Cyclone and Dust Collection Research

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  1. Caution

    Caution! This site shares what I learned about the fine dust hazards and what how I protect myself and my family. This particular page steps you through the process I used to build a blower. If you build a powerful high-speed blower incorrectly it could cause serious injury or damage. Please read the disclaimer below.

  2. Challenge:

    Okay, so you made an exotic airfoil powered cyclone that leaves a chromed trailer hitch bald. An airfoil impeller provides too little pressure for my averaged sized shop. What affordable blower recommendation do you have for our average and larger sized shops? Humm. don't want much do you? Putting on my shop apron and envisioning a picture of what I want to build.

  3. Foreword

    Ideally, you need a good motor, good impeller, well designed blower, and a good cyclone that provides excellent separation and moves air efficiently. If you blow the collected air outside then just about any 3 hp dust collector with a trashcan separator lid or 5 hp small shop cyclone which provides little better separation than these trashcan separator lids works just fine. If you vent inside then you need a graduated filter bank or a very good cyclone fine dust separator with ample sized and rated filters. Although most small shop vendors provide poor dust collection advice, if you ignore that advice just a little help lets you pick and put together a very efficient fine dust collection system.

  4. Parts Discussion

    You need to know a few things before you chase down your parts.

    1. Motors

      Barry owns Electric Motor Warehouse and he has decades of motor experience. He volunteered his time to help me learn more about electric motors to help me select the best motor to power my cyclone. I told Barry I like Baldor motors because my earlier projects used Baldor motors extensively. Barry warned me that Baldor imports most under 10 horsepower motors now. He said these imported Baldor motors provide poor quality and they fail often. Now he recommends the American made Leeson motors.

      Barry asked me to define my needs. I explained I needed a motor to power my cyclone blower. Because blower technology is mature most blowers of the same type and motor speed have near identical performance. This means we can size our blower and motor using any good fan table. A fan table will tell us the required impeller size, motor size, and ducting size if we know the static pressure and required airflow. We have the cubic feet per minute requirement tables from vendors who guarantee their customers a particular air quality. These tables show we need at least 1000 cubic feet per minute airflow at our larger stationary tools to get good fine dust collection. Also, my Static Pressure Calculator shows a typical two car garage sized shop generates 4" to 10" static pressure resistance meaning the friction and overhead from our ducting, fittings, hoods, and filters. We also know we want to use a backward curved (BC) type impeller to minimize noise. The Cincinnati Fan pressure blower table shows we need at least a 14" diameter BC impeller turning at 3450 RPM. At the minimum 4" resistance level this 14" impeller uses 3.27 horsepower to move a maximum 1377 CFM airflow. At the maximum 10" resistance level this 14" impeller only uses 2.34 horsepower but it then only moves only 846 CFM. Clearly the 1000 CFM minimum requires at least a 15" impeller, but 15" impellers proved near impossible to find, so early on I decided to just use a 14" diameter BC impeller and settle for less fine dust collection. I now have a few impellers custom made with the compression arbors, or you can buy a commercial blower and impeller. The 15" diameter works well, or you can upgrade to a 16" for even more airflow and better use the capacity of a full 5 hp motor.

      Barry explained that dust collection motors tend to be the heaviest we use in our shops so he recommends buying the best quality possible. Unlike a fan, dust collection equipment uses very large heavy impellers with lots of air resistance that cause very high starting loads. Any except heavy duty motors built to handle these high startup loads will burn up. Even these heavy duty motors come with a caution to not start them more than about 6 times an hour. The startup load is so high that it takes at least ten minutes of running to get rid of the extra heat. If started too often that heat builds too fast and the motor will burn up. Most compressor, pump, and farm duty motors will handle these high startup loads and up to the six starts an hour. He said the normal single phase heavy duty motors come in 1, 2, 3 and 5 horsepower models. Most with larger needs use 5, 7.5, 10 and 15 horsepower three phase motors. Three phase requires three-phase power or a phase converter, but these motors don't need the special starting circuits that often fail on smaller single phase motors. Additionally, all quality motors come with different service factors. A 1.0 service factor motor can run at 100% of its rated amperage without overheating. A motor with a 0.5 service factor should never be run more than half time or it will overheat and can burn up. These low service factor motors are often used for fixed purposes such as opening a gate and have heat sensors that limit how much they can run. Alternatively, a 1.10 service factor motor can run at 110% of its maximum rated horsepower without overheating as long as it is not used in an already hot environment. The warmest place in a shop is at our ceilings or between rafters. Why buy a 1.10 service factor 3 hp motor when I knew that with the typical 14" diameter backward curved impeller that almost all cyclone makers use we would regularly pull 3.47 hp? Add that to mounting this motor in the hottest place in our shops and 3 hp motors will eventually burn up. Buying a 3 hp motor made no sense when it cost only $20 more to buy a real 5 hp motor that could handle the load, heat, and startups. Since motors need the same power to turn the same sized impeller, the operating costs are near identical without having to worry about replacing motors from being overheated too often. I opted for the 5 hp Leeson motor which not only lets our motors stay cool by running well below its rated horsepower, but also lets us configure with a larger blower impeller to use some of that extra horsepower. Although most do not need the larger 15" or 16" impellers if they use the all 7" diameter ducting and port sizes I recommend, you really should use a 15" or 16" diameter impeller if you use 6" duct. Otherwise, there is not enough pressure to move enough air through your duct. I found using a 16" diameter impeller makes a big difference in my shop, as I have a number of tools that just could not be modified to accept bigger ports. This larger impeller allows use of all 6" diameter ducting and so increases the pressure that it pulls enough air through my pairs of smaller 4" ports on machines with two ports. It will not move enough air with a single 4" port. Regardless, these Leeson motors are real 5 hp motors, not the inflated hp motors used on some vacuums and inexpensive air compressors.

      Barry also explained that when we make a blower, we need to use a face frame motor mount instead of a normal base mounted motor. The two pictured motors show the difference between a face frame mount and normal mount. The one on the left is a face frame mount meaning the front of the motor, that aluminum area, bolts directly to the blower housing. Note how the air holes wrap around to the side of that face so the needed cooling air can blow off to the side. The motor on the right is a standard mount and it has its cooling holes in front next to the motor shaft. These holes would be blocked if you mounted its face right to the blower housing as we need to do to keep the heavy impeller as close to the motor bearings as possible. Barry was willing to setup these motors with a face frame mount for no additional charge. I said go for it.

      That 5 hp Leeson heavy duty real 5 hp motor has been my motor of choice ever since. Barry not only provided these motors to small shop woodworkers with the face frame mounts, he also provides them at a considerable discount and waived all commission to make that pricing even lower. They offer the Leeson Model # P145K34DB1B, 3450 rpm, 5 hp, 7/8" shaft, 20.8 rated amp motor with the added face frame mount: Leeson Motor Part #120554.00 part #175181. Electric Motor Warehouse as a favor to hobbyists prices this below what other dealers must pay in quantity 100. If you order this one, be sure to ask for having the face frame mounted for you and setup for CCW rotation. The next best and most affordable alternative is to buy a refurbished 3450 RPM pump motor locally. Most motors require careful installation to ensure ample airflow to keep from overheating. Click the following link to see the custom Electric Motor Warehouse 5 hp motor setup up for fellow woodworkers! ).

      If my pocketbook said otherwise, I once could have made do by going to my local Harbor Freight (HF) store with my discount coupon and grab on sale their 5 hp compressor motor. These used to be only 3 hp motors, but HF had so many returned they for a short time sold real 5 hp compressor duty motors. They had shaft sizes that were too small, so required a special arbor for our impellers which made the costs nearly as high as just getting a good Leeson motor. Unfortunately, Harbor Freight quit selling these, so you are going to have to look elsewhere.

