell off the back of the vacuum when it had melted its way free.

Vacuum 2: modern barrel: caught fire.

Vacuum 3: shop vacuum (upright barrel): became better at producing ozone than suction, then became useless at both.

Vacuum 4: ShopVac: current, and still going strong (still pretty new), using a cyclone as a preseparator

Vacuum 5: Festool CT36: what can I say!

Sometimes it pays to buy quality.

I Want to Break Free

I want to be dust-free
I want to be dust-free
I want to break free from the dust
This vacuum astounds even me….e
I’ve got to be dust-free
God knows God knows I want to break free

I’ve fallen in love
I’ve fallen in love for the first time
The Cleantex is the best I have se…en
I’ve fallen in love yeah
God knows God knows I’ve fallen for the Green

Its strange but it’s true
It is quieter than I even dreamed
But I have to be sure
When I vacuum the floor
Oh how I want to be dust-free baby
Oh how I want to be free
Oh how I want to break free

But life still goes on
I can’t get used to living without living without
Living without dust all around
The shop floor is clear
The workspace is clean
So baby can’t you see
I’ve got to be dust-free

I’ve got to break free
I want to break free yeah

I want I want I want I want to be dust-free….

Original lyrics and music (badly corrupted) by John Deacon (Queen)

Festool CT36

Yes, it rocks. Purchased from Ideal Tools, the CT36 Cleantex dust vac from Festool is quieter than my house vacuum, handles significant dust, connects to all my tools, has 36l of dust containment, fits Systainers on top, auto-starts with the tool, wheels easily, variable power, has a decent length of heavy-duty power cord, and a long anti-static hose. And that’s just a bit of a summary of features.  Add that it can handle liquids (I did not know that), has an electronic liquid depth sensor to cut out when it gets too full, HEPA filter, onboard hose storage, a nozzle designed specifically for shop floors and I could just go on.

I went to try it out last night for 5 minutes – ended up vacuuming the entire workshop (and felt like blaring out Queen while doing so!)

%d bloggers like this: