Clear Vue -- Thein Top Hat Dust Collector

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Project by LexWoodWorks posted 04-26-2012 09:21 PM 22735 views 33 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Thein Top Hat Separator gets married to a 16” Clear Vue impeller & blower housing with a 5hp Leeson motor.

The result is a DC that outperforms the “short” cyclones from the major manufacturers for a fraction of the cost. In addition, when I get my dream shop one of these days with tall ceilings and natural sunlight…I’ll just unbolt the Thein Top Hat and bolt on the cyclone. Although the way the thing separates out the large and small dust…I just might not “upgrade”. We’ll see…time will tell.

Enjoy the pics…I’m going to do a full write up when I get a free moment that summarizes the positives and negatives surrounding the project.

Credit where credit is due: Phil Thien & Bill Pentz have done more to educate the woodworking world on the ill effects of wood dust and how you can mitigate it than all of the alleged “experts” (FWW, Delta, Jet, Oneida, PSI etc) combined. If you really want to know the truth about dust see:

Bill Pentz’s website:

Phil Thien’s website:

-- the lyf so short the craft so long to lerne

16 comments so far

View SASmith               's profile


1850 posts in 4479 days

#1 posted 04-26-2012 10:47 PM

Welcome to LumberJocks.
Great looking setup.
I have considered upgrading my shop made cyclone with a bigger impeller and motor.
If you don’t mind answering, how much did the impeller cost?

-- Scott Smith, Southern Illinois

View Martyroc's profile


2712 posts in 3798 days

#2 posted 04-26-2012 11:06 PM

Welcome to LJ’s, great build. I agree with your comment about Phil & Bill, I used there advice and calculations in building mine, just need to finish it. I did a blog on it and plan to do the finishing work soon. If your interested heres the Link

-- Martin ....always count the number of fingers you have before, and after using the saw.

View LexWoodWorks's profile


15 posts in 3714 days

#3 posted 04-27-2012 12:11 AM

Impeller was $250.00. The housing – which you could make if you’re brave – was $175.00.

Got it all from the folks at Clearvue. Nice people. Very helpful in talking and working through the issues of combining the CV parts to the Thien separator.

Fyi…Small typo on the original post. Its a 16” impeller.

-- the lyf so short the craft so long to lerne

View rawdawgs50's profile


83 posts in 4510 days

#4 posted 04-27-2012 12:47 AM

Looks good Lex. Nice motor setup. The tophats are popping up everywhere. Pretty soon everyone will catch on and realize how well they work. They will be as common as a router table. Get that blog up.

I am working on a CNC file for this so it can be cut in a matter of minutes.


p.s….the link you have to Thein’s site needs to be updated.

View dbhost's profile


5913 posts in 4724 days

#5 posted 04-27-2012 02:57 AM

I don’t always agree with Bill Pentz, but it is hard to argue with his work. He and Phil are the ones that have me with my dust collection setup as it is. Too bad it’s not all inclusive yet, but I am getting there!

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View Jeremy Greiner's profile

Jeremy Greiner

568 posts in 4264 days

#6 posted 04-27-2012 06:46 AM

I’ve been debating doing the exact same thing with a top hat design on those brute trash cans.

What did you use to line the inside of the the curved top hat? Yours looks pretty easy to build I really like it.


-- Easy to use end grain cutting board designer:

View harvey4804's profile


120 posts in 4174 days

#7 posted 04-27-2012 07:14 AM


would you be able to save it as a .DXF file?

-- Ryan, FRMR HMM165 - HMX1 01-10

View rawdawgs50's profile


83 posts in 4510 days

#8 posted 04-27-2012 01:05 PM

Jeremy it looks like it was thin sheet metal but Lex will have to chime in for sure. I used laminate for mine which works great as well.

you can see the whole build here with video

No prob but it will be close to a month until I can test it. I have customer’s pieces to get wrapped up before I can have some downtime. I am going to tweak the design as well to test something else.

View LexWoodWorks's profile


15 posts in 3714 days

#9 posted 04-27-2012 01:13 PM

Jeremy….I wanted the inside of the top hat to be a smooth as possible to promote the cyclonic air flow. I had some aluminum flashing lying around the shop and went with it. Thin metal can be tough to work with…it took a while to get it all flat and smooth. In hindsight I think I might have used some other other type of plastic laminate but at the end of the day the flashing worked. I glued it on with Loctite Powergrab using just about every single clamp I owned. This had the side benefit of finally proving to my wife that you can never really have enough clamps!

Here’s a pic of the glue up

The important part of the inside are the transitions or “ramps” inside the top hat. I spent a good amount of time thinking about the airflow and trying to come up with a way to eliminate any “hard corners” inside the unit. There are most likely easier ways than what I came up with (see photos below) but it works and it was fun to build. Everything you see is sheet metal construction with rivets, super glue and sheet metal screws.

-- the lyf so short the craft so long to lerne

View Ken90712's profile


18123 posts in 4681 days

#10 posted 04-27-2012 01:41 PM

Great work, Im sure it will serve you well for yrs!