    2. Impeller Material

      I strongly recommend use of steel backward curved material handling impellers. Material handling impellers are made of heavy steel, are self cleaning, and handle the hits and impacts of a normal dust collector that passes all through the impeller. Unfortunately a full dustbin, a plug in the cyclone cone, clumps of debris, a large surge of dust, or an air leak turns our cyclones into little more than a pipe that passes all right through the blower. This heavier junk we can suck up can severely damage any lightweight impeller and even cause them to explode. It can also rapidly build up on non self cleaning impellers, create a bad out of balance condition, and cause our motor bearings to fail. Between the potential for material hits, need to move a high volume of air, need for self-cleaning, and need to provide higher pressure, most available fans, aluminum impellers, plastic impellers, squirrel cage impellers, vacuum impellers, and airfoil impellers will not work to safely power a dust collector or cyclone.

      I wish I could drop it right here, but our small shop dust collection market continues to be bombarded with just plain bad information and equipment that ends up with my either having to answer innumerable email questions or respond on these pages. The same magazine top rated vendor who sold cyclones with plastic impellers and still produces expensive cyclones that provide little better separation than trashcan separator lids has overwhelmed small shop woodworkers with their advertizing the benefits of their aluminum alloy impellers. So many believe that nonsense that my choices are to either respond here or have to deal with far too many emails addressing the serious issues with aluminum impellers that leave me only recommending heavy steel impellers. This vendor correctly shares that because of their light weight aluminum alloy impellers come up to speed faster with a smaller starting load on our blower motors. What this vendor fails to share are the many important reasons why we should not use aluminum alloy impellers to power either a dust collector or cyclone.

      1. Although aluminum alloy impellers are cheaper to make, the major commercial blower makers strongly recommend against use of aluminum alloy impellers for dust collection. Their main concern is when the inevitable heavy block, knot, tool, nail, screw or other item gets sucked up and goes through the impeller these aluminum alloy impellers can explode.

        A number of small shop woodworkers complained on the major Internet based dust collection forums because their expensive cyclone blower aluminum alloy impellers exploded when hit with wood knots and other stuff sucked up by their cyclones. Sadly, all of those kinds of posts rapidly vanished from the major Internet woodworking forums whose livelihood depends upon vendor advertizing.

      2. This same cyclone vendor strongly puts down steel impellers on their web pages implying that steel impellers are so heavy they ruin motors from the high starting loads. This vendor uses undersized motors with high service factors meaning they can run at 125% of maximum power. This in the most open air configuration which is what they use for advertising, lets them claim far over 1000 CFM airflows. In real use with ducting, tool hoods, and filters, these units don't move nearly as much air. In fact you will be lucky to get 785 CFM when pulling through a 6" duct and barely 349 CFM when pulling through a 4" duct. As discussed before if you choose to use the gravely undersized motors this vendor sells, this startup load is a serious problem because it can quickly cause a motor to burn out from overheating. With a properly sized motor to handle the startup loads this concern is irrelevant.

      3. This same vendor also states on their web pages that steel impellers are a major fire risk and do not comply with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) guidelines. That is double nonsense.

        This same NFPA guideline also requires either putting our cyclones and blowers outside behind a suitable explosion barrier or using certified fire and explosion proof cyclone equipment. This vendor makes an indoor cyclone that is not certified as either fire or explosion proof. They would never pass that certification process because they use steel instead of aluminum blower housing and a plastic hose connected to a cardboard dust bin.

        Worse, if you look up the current warnings you will find that the experts on ventilation recommend against use of aluminum impellers. From the ACGIH's Industrial Ventilation: A Manual of Recommended Practice for Design, page 7-22, 26th Edition, 2007:

        "For many years aluminum alloy impellers have been specified to minimize sparking if the impeller were to contact other steel parts. This is still accepted, but tests by the U.S. Bureau of Mines and others have demonstrated that impact of aluminum with rusty steel creates a Thermite reaction and thus possible ignition hazards. Special care must be taken when aluminum alloys are used in the presence of steel."

        For those who don't recognize what a thermite reaction is, you already know because Fourth of July sparklers are made from powdered aluminum that when lit burn with a very bright, hot, high intensity flame. In other words, if you sucked up a rusty nail it could knock off a small piece of aluminum creating the equivalent of throwing part of a lit sparkler into either your dust bin or filter. Since I first wrote this page NFPA has acknowledged this thermite generated fire problem and now no longer recommends the use of aluminum and aluminum alloy impellers. So much for one vendor's touting their non-sparking impellers.

      4. Another frequent complaint with the aluminum impellers which also gets quickly deleted if shared on the Internet forums is the problem with these light aluminum alloy impellers slipping down the motor shafts then self destructing when they hit the blower housing. The major commercial blower makers use special star tipped set screws and a keyway to secure their aluminum impellers. They also warn that these impellers are not to be used on a vertical motor shaft because set screws cannot carry the weight of the impeller. When these impellers are mounted on a horizontal shaft the shaft carries the weight and there is almost no side to side pressure. When mounted on a vertical shaft the commercial blower makers strongly recommend using a tapered shafted motor with a bolt which screws into the motor shaft to lock in the impeller or use a compression arbor similar to what we use in our routers to hold bits securely when mounting impellers on a vertical shaft.

      In short, I strongly recommend against buying any cyclone with an aluminum alloy impeller and instead buying a good well balanced steel impeller.

    3. Impeller Sizing

      This is one of those areas where I provide far more information than many want or need to know, so the bottom line is if you use the Leeson 5 hp motor I recommend you use a 16" diameter impeller to get the maximum airflow and pressure from your motor. This added airflow and pressure are important. The increased airflow does a much better job collecting the fine dust and the increased pressure permits you to use all 6" diameter ducting and still move over 1200 CFM to any tool in your shop. How I got to this recommendation is a touch complicated.

      My engineering professor friends who helped me test every major brand and size of small shop dust collector and cyclone a few years ago were appalled at how poorly our small shop blowers were made. We actually had one small shop vendor who supplied exactly the same sized impeller with their 1.5 hp, 2 hp, and 3 hp dust collectors and cyclones. With our motors all turning at the same 3450 RPM for U.S. 60 cycle current, every one of those blowers moved exactly the same amount of air. What was very disappointing was finding only the Delta, Jet and Powermatic impellers were actually properly sized for their blowers. All others were either way too small or too large. An undersized impeller just spins leaving a good portion of your motor's horsepower unused. An over sized impeller is required if you have a high resistance, but if it is tested without that resistance you get the incredibly high CFM numbers that so many of the less reputable vendors advertise. Worse, at these high CFM numbers from running in "free air" meaning with no resistance our motors are doing the most work. In our testing we found a number of cyclones 3 hp and smaller that frankly were running such over sized impellers which cased the motors to run so far above the motor horsepower we had two motors burn up. Talking with the testing groups that ran some recent woodworker magazine cyclone tests they had the same problem and burned up three cyclone motors when testing. Vendors simply used way over sized impellers and then choked them down in real use with undersized ducting to save their motors. Unfortunately, they had to so choke down their impellers that not one in real use working against typical shop higher resistance levels with real ducting sized as they recommend moved a real 800 CFM let alone the 1000 CFM we need for good fine dust collection.

      Because blower technology is mature, blowers of the same type and size provide near identical performance regardless of which commercial vendor we use. This means we can look at any good commercial fan table and use that table to size our impeller, our ducting main and our motor horsepower requirements. To use one of these fan tables we need to know three things, required minimum air volume, maximum resistance and minimum resistance.

      Air engineers long ago learned we must capture the fine airborne dust as it is made. A few of the newer tools such as the circular powered hand saw from Festool have proven that if tools are built from the ground up to totally contain all of the dust being made we can get excellent fine dust collection with a large shop vacuum. Unfortunately, almost all stationary tools come with little to no fine dust collection built in. As a result these tools make so much fine dust that spreads so rapidly normal exhaust fans and air cleaners cannot pull the airborne dust level down fast enough to ensure passing an air quality test. As a result, we have to collect the fine dust as it is made.

