Canadian Woodworking

Cyclones - part 1


Dust collection with a cyclone is the safest way to collect material from your shop, because no material goes through the fan.

A cyclone also reduces the amount of times that you have to handle your dust.

Eventually (whether you use a cyclone or a regular stand-alone dust collector) you will need to either empty the shavings or clean the filters. The cyclone reduces that frequency in a couple of ways: 1) the dust and materials are spinning when they exit the cyclone so they pack into the drum and, 2) because properly designed cyclones are highly efficient, less dust exits to the filters, reducing the number of filter cleanings.

Cyclones are fairly tall. In the lead photo you can see two different sizes and designs of cyclones. The cyclone on the left is a round top cyclone and the other two are flat tops.

The round top cyclone requires more height to install. The flat top cyclone is designed to allow mounting of the fan directly on top of the cyclone and is the most efficient mounting method. These units can be either wall mounted or free standing.

Before you can decide if a cyclone is for you, you will have to consider if you have room for one. If you do, then you’ll have to decide where you should locate it. Adding a cyclone to your system does not change the fact that the return air must still end up back in the shop, so remember that your layout must allow for this. If you don’t have the height necessary in your shop, there are some options available. As you can see in the photo to the left this 3Hp unit was too tall for the room, so the owners had an opening made in the ceiling to accept the blower unit. (Note: when installing the unit up into an opening, there must be at least 1 inch of clearance between the end of the motor and the ceiling to allow for air flow through the motor’s end-mounted fan. Notice in this photo the set of double doors in the background. These provide an easy and direct route to remove the waste barrel from the shop. Such considerations are important, because you don’t want to have to lug the waste barrel across your shop to get rid of its contents.

In the case of a basement shop, you may be able to install the motor up between the floor joists. You may also consider making some adjustments to the lower end of the cyclone and flex collar or reduce the height of the waste container. If you’re still not able to gain enough clearance you might try an adapter as seen in the photo to the right.

The adaptor goes on top of the cyclone and allows you to mount the fan off to the side. If you add to this two 90-degree elbows and a length of straight pipe, you can set the fan on the floor, or even hook up to your dust collector. If you go with the last suggestion then be sure to install fine filter bags on your unit. Keep in mind that the more pipe that you add to the front of the fan, the less air flow you’re going to end up with after the cyclone.

If you decide that you do not want the fan in your shop and you want as much of the piping as possible to run above the ceiling of your main shop. The photo to the left shows the lower half of the cyclone sticking down through the ceiling. A section of 8-inch pipe leads to the flex collar and then to the waste barrel. Because the waste is spinning on the way out, the ducting must be round and located directly below the cyclone.

You can also see the air filters (located right beside the cyclone and waste barrel). The flex hose from the fan discharge brings the return air down into the upper air box of the filters and returns the air to the shop.

If you decide on this option, and the space above is un-insulated, you will want to insulate the area around the section of cyclone, any piping, and the blower. That will be sure to reduce heat loss in the winter months. Also, if you’re running the piping above the ceiling, the length of the lift (from the equipment hood to the horizontal piping overhead) should be no more than 10 feet.

The photo below shows an installation where the shop is located above the cyclone and the filters.

In this case all the pipe headers run between the ceiling and the floor. There is an open staircase to the shop from this room so the air from the filters travels back up to the shop. If you decide that this type of set-up would be good for you, bear in mind that you will need access to the piping in case you ever experience a blockage.

If you decide that you just don’t have the room (or the budget) for a cyclone then consider installing a “dropout” at the suction to your fan. The photo below shows a simple “T” fitting with a plug installed directly in front of the fan. This set-up will capture screws, nails, and large chunks of wood before they can enter the fan. However, in order for this to be effective you must remember to clean it out daily.

Whatever your situation, if you decide that your workshop will handle a cyclone, your set-up can usually be adapted. If the cyclone is not a consideration for you at this time, be sure to do what you can to reduce the amount of dust in your workshop.

Last modified: September 29, 2023

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