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View gubawatts's profile


7 posts in 3780 days

#11 posted 04-27-2012 04:29 PM

Lex, nice looking piece of equipment. Where does the exhaust from the fan go, to a filter?


-- "You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” ― Mae West

View Jeremy Greiner's profile

Jeremy Greiner

568 posts in 4264 days

#12 posted 04-27-2012 05:08 PM

Hi Lex,
Thanks for the info, I don’t have any aluminum or laminate laying around so whatever I get, I’ll have to buy and wondered what was the best/easiest but it looks like the metal was difficult to work with so I might be better off with the plastic laminate like rawdawg did

-- Easy to use end grain cutting board designer:

View steliart's profile


2895 posts in 4181 days

#13 posted 04-28-2012 03:06 PM

very cool work done here, thx

-- Stelios L.A. Stavrinides: - I am not so rich to buy cheap tools, but... necessity is the mother of inventions !!!

View harvey4804's profile


120 posts in 4174 days

#14 posted 05-02-2012 07:45 AM

Pitbull, thanks keep me posted. I have some scrap expanded PVC laying around that needs to get used before it gets tossed. I’m thinking the PVC material may also improve airflow over plywood. I may also play around on the waterjet and see if different size/shape openings also help.

-- Ryan, FRMR HMM165 - HMX1 01-10

View LexWoodWorks's profile


15 posts in 3714 days

#15 posted 09-26-2012 06:31 PM

Update for those who are interested…

I’ve been using the DC for a couple months now and can’t rave enough about it.

First I wanted to answer question from Gubawatts above: The unit exhausts straight out the back of the shop. No filter to impede any flow on this baby! The blower housing has a 8” exhaust port that I’ve connected to a ~10’ run of insulated HVAC flex pipe. This little bit of hose has made all the difference in completing this project and making it 100% effective.

The backstory here is I’ve been futzing quite a bit to figure out way to reduce the sound footprint of the DC. My first attempt was PVC pipe out the side of the shop. Not so good. It sound like the space shuttle lifting off…my decibel meter tickled the 80 mark. Thank god my neighbor wasn’t home.

Next up was a home built “glass pack” muffler based on PSI’s / Oneida’s design. Better but not quite there…~74 db.

So then I read about a about a guy who tried insulated HVAC flex pipe. So I went to Depot, spent $25 bucks and had a go with it. I installed the flex pipe directly onto the blower housing with some aluminum tape. I also introduced a very gentle “S” curve in the pipe so there wasn’t a direct (“line of sight”) connection to the outside.

This worked like a charm. Sound meter now reads below 67 and in addition the percieved low frequency “hum” is all but gone. All you hear is a quiet “whoosh” from the air leaving the flex pipe.

At this point you might ask, “What about dust particles exiting the flex pipe?”. I’ll tell you…there is nothing coming out of that flex pipe other than really small (my guess is sub-30 micron…who knows?) dust. You can’t see them… that’s for sure.

I just finished a project in the house where I had to re-surface some old, wide plank, pumpkin pine floors. I must have planed at least 300 – 400 board feet and there were no (ie…ZERO) chips or visible dust outside the flex pipe. To be honest I couldn’t believe it myself…but it’s true.

While I was standing there in amazement…I rubbed my hand inside the flex pipe only to find a light coating of chalk like material. As soon as I saw this…I knew the DC was working. The Thien separated out all of the big (and a good portion of the small) particles in the airstream. The rest of the extremely small (and dangerous) stuff goes outside to be carried away on the next breeze.

Anticipating your next question, “What about the heating and cooling losses? are pumping 2000+ CFM out of the shop in the WINTER!!!...are you crazy??!?

The short answer is yes, I’m crazy. This is where compromises need to be made. I choose clean lungs. My logic is that I’d rather have my small space heater on during the Winter (or an AC during the summer) than have my lungs full of dust. In addition you don’t run the DC all the time (at least, I don’t) so the heating losses are small when you think about it. Look at it this way….you’ve got an entire shop full of machines, wood, etc. All this stuff is at or near the ambient temperature you keep your shop at. When you turn the DC on, you bring cold air in and exhaust it outside. In the winter, all of the “stuff” in your shop immediately starts to radiate heat to make up any difference in addition to the space heater I’ve got running. In the summer time (assuming you have a dehumidifier or AC) kicks on and makes up the difference. No doubt this is not a perfect analysis and I’m far from a HVAC or Mechanical Engineer…but I think it makes sense.

In summary, the Thien-ClearVue DC works like a champ. Between the high CFM airflow to capture the smallest dust, the separation of the particles and the “no neighbor distrubed” sound profile this design is a winner. Skip the filters and the cyclones sold online and have a go with this build – you won’t be disappointed. In hindsight it wasn’t too hard and now you can benefit from all of my mistakes!!!

Once again…credit where credit is due: Bill Pentz and Phil Thien’s websites were extremely valuable for this entire project. They really know their stuff. All of this is a derivative of their extensive research and hard work.

-- the lyf so short the craft so long to lerne

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