      Because almost every customer wants good fine dust collection without having to replace all their tools, air engineers long ago worked out how to ensure our typical stationary tool designs got good fine dust collection. To collect the fine dust at each source they found we have to start by making sure each tool is equipped with hoods that block all fast moving air streams. Additionally, we also must surround the working area of each tool with a "bubble" of air moving at least 50 FPM to overcome normal room air currents. The size of this bubble is defined by what level of fine dust collection we want. Air engineers did years of testing to determine how big of a "bubble" it takes to pull in the fine dust. Once we know the size of that "bubble" we can use the sphere surface area formula to compute the area of that sphere where A=4*Pi*r*r then put in our 50 FPM airspeed and that area with a little algebra into our air formula FPM=CFM/Area to calculate our needed CFM air volumes. A couple of decades of testing and experience have verified we need at our larger stationary tools that have upgraded hoods about 800 CFM to create a minimum "bubble" ample to meet OSHA air quality standards, roughly 900 CFM to meet ACGIH recommended air quality, and about 1000 CFM to meet medical and EPA recommendations.

      Sadly most small shop woodworkers and even most vendors wrongly assume that the roughly 350 CFM that provides excellent "chip collection" at our larger tools will also provide plenty of airflow to pull in the fine dust we know we can move with the lightest breath. The problem with this assumption is we are thinking in terms of blown instead of sucked air. Blowing a directed stream of air will hold together for quite a distance, but sucking has the airspeed fall off at roughly twelve times the distance squared because the air comes from all directions at once. You can easily test this. Wet a finger and see how far you can move it from your lips and still feel blown air. Try it again while sucking. Almost all can feel the blown air as far as they can reach. Conversely, we can only feel the sucked air out to a couple of inches. To cover a large area with sucked air we have to move a large volume.

      We can pick which air quality level we want and then use that required CFM value with our fan tables to pick our impeller size. Although many recommend the OSHA air quality levels that we can get with 800 CFM, I strongly recommend using medical and EPA recommended air quality levels that instead require at least 1000 CFM airflow to our larger tools.

      Before we can use our fan table we also need to know the highest and lowest resistance levels in our shop. The resistance is a measure of how much work our blower has to do to overcome the friction in our ducts, to turn the corners through wyes and elbows, to pull through a restrictive hood, and to push through a dirty filter. We measure this resistance in what are known as water column inches, meaning how high a blower would have to push or pull a column of water to overcome that resistance. We can add up the various resistance numbers by hand or do testing once we get our shop ducting built, but the most convenient way to calculate shop resistance is to use an already setup spreadsheet that lets us put in what we have then calculates the overall resistance levels. A good static calculator such as the one shared on these pages shows that a typical two car garage sized shop will have a minimum resistance of about 4" when connecting to an adjacent tool with a new clean filter.

      Calculating the maximum resistance is a little more difficult. We have to calculate our highest resistance ducting run then add the resistance of our filter, which changes over time. We normally calculate the worst case ducting situation in our shops to allow us to later move any tool to any location. Otherwise we would be forced to wheel our dust collector or cyclone right next to each tool. The maximum ducting resistance is for a distant tool that has two collection points like a table saw with both cabinet and over blade collection for a typical two-car garage sized shop ends up being right at 7 water column inches in most shops that use a 6" main and downdrops. A 7" main often drops this to only 5 water column inches. Next, we have to add the resistance of our filter which changes over time.

      As our filters age, they build up dust trapped in the filter pores that does not come out with normal cleaning. This is called seasoning. The stuff trapped in the filter pores improves filtering by up to twenty fold in a fully seasoned filter, but also increases our resistance significantly. It typically takes nine to twelve deep cleaning cycles meaning as much as a couple of years before small shop woodworkers fully season our filters. Our having to breathe the finest invisible dust known to cause serious health problems for a few years while waiting for our filters to fully season is why I strongly dislike most small shop vendors advertizing "seasoned" filtering levels. The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) is considered the world authority on filter measurement and performance. Our small shop vendors almost universally ignore the ASHRAE standard that requires all indoor filters, meaning those used in our shops, must be rated when clean and new. Our small shop vendors instead rate their filters after becoming "fully seasoned". Anyhow, in terms of resistance most small shop fine filters start out brand new with only about 0.5" of resistance then as they season their resistance will climb to 2.5" to 3" just after cleaning.

      While in use our filters also build up a layer or cake of dust on the filter surfaces and this cake rapidly kills airflow. The smaller the filter area the faster the dust builds, the more the airflow gets killed, and more often we must clean our filters. Unfortunately, the more often we clean our filters the shorter they last. Most larger woodworking facilities use pressure sensors that set off a cleaning buzzer when the filter resistance gets more than 2 to 2.5 water column inches higher than the seasoned filter resistance. Letting the dust build any higher kills the airflow needed for good collection.

      Additionally, they also use these meters to show when it is time to change out their filters. As our filters age, they wear out meaning the pores get larger and larger until they no longer trap the finer particles. As the pores get larger the filter resistance drops as the air goes through with less resistance. As soon as the after cleaning pressure drops more than 1 water column inch below the maximum seasoned rating, the filter has become so open it must be changed out. Most commercial shops must change out their fine filters roughly every three months of full time woodworking.

      So, to calculate maximum pressure we add the 7 water column inches for our maximum ducting resistance then add 2.5 inches more for our seasoned filter, plus 2.5 inches more for a maximum resistance of about 12 water column inches in most typical two-car garage sized shops and about 14 water column inches for most three-car garage sized larger shops.

      This 4" to 12" average pressure range coupled with the 800 to 1000 CFM is what requires us to use pressure blowers for dust collection. The other types of blowers either move too little air like vacuums or like most squirrel cage fans and airfoil impellers just cannot generate enough pressure to overcome our normal ducting, tool, and filter resistance. We also know we need heavy duty steel material handling impellers to ensure we do not break our impellers with inevitable material hits. We also need these material handling impellers to keep strings and shaving from getting caught on our impellers that would cause them to go out of balance and quickly ruin motor bearings. For our indoor dust collector and cyclones where noise is a serious consideration, we also want a backward curved (BC) impeller blade to minimize noise problems.

      Finally knowing our airflow and pressures we can look up our needed information from a good fan table. Because material handling blowers are a very mature technology, looking at almost any major commercial blower maker gives near identical results. So if we go to the steel pressure blower fan table shared by Cincinnati Fan we see by looking down the 12" pressure column the first blower that will move at least our needed 1000 CFM is SPB15 blower housing with a 15.5" diameter impeller that has 3.5" tall blades. The blower table shows this impeller will move a real 1022 CFM at 12" and draws a real 3.44 hp. That table also shows it will move this much air through a 6" blower opening which matches our main duct. If we look a few entries lower in the table we see this same impeller and blower with a 8" opening and 8" main will move 1108 CFM and draw 3.61 hp. This sizes our ideal impeller at 15.5" based on that blower table. It also sizes our main at 6", 7" or 8" and it also sizes our minimum down drop size to 6". Anything smaller for a down drop will reduce the flow enough that there is not enough airspeed to keep the mains from plugging or building up ducting dust piles that pose a serious fire risk. To size our blower motor we simply look at this same impeller at our minimum resistance level. This 15.5" diameter impeller at 4" of resistance moves a real 1957 CFM and draws a real 4.88 hp which is why I have long recommended use of a 5 hp blower motor with at least a 15" diameter impeller and at least 6" diameter ducting.

      Almost all small shop vendors error by supplying their larger cyclones with only 14" diameter impellers and only 2 or 3 hp motors. We can use the same blower table and see that a 14" diameter impeller is so challenged by resistance that it does not even perform once over 11" of resistance. At 9" of average resistance it only moves 767 CFM and draws 2.05 hp. This tells us clearly we don't ever want a 2 hp motor because during normal average every day dust collection it is working at over 100%. That 767 CFM provides good chip collection that only requires 350 CFM but is far short of the 1000 CFM needed for good fine dust collection. Next, look at what kind of airflow we get at the expected 12" of resistance with the typical two-car garage size shop longest ducting run. At 12" resistance this 14" impeller moves so little air with such an unsteady flow that it does not even have a value in this table and will not even move enough air to provide the needed 350 CFM needed for good "chip collection". Next look at that same table and see what happens to the horsepower demand when the resistance is at a minimum meaning only 4" with that 14" diameter impeller. At 4" of resistance that impeller moves 1543 CFM while pulling 3.09 hp. Now look at that same table at what happens during the vendor supplied tests that instead use the 8" opening and main that the more popular cyclones use and recommend. At 4" static pressure the airflow climbs to 1893 CFM while the horsepower climbs to 3.68 hp which is well over 3 hp motor ratings even with large 1.1 (110%) service factors. Because the normal fixed speed 3450 RPM induction motors we use to power our dust collectors are made to pull starting loads six or more times their running loads, our vendors can get by with quick tests at these kinds of horsepower loads. Unfortunately, if these loads go on for a few minutes the motors will quickly overheat and burn up. The bottom line here is I have a really difficult time as an engineer wanting anything less than a 15" diameter impeller and good solid 5 hp motor for the heaviest used motor in my shop.

      I know that most don't want to spend more than needed. When I first put up this web page in 2000 the only affordable sources for impellers were the 14" diameter impellers we could buy as replacement parts for the larger 3 hp dust collectors. My 18" standard cyclone plans work with these 14" sized impellers, but are best with the 15" and 16" impellers I designed. Since we now have good sources for larger impellers I strongly recommend using one of them to get the larger airflows required for better fine dust collection.

    4. Impeller Sourcing

      A few have made their own impellers but you need to know that the forces involved with a 14", 15" or 16" impeller turning at 3450 RPM are measured in the tons. I have already had one welded impeller I was testing fly apart from those turning forces. I have not hit the ground so quickly since in the Vietnam War. There was little left of my blower and I was amazed that the heavy PETG plastic used in Clear Vue Cyclones actually held up far better than the 18-gauge steel. The plastic was only scratched while the steel was punched clean clear through and badly ripped. Unless you really know what you are doing, making your own impeller or grabbing just any old impeller can be potentially life threatening. I see no reason to take this risk trying to save a few dollars while making my dust collection system, so strongly recommend use of a good quality impeller designed for this type of use.

      With no other affordable sources available I used to recommend ordering the Jet DC-1900 14" diameter impeller part number 431006 from Jet Customer Service at 800-274-6848. My cost in 2001 was $57.76 plus $15.00 more for shipping. Costs now are about double that after a huge increase in the price of steel and much higher shipping costs. To attach this impeller to your motor shaft you need a custom arbor. With too many unable to build their own arbors, I had a machine shop make up arbors and sold them at cost. These arbors worked but even with their special star tipped set screws that dig into the motor shaft they could let the impellers slide plus these screws need replaced every time you remove the impeller. Otherwise the impeller can slip on the shaft, so I shifted to a good compression arbor. My machinist bought the compression arbors then welded a round plate with holes to match the Jet impeller. My machinist retired after being there for me for over thirty years, so the supply of these arbors stopped. One of my local friends Roy does a little machining and made his own Jet impeller arbor. He is a very busy fellow and making arbors is not his priority, but he also likes to help others out. You can contact him at to see if he can make one for you, but you need to work out your arrangements with him.

      After a few years of a steady supply, Jet ran out of impellers and those of us wanting to build our own cyclones and blowers were left waiting for months. After looking all over others found Cincinnati Fans sells a very heavy aluminum material handling impeller and a lighter air movement impeller. Both came with warnings not to use them for dust collection because material hits could cause the impellers to explode. Many ignored my advice and used the less expensive lighter Cincinnati Fan cast aluminum alloy impellers. When challenged with all going right through the blower which happens with a plugged cyclone, full dust bin, bad air leak, or big surge of dust, these impellers were damaged with a few even exploded. Even their heavier cast aluminum alloy material handling impeller should not ever be exposed to impacts, which means this impeller should be used after the cyclone and filter cartridges. Regardless, I worked out with their corporate headquarters an arrangement to let small shop woodworkers buy these heavier impellers from their local dealers for reduced costs. Because of the way their dealer arrangements work, most dealers still charged almost double plus shipping. And yes, I know two other import firms sell impellers for less, but their quality just did not pass my inspection and with over twenty tons of force involved with a spinning impeller going with low quality or a poorly balanced impeller just makes no sense. The main advantage of these impellers is the light aluminum alloy construction permits the impeller to come up to speed quicker with less wear and tear on the motor. The biggest disadvantage of the aluminum alloy impellers is the NAFTA no longer allows them in new systems for commercial use because when hit with metal aluminum impellers launch white hot sparks that can cause fires.

      These impellers cannot be used directly as delivered because they need a different way to mount to the motor shafts (see impeller mounting below). These impellers are designed for mounting on horizontal motor shafts. They use special Allen set screws with star points that dig into the motor shaft to hold the impeller from moving sideways. These screws must be replaced every time they are loosened. With our cyclones we mount our motor shafts vertically. These screws do a poor job and were never meant to support the whole weight of the impeller. Cincinnati Fan, one of the top impeller makers warns to not use impellers mounted with set screws on vertical shafts as these impellers can and will slip with catastrophic results! Many including me learned the hard way that set screw mounted impellers slip down the motor shaft and destroy the blower housings. In one of my test runs, I failed to replace those special star set screws as recommended and my impeller slipped down the shaft doing bad things to the impeller, motor, and blower housing. This is why I made my housings with deeply recessed screws so the impeller blades hit wood instead of metal first, hopefully giving time to turn all off before a disaster. Anyhow, I quit recommending these aluminum alloy impellers after too many had problems.

      When Jet ran out of stock I paid to have a custom 14" material handling impeller built and certified by Sheldon's Engineering with a far better compression arbor. After three years of sales I was about one third paid back when the engineer I worked with left Sheldon's and that firm was sold. The new owners stopped honoring our agreement and stopped carefully packing the impellers they shipped so most arrived damaged and people complained to me. This never was intended to be a money making proposition, but I was not happy at covering that considerable loss and then having to do it all over again with another firm. Foolish or dedicated, I did so anyway for two more firms. I again subsidized the costs for test gear, testing, blower housing, and provided the engineering specifications. The first firm sent me an impeller that exploded due to poor workmanship in their welding and refused to make repair, so I moved on.

      I now have a machine shop make impellers for us and also have another firm CNC cut MDF top and bottom pieces to easily make a blower to work with that impeller. Electric Motor Warehouse provides discounted motors with the right face frame mounting. In a cyclone this 5 hp motor actually was left with over 1 hp of unused capacity, so I engineered a 16" impeller. It uses that extra horsepower, but does require a few changes to the cyclone design to get full use of that extra flow. As shared above if you step up to a bigger impeller, you also need to use different dimensions for your blower opening and motor plate from those shared below. Remember that these firms I have helping do small shop owners a favor. Please don't chase them away from helping us by burying them with questions and special orders.

      After considerable experience and lots of testing with the 15" impellers I decided there was enough unused capacity in our 5 hp motors to turn a larger impeller. My testing showed standard 16" impellers exceeded the capacity of our standard 5 hp motors, so I engineered a special 16" diameter impeller with slightly lower blades that provided additional pressure to move more air without putting our motors at risk. This is the impeller that is now used in the Clear Vue Max cyclones. I recommend using this impeller with a left handed version of my cyclone design for both optimum airflow and separation efficiency.

      Alternative Impeller When Clear Vue closed for a short while my son went back into making cyclone kits. Over the years I had improved my impeller designs and had four really good options both left and right hand rotating 15" impellers and 16" impellers. My son would only make one cyclone design, a single left handed 18" diameter cyclone optimized for both airflow and separation. Our blower template made blower housings for 15" diameter impellers. It was too small for the 16" impellers, so I engineered a special 15.5" impeller that my machinist, Inchs Machinery in Loomis, CA (916) 652-0628 built and sold directly. These have the advantage of fitting in the existing 15" blower housings with only tiny modifications to the hole that lets the blower housing slip over the mounted motor and impeller. Anyhow, these move the same air as the 16" diameter impellers which is as much air as you can move without putting your 5 hp motor at risk. They are really great well built impellers made of heavy steel built like tanks and use the best compression arbors. They are ideal to upgrade your existing 15" impeller or to use in place of the 16" impellers. I was talking with my machinist about my new cyclone project and he is still makes a few of the 15.5" impellers that he balances and powder coats. You will need to talk to them about pricing, availability and delivery.

    5. Blower Housing

      I was stunned when my professor friends and I tested every major brand and size of small shop dust collector and cyclone a few years ago. Most of the impellers and especially the blower housings were incredibly poorly designed and even more poorly made. A blower impeller needs a shape that minimizes turbulence, but most small shop blowers had lots of rough edges, protruding rivets, etc. that cause lots of internal turbulence and disrupts flow. A blower housing requires a smooth spiral shape to provide a good steady airflow without causing pulsing which kills blower efficiency and raises sound levels dramatically. Most small shop dust collector and cyclone blowers, in fact all the major brands except for Delta, Jet and Powermatic had blowers with very poorly made housings. Many did not even use spiral shaped housings but instead round housings with the impeller offset to one side. Most blower housings forced round into square ducting and had very rough ridges, loose metal, and other junk pushed right into the air stream. The engineering professors I did this testing with were amazed. They said blower technology is mature and just about any engineering graduate can look up what it takes to make a far better material handling blower. What we found with our testing is only those three vendors had performance that matched industry norms and all others were below, some very badly. The worst was that highly rated aluminum impeller cyclone that used a circle shaped blower with an impeller that had the support castings for the blades in the middle of the airflow.

  5. BuildingInstructions

    Acquire required parts. Carefully build the blower housing and solder the connectors. Caution - do not install the impeller until you have tested the motor for turning in the correct direction. If the impeller is on, it can destroy your motor and severely hurt you!. With no impeller attached fire up the motor. Yes! It goes counter clockwise when looking at the impeller with the motor behind just like my Jet impellers. Safely install the impeller on the motor shaft, but do not turn on the blower until you have attached ducting and cyclone. It needs to be attached to be safe and to protect the motor. Running the blower without cyclone or ducting will move far more air than the motor has horsepower to support, so will quickly burn out the motor.

    1. Required Parts

      • 220V motor plug, cord, two bayonet connectors, one eye connector, and one strain relief fitting

      • 3/4" MDF but no void 3/4" plywood preferred

      • 13 ea. 3/8 X 8 carriage bolts to connect blower halves

      • 13 ea. 3/8 nylock nuts for carriage bolts

      • 13 ea. 3/8X2 fender washers for top of carriage bolts

      • 13 ea. 1/2X2 fender washers for head of carriage bolts

      • 6 ea. 1/4X1 bolts to mount motor plate to blower

      • 12 ea. 1/4X2 fender washers for motor plate bolts

      • 6 ea. 1/4 nylock nuts for motor plate bolts

      • 4 ea. 3/8X3/4 bolts to mount motor to motor plate

      • 4 ea. 3/8 lock washers for motor mount bolts

      • 1 ea. 16X1/8 galvanized motor mounting plate

      • 2 ea. 18ga. Galvanized metal for spiral

      • 1 ea. pattern for router template to rout spiral

      • 1 ea. 4' of foam seal for motor plate

      • 5 ea. 1/8X1/8 pop rivets to connect spiral metal pieces

    2. Layout

      This whole section was redone thanks to some tips from a couple of friends who are blower experts. Unfortunately the information provided was not well interpreted and I initially translated them wrong and had to redo again. The result is we get a much smaller blower housing without a sacrifice in efficiency!

      Start by looking over the Build Your Own Airfoil Blower instructions;

      Next you need to decide which sized blower you will build. I recommend all use the 16" diameter impeller and blower with my standard 18" diameter cyclone design.

      Although the 14" diameter impeller and blower is a workable plan, it really does require all 7" diameter ducting to move the real 1000 CFM we need for good fine dust collection. To be able to use much more readily available 6" diameter ducting I used a 15" diameter impeller and 15" blower housing to amply increase pressure to get the needed flows. This works better giving our full 1000 CFM when plumbing with 6" diameter ducts in almost all typical two-car garage sized shops. I engineered this 15" blower to be an ideal balance between getting the 1000 CFM airflow we need for good fine dust collection without pulling more horsepower or using more power than needed. This ideal 15" impeller and blower requires right at 4 hp, but since motors come in 3 or 5 hp, I used a 5 hp motor. This 15" impeller and blower design with 5 hp motor became my standard in 2004 and the standard used by Clear Vue Cyclones. Those who live at higher altitudes or who have 50 Hz power so their motors turn slower needed a bigger diameter impeller so I designed the 16" diameter impeller and blower to compensate. The 16" moves the same air volumes and pulls the same horsepower in these conditions.

      My shop is larger than normal so knowing there was available extra capacity in my 5 hp motor I used the 16" diameter impeller and blower with my standard 18" diameter cyclone from my cyclone plan pages. The result draws more power but does move more air. My particle counter shows the result of the extra airflow is even better collection, so now I recommend the larger impeller and blower. Clear Vue had me engineer their CV-Max with modified inlet and outlet to move a little more air with these 16" blowers and still fit under an 8' ceiling. The result moves more air with only a little loss in fine dust separation. I also recommend use of 7" or 8" horizontal duct mains with both the 15" and 16" impellers to increase airflow by reducing the resistance of our mains.

      Click the below drawing to open a larger readable version of the 14" blower design! Although this will work with a 15" impeller you would get better performance and less noise by scaling this drawing to work with a 15" impeller if you are going to use a 15" impeller. If your printer will let you rescale the printing, simply print out the 14" full size at 107% and the resulting drawing will be right on for a 15" impeller. Many browsers automatically rescale the picture to fit on a single screen. To make it readable it needs to be larger. With Microsoft IE click to open the drawing then move your mouse to the lower right corner. When an orange box appears, click on it for a larger image.

      Click here for full sized picture!

      Edward Thomas was kind enough to make full sized drawings of both the 14" and 16" blower plans as down loadable and printable PDF files. Here are his 14" blower plans for standard 8.5 x 11" paper, legal sized paper and 14" version for 13" wide carriage printer. And here is the 16" PDF blower plan.

      Before you use these plans you should check that your printer prints to "size" and square. The easy way to do this is check the larger circles with a large compass or at right angles and both 45's. Also, if your printer is set to "reduce to fit" there may be a problem. Another option suggested by John Terdik is to use priPrinter (see to print the plans to scale. It is a virtual printer that sits between your application and your printer. He prints to priPrinter, one of the functions in priPrinter allows him to resize to scale, he then prints as a poster and the results is a printout that is to scale.

      I suggest you print on clear sheets to make it easier to match the registration marks. With these corner registration marks you can print a full sized layout including the spiral that many find difficult to draw.

    3. Rotation

      I get too many questions about impeller rotation. What you need for ideal performance is your impeller turning with the blades rounded portion leading and the cyclone built so the inlet causes the incoming air to turn in exactly this same direction.

      If you turn your impeller backward it will make a ton of noise. If your airflow in the cyclone does not match the direction the impeller turns then your motor must do more work to reverse that spin and you lose considerable performance. Remember that the airflow inside the cyclone spins in the same direction going down as it does when it comes back up and exits the cyclone into the blower.

      For dust collection we use material handling impellers. A material handling impeller uses a flat bottom disk with vanes and no top cap as you would have in either a caged or airfoil impeller. The steel blades taper to the impeller center so strings and shavings just slip off without causing clogging. Although this works well and makes for a tough impeller, the result is only one step removed from an air raid siren in terms of noise.

      Fan designers found they could trade a little efficiency for about half the noise by angling the blades away from the direction of rotation. They then discovered that if they made those backward inclined blades curved (creating what they call a backward curved blade) they got back some of the efficiency and reduced noise even more so.

      Now why all this is important is you can run an impeller in either direction. Going with it the right way with the curve pointing into the direction of rotation will save you about half the power and cost you about 1" of overall pressure. Running a backward curved impeller the wrong way works getting better high-end performance of about 100 CFM and one more inch of pressure in trade for using more power and making lots more noise. The working performance is also less. The other problem is of course that doing so can setup vibrations that could destroy the motor early and with plastic and aluminum impellers, could result in impeller failure. I strongly recommend against running them backward! I've actually tested impellers both ways and find it is much easier on my motor and ears to turn it in the right direction. In any case please use an amp meter to make sure it all works and does not over-stress your motor. This picture shows the correct way to turn a backward curved impeller. The red impeller is a Jet and turns CCW when looking at the vanes. The silver impeller is a Cincinnati Fan aluminum impeller that turns clockwise. I do not recommend use of aluminum or plastic impellers in either dust collectors or cyclones because they can self destruct! Note the ends of the blade tips point away from the direction of rotation.

      Take a few minutes, study your impeller and figure out which way it should rotate. Make sure your motor turns it the right way and then use my plan for either clockwise or counter clockwise construction. The pictures here are for either the Jet or our counter clockwise rotating impellers when viewed from the vane side of the impeller with the motor positioned behind the impeller.

    4. Inlet

      The inlet goes centered right over the impeller. The ideal inlet for that 14" impeller is 10" from my fan table on the Dust Collection Basics page. But that same table tells me at that big of an opening, my horsepower will go way over for my budget motor that only has a real 3 hp. I tested and found that with the Leeson motor, 14" diameter impeller, and cyclone that I can use up to a 7" cyclone opening and 7" diameter mains and still keep enough airspeed to prevent the mains from plugging or building up piles of dust. Moreover, the 7" ducting amply restricts the airflow that the 14" material handling impellers do not have a problem drawing too many amps with the Leeson motors. For the smaller motors, 6" ducting and a restrictor blast gate is required to keep the impeller from pushing so much air it draws too many amps. Because the ducting sets the maximum airflow, I can size the blower inlet to the cyclone outlet. That lets me use a 9" diameter opening for my 18" diameter cyclones and a 10" diameter inlet for my 20" diameter cyclones.

    5. Impeller Clearance

      Unlike my airfoil that requires a 1/8" clearance to the closest point of the blower shroud, material movement impellers become sirens if you don't have enough clearance. Some of the blower theory I read said to use a 10% clearance as a minimum to keep the noise manageable. For a 14" diameter impeller this comes out as a 1.4" clearance between the impeller and the bend in the blower housing known as the "gore point". This distance works fine without excessive noise.

      Fortunately, unlike the airfoil, material movement impellers can have up to 1/2 of their blade width sticking into the outlet air stream. The more the impeller overlaps the outlet, the smaller the blower. Using no overlap creates a huge blower. After lots of fooling around I came up with a 3" overlap and end up with a blower sized near the size of my cyclone. That also leaves plenty of room to pass larger pieces of wood without jamming the blower. With the impeller there, we can start our spirals with a much shorter cord ending up with a far smaller blower and still plenty of airflow.

    6. Impeller Mounting

      One of the main reasons I recommend our impellers besides their being professionally balanced, is they use a compression hub to hold them tightly on the motor shaft. My early designs that used the Cincinnati Fan and Jet impellers held on to the motor shaft with setscrews tend to be a problem. You need to use the special toothed setscrews and replace them every time you loosen them, otherwise your impeller can slip down the shaft. I had one that I was testing slip and what it did to my wooden blower housing was almost as ugly as how much that noise scared me. You can safely mount these kinds of impellers, but need to do quite a bit of work to get them right. Here is a solution from Gary French that works for me.

      I decided to build my own blower, based on the information on your site, using the Leeson motor and a Cincinnati Fan impeller. I've finished the blower, and am just waiting to get the cyclone kit I ordered. In precise engineering terms, the blower blows like crazy! In a previous e-mail, you warned about the attachment method used by CF, which is, to say the least, problematic. As an engineer, I can't see how this kind of attachment could make it onto something as potentially dangerous as this application. Anyway, end of rant. I decided to see if I could come up with a better way of holding the impeller on the shaft, without going through too much hassle or expense. I came up with a fairly simple solution that I decided to share with you. The original setscrews are still needed, since they keep the impeller from shifting back and forth rotationally on the shaft at startup and shutdown, especially the one located over the key. To those set screws I added a collar mounted on the motor shaft and a beefy fender washer that clamps the impeller against the collar. Under the impeller I needed to add a shim and bushing to put the impeller at the right height on the shaft. The only machine work that is required is to drill and tap a 3/8-16UNC hole in the end of the motor shaft, which I was able to do (carefully!) with a hand drill, a regular tap, and a bottom tap. The parts required are available from McMaster Carr and Orchard Supply:

      Orchard Supply
      0.875 Shim 18 gauge
      Star Washer

      McMaster Carr
      Flanged Bronze Bushing #7815K52
      3/8" UNC 3/4" long bolt and Fender Washer #91117A222

      The total cost was about $15. I hope this is useful to you. I can certainly sleep much better, confident that the impeller will not slip off the motor shaft.

      Note that Lock-Tite is a must for this application to keep that bolt from coming loose.

      Regards, Gary French

      Further discussion with Gary indicated the impeller casting is not perfectly flat on the front and back, so there is uneven contact. Unless both the top and bottom of the impeller are made flat, tightening the hold down bolt could force the impeller to "wobble" causing a dynamic imbalance. That can be corrected as follows:

      You need to have both the top and bottom of the impeller surfaced flat with reference to the hole. Although a machine shop would be best, a good small machinist square and patience would work. You could make up a simple hone that would work fairly quickly. Buy a 7/8" shaft (I'd use plastic and Gary found a socket the right size). Square, drill and then tap both ends. Make up an emery cloth on a fender washer to serve as a hone, perhaps with a little lapping paste. Then carefully spin that shaft with a hand drill to quickly take down the aluminum impeller alloy to have nice flat faces both top and bottom. One effect of the sanding on the impeller is that a thicker shim is required between the bushing and impeller. I had an extra 18-gauge shim that I used, but a single 14-gauge shim would work just as well.

    7. Spiral Configuration

      Picking the right spiral takes some work to get it all right. We need a nice smooth curve that gets keeps right distance from the impeller. To draw that curve we have to decide on the blower outlet width. We have some flexibility with blower width because the compressed exiting air can go through up to a 25% smaller outlet. Larger does not hurt a thing.

    8. Outlet Height

      Figuring out the outlet height is easy because it is the same height as the blower height. The blower inside needs to be tall enough to have some space above the blower blades to pass chunks, 1/2" below the impeller, plus the height of the impeller. For the Jet DC-1900 14" impeller that is 3 5/8" tall we can use 1.5" above and a 1/2" below for clearance giving an inside height of 5 5/8".

    9. Blower Side Width

      That outlet height also tells us the height of our metal or polycarbonate for the sides. Add the 3/16" top and bottom grooves to trap the blower sides, and we get an even 6" to have our metal or plastic dealer cut our blower sides.

    10. Outlet width

      The outlet width needs to be equal or bigger than whatever limits the blower input and must also be big enough to provide the clearance we need on our spiral. With a 6" duct and smaller inlet, we can calculate the minimum outlet area. A 6" round duct and 6" round cyclone inlet each have an area of about 28 1/4" square inches (Pi*(D/2)^2). Divide that by the blower height of 5 5/8 gives a calculated minimum width of just over 5". Rather than go through the hours of work to build a custom transition, my plan fits one of the readymade HVAC pieces. This size is not optimum, but good enough and makes a nice small manageable blower that will fit a standard fitting without having to build a custom transition.

      HVAC transitions always come in even inch increments. I found an 8" round transition fits near perfectly. It has a perimeter of Pi * D = 3.14159 * 8 = 25.133" Perimeter = Width + Width + Height + Height or Width = (Perimeter - Height - Height) / 2 = 6 15/16". To make the round fit on the rectangle, we need to hammer the corners square to make the height match the 5 5/8" blower height making the width 7". Cutting into each corner and bending the top and bottom at ninety degrees provides plenty of attachment area for a good tight seal. That seal is critical in terms of controlling the really fine dust.

    11. Spiral Layout

      With that sized outlet the next question is how to make the spirals for the blower top and bottom. Both have a spiral outer shape plus a spiral groove that holds the blower sides. Anything except a smooth spiral will make pressure waves that will pulse badly, make lots of extra noise, and hurt efficiency. We need to make the curve as a true rather than approximated spiral. Although in drafting class they teach an easy way to make a spiral using a compass with four different radius settings, this is a bad technique because it changes the airflow four times creating pressure waves that hurt performance and add more noise. To make a true spiral the easiest way is to pick a center, then attach a marker to that center with a string. As the string winds around the center, the radius consistently deceases. In fact, if we know the amount we want that to decrease in one turn, we know that the circumference of the center. Since circumference = Pi x diameter, we can calculate a diameter for our center. I found an old gauge that was right on and used it for my center.

      Drawing the template is not hard, but does take a little patience. Mark out the center, north, south, east and west intersections where the spiral should hit. At the center I used double-sided tape to lock my cylinder to wind around. Instead of string, I used fiberglass reinforced packing tape as my band plus the roll to make it easier to make a better line when unwinding the tape. Use a constant tension and swing the arc on the template making sure it stays right on. My first took a handful of tries, but eventually came out right on. This template ends up being sized perfectly to make the groove in the top. When flipped over it also is used to make the groove in the bottom. Bolt the top and bottom together with the grooves together and lined up. Now draw around the template using a 1" spacer to get the outside cutting line. Cut out both pieces at the same time to make a perfect match.

      Create the spiral template by unwrapping around my appropriately sized cylinder. Cut out the template then follow it with my router on MDF or plywood to make the top part of the blower housing, then flip the template over and do it again to complete the blower housing sandwich with mirrored matching grooves. For my blowers I like to cut the housings out and round over with a 1/4" bit to make a little nicer presentation. I also use thinned paint that will penetrate to seal all well so the natural moisture in the wood does not get into my housing.

    12. Rout Housing

      I used my circle-cutting router jig to route a 1/2" ledge on the blower top with a diameter and depth for a tight fit for the motor plate. The motor plate needs to be recessed because the motor shafts on both the Harbor Freight and the Leeson motors are otherwise just too short to get a good grip on the impeller. The recess also holds the gasket seal (just a piece of stick on foam insulating tape). Next again use the circle-cutting jig to route a bottom blower piece hole to match the outlet from the cyclone. Then rout the holes blower top hole big enough so the impeller will side through. This lets the blower housing and cyclone get removed without having to take down the heavy motor and impeller assembly. That will save your back, makes inspection and service much easier. It is a good idea to use a 3/8" round over on the inside edge of this inlet hole to smooth the airflow coming into the blower;

    13. Bolt and Drill

      With the blower top and bottom stuck together with double-sided tape drilled all the matching hardware holes at once so the holes all align just right. Used my band saw with the pieces still together rough cut the blower top and bottom pieces, followed by a sander for exact shaping. Separated the pieces and bolted the template centered on the top. Used my 5/16" router collar and a 1/8" bit to cut the top spiral going slow to keep the bit from overheating. Bolt the template upside down to do the same on the bottom.

    14. Assemble Housing

      Put in place the metal blower sides and securing them together where they meet. Make sure the overlap lets the air spill over the joint instead of ram into the joint edge. You can smooth with a little auto body filler or polyurethane caulk, but that is really not required.

    15. Mount Motor

      Mounting the motor making sure enough room is left for airflow into the front of the motor, and yet ensuring a nice seal on the rim around the shaft. This approach lets the motor stay mounted if you want to take the cyclone down for cleaning or clearing.

    16. Testing

      Bragging like crazy because tested it out and got a real 1498 CFM, 7600 FPM, 3.8" static pressure, and all at 12.9 amps. I got the same test results with either the Jet or our impellers. At first I was not sure on my wiring, so started with the impeller turning the wrong way. Although that can generate higher end CFM and pressure, it is not a good thing to do. Not only does it flatten the blower curve in the useful area, running the impeller backward can also can burn up motors and cause impellers to fail. Regardless, with all turning the right way, I now have a real blower that can instantly turn into a Dust Collector with a couple of bags and it totally blows away anything else available under 3 horsepower at four times the expense;

    17. Add Cyclone

      Buying a single 4'x10' sheet of 24 gauge galvanized steel and spending another $24 on solder, playing with my new Harbor Freight spot welder upgraded with the longer reach tongs instead of screws or pop-rivets, lots of careful layout following my cyclone plans, my hand sore from all the cutting, carefully rolling, spot welding, and then gently soldering all sealed air tight using my propane torch;

      Mounting my blower on the cyclone;

    18. Add Filters

      Venting Outside I always recommend venting outside after separating the material using my cyclone design because I know that no dust collection system is perfectly effective and woodworking makes too much dust. With every twenty pounds of sawdust we make enough fine dust to cause more than 15,000 average two-car garage sized shops to fail and EPA air quality test. Even if our dust collection system is 99% efficient that still means every twenty pounds of sawdust leaves our shops filled with enough fine dust to cause 150 average shops to fail their EPA air quality tests. Because this fine dust lasts nearly forever unless it gets wet, if vented inside it can build to very dangerous levels. This is why I setup my cyclone with a valve that lets me vent outside except when the weather is just too hot. Even below freezing I stay comfortable venting outside with a couple of IR heat dishes.

      Filter Types There are two major classes of filters, all polyester and polyester fiber blended filters. The all polyester filters are much thicker so require half as much filter surface area as the blended filters. Polyester has the benefit of lasting about four times longer than the blended filters but they cost more than twice as much and require labor intensive washing as well as the normal machine shaking/blow down type cleaning. Most commercial shops and small shop woodworkers choose the blended filters.

      Airflow Direction Woodworking filters are coated on the outside with a special very slick release agent so dust and chips do not stick to the filter material. This makes them much easier to clean with either a little machine shake or blast of air. The air should flow first onto the surface coated with this release agent which for most means from the outside into the cylinder center then out through an end. We can flow the air in the wrong direction and the filter will still work, but what happens is the filters tend to clog much quicker, need more cleaning, and wear out sooner, so with the filter stack I designed where we blow the dirty air into the center of the filter so we can use our filter clean out, we want our filters coated on the inside. That poses a problem as most filters are not coated on the inside.

      Filter Sizing Filter sizing is done by looking at airflow and filter loading. Woodworking makes so much dust we really need a lot of filter area to minimize the back pressure on your blower and to reduce how often we need to clean the filters. The top name in dust collection filters is Donaldson-Torit and they share their engineering notes on exactly how to size our filters. The Donaldson-Torit filter engineering specifications say the minimum filter size for woodworking dust collection is one square foot of blended filter area for every four cubic feet per minute of airflow. To get our minimum 1000 CFM airflow I over size the blower wheel to move up to a real 1200 CFM, so at a minimum we need 300 square feet of filter area. Although 300 square feet will work, I recommend using 600 square feet because the engineering notes from all the major suppliers recommend we double the filter area because that will greatly reduce filter resistance, cut the cleaning frequency by more than half, and will more than double overall filter life.

      Filter Sourcing At first only Camil-Farr offered a standard 300 square foot commercial woodworking 0.5-micron cartridge air filter. The Donaldson-Torit standard 0.5-micron filters come in a 226 square feet size. That meant we need two of the Farr filters or three of the Donaldson-Torit. Neither Camil-Farr or Donaldson-Torit had their coatings on the filter insides, plus most were having serious shipping damage when they ordered their filters. My lung problems required me to get the best filters I could find, so I went with the Donaldson-Torit 0.2-micron compatible cartridges. It took me multiple tries to get filters that were not destroyed during shipping. The feedback I got from many was the same, lots of shipping damage on the filters. The consensus was both of these firms are really only setup to service large commercial accounts that regularly order large numbers of filters. Others tell me they have been able to order the Donaldson-Torit filters from Alternatively, Farr in Ottawa, Canada appears to sell to the public. Farr Part# 211736-1 HemiPleat filters, for $215.00 each (Specs:~ 300sq feet surface area, about 13" diameter by 34" long, 99.4% efficiency at 0.5 microns, and 1000 CFM at 0.5" SP). Camfill Farr, Old Innes Rd., Ottawa, Ont., Tel: 613-521-5555. They were not setup for individual small shop orders. Wynn Environmental (thanks Jack Diemer) instead specializes in working with individuals and small shops, plus they were very willing to work with me. At my request they got their filters coated on the inside plus they came up with their “Nano" filters that my medical experts recommend. Today there is no question that due to filtering efficiency I recommend and personally use the Wynn Environmental "Nano" filters, but you can still get their Farr compatible 300 square foot 0.5 micron filters (9E300BL). Regardless of supplier, I get the ones with two open ends to make it easy to make a filter stack with clean out.

  6. Frequently Asked Questions - Budget Blower
    1. I live at 5800 feet altitude and am concerned about the air pressure requiring me to use a different impeller. Can I use the same 14" impeller that others use and get ample performance? No, you need a bigger impeller when at higher altitudes. At 6000 feet of altitude and 70 degrees you would add an altitude adjustment of 1.25 times your shop overall resistance. If you then check a good fan table you will find you still need the same 5 hp 3450 RPM motor but need to upgrade to a 16" diameter impeller such as offered by Clear Vue Cyclones.

    2. Bill, please help. I found the motor you recommended surplus for a great price, but have no clue how to wire it up. This is one of those that got me into trouble before. I used to just send people to the Leeson, Baldor or other appropriate motor wiring page, but most had trouble finding and applying the specific information. I then put on my web pages not only my motor wiring diagrams, but shared the circuit, building instructions, and parts list for the nice remote controlled switch that Jim Halbert designed and was kind enough to build for me. Without mincing any words one fellow electrified his cyclone, another melted the end off a screwdriver and a third tried to burn his house down. My attorney said I could be held liable and it was not a good idea for me to recommend anything except suggesting you follow the vendor instructions, adhere to your local codes, and work safely. If you look at the installation page it gives specific instructions for properly wiring your Leeson motor directly from the vendor. This same page also give details on how to mount your cyclone inexpensively. Likewise you can go to Mark Goodall's excellent Motor Wiring Page to learn more about motor wiring.

      Please recognize we are working with dangerous power here so you need to ensure your work is safe and the results meet local code.

    3. I got lucky and a friend found a surplus 11" steel impeller at work with tall 5" vanes. Can I use this impeller with that 2 hp Delta Motor, and what kind of performance should I expect? The short answer is maybe leaning toward yes for good "chip collection" but way short for the 1000 CFM we need for good fine dust collection. To make it work you need to make a custom blower housing and carefully ensure with an amp meter that the unit does not over stress the motor on start up or when running.

      Anyhow, the blade height does make a difference but not nearly as much as in the case with a fluid. Air tends to be pretty limited in terms of how big of a vacuum you can generate. By that I mean waving a bigger paddle with the bottom closed quickly reaches a point of no return if air cannot get to that extra surface area. The result is you get some additional pressure and a little more volume but not a huge amount. There are some fan charts on the Cincinnati Fan site that might help you compute the performance, plus I have seen some with my searches through Google. Still, if you were to ask how well this will work I would make an educated guess:

      1. I would bet the performance would be similar to that of a 12" impeller, probably a little too small for good "chip collection" in a 2-car or larger sized shop, or a shop with any larger professional grade tools (see the CFM requirements table on the DC Basics page).

      2. I've only worked with one impeller like that and found that it worked well, but was so heavy that it pulled far too much motor amperage when being brought up to speed by a 2 hp Delta motor. I shifted over to my 3 hp and it worked fine.

    4. I am going blind looking at your blower design. Does the groove for the metal motor mounting plate go on top or the bottom of the upper piece of plywood? I hope you realized that clicking on that picture gives you a full sized picture. On some browsers you will get a larger picture but not full sized until you also click on the orange square.

      The motor mount plate goes on top of the blower housing, not under the plywood. I squeezed that plate onto a piece of the same foam weather stripping I used on mine, then measured that depth and used it to set the depth of the groove. The result is my motor plate fits flush on top and is held in place with the big fender washers. For those with short motor shafts, you may want to inset that plate as far as you can. If you do so, then you need to also inset your fender washers so they hold the blower on tight.

      The reason for putting that groove on top, is you can take down the blower shroud and cyclone without having to remove the motor and blower.

    5. You used the Delta 2 hp motor to power your airfoil. Can I use this same good quality motor that has exactly the same mounting face as the Leeson you recommend to power a 14" jet impeller? If so, why don't you recommend this far less expensive motor? These Delta motors are no longer available, so this question will rarely apply. The bottom line is Jet requires a full 3 hp motor to power this impeller with a dust collector which does not move as much air. The more air we move the harder the motor must work meaning more current, amperage and hp required. Blower technology is mature meaning the same size and types of direct drive blowers all provide near identical performance from all the top vendors. Each of the major vendors provide fan tables that show how much hp each of their impellers draw at different resistance levels. The fan tables show to be safe you need a full 3 hp motor to power a 14" diameter impeller, but as discussed before it will not move the 1000 CFM required for good fine dust collection at our higher resistance levels or when our filters get dirty. That really means we need a 5 hp motor and should be turning either a 15" or 16" diameter impeller. Some ignore this and still power their cyclones with 2 hp and 3 hp motors turing 14" diameter impellers. The result is their motors draw more than the maximum motor rating when collecting from the closest machine with the least amount of duct, particularly when venting outside without filters or when filters are new. This will burn up motors so is not recommended. If you use an amp meter, you can partially close and lock a blast gate in place to ensure your maximum air movements do not over amp your motor. This is still not recommended.

    6. I have a 2 hp dust collector motor and was wondering if I can just add a 14" impeller? Most likely you need to make a blower housing because yours will either be too small or make terrible noises with the larger impeller. Also, without ample clearance, a knot or chunk can cause your impeller to jam and freeze. I saw one motor that was ruined and burned up from such a jam. I think you should use a bigger motor (see above discussion on the Delta 2 hp motor). Generally when asked this question, if you have a 3 hp dust collector then I recommend using it vented outside. If smaller than 3 hp then I recommend selling your existing dust collector and using the money to help pay for a good motor and impeller then making my budget blower.

    7. Should I use the Jet 14" impeller or go for a bigger impeller? What size impeller do you recommend and where should I get one? After lots of testing I found the Jet 14" impellers max out at around 875 CFM for almost all shops, so I instead recommend you use a Clear Vue 15" or 16" diameter impeller that will give you more than the full 1000 CFM we need for good fine dust collection. Additionally, unlike these stamped Jet impellers, the Clear Vue are laser cut, welded, better balanced and use a really good compression arbor hub that keeps them securely attached to the motor shaft. Many who have purchased standard blower impellers don't realize that most impellers are designed to work on motors with horizontal shafts. A horizontal motor shaft carries the impeller weight. When we have a vertical shaft, then the weight of the impeller is constantly trying to slide the impeller off the motor shaft. Most only have one or two tiny set screws holding the impeller in place, so many have reported that their impellers slid down and did bad things to their blower housings. I experienced that myself with an early aluminum impeller.

      The air tables and lots of testing show at a minimum the smallest impeller that you can use to power a cyclone and get a real 1000 CFM airflow over the resistance levels found in most shops requires a 15" diameter impeller. These same air tables show that a 15" impeller on a 5 hp motor leaves considerable hp unused, so I recommend you use the 16" Clear Vue Impeller when you use the Leeson 5 hp motor. This larger impeller best uses the available hp and maximizes airflow. The 7/8" standard arbor on the Clear Vue impeller is compatible with the Leeson 5 hp motors I recommend. That arbor hub is too large for the 5/8" shaft on the less expensive Harbor Freight motors that I do not recommend. The available 5 hp motors come with shaft sizes ranging from 5/8" to 1 1/4". Most get their impellers with a 7/8" arbor, but the gripping portion can be ordered with your Clear Vue impeller with some larger sizes. Be sure to check with them before committing to a motor with a larger motor shaft.

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