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My "Green" Dust Collection System

Not "green" in the environmental sense, mind you…but green in a very literal sense. I've spent literally months planning out most of the details of my new shop, since before they broke ground. One of the features I was most anxious to include that I was unable to have in my shared garage space was an honest-to-goodness central dust collection system. One of the earliest decisions I needed to make: metal or plastic?

Metal of Plastic?

I first read Sandor Nagyszalanczy's oft recommended book "Woodshop Dust Control" where he makes a strong argument against the use of plastic PVC piping for ductwork citing the risk of explosions that could ruin your day/shop/life/etc. After reading this book it was clear to me that metal was the only way to go. That was, until I began researching actually purchasing the stuff. Expensive. What's more, the stuff they sell at the "Big Box" stores is too thin…so the only real way to do this with metal ducting, beyond finding a local supplier (which I was unable to do) is to meticulously plot out the whole thing and place one big order to have shipped to the shop. While I'm no stranger to meticulous planning, I've never setup a dust collection system before and was not 100% sure I could plot this out perfectly without actually attempting to fit some pieces together first. In fact, I was pretty darn certain that I couldn't plan this out to the last screw in advance of ordering the materials. I just knew I'd get half-way done with the install and either change my mind or realize I needed some other type of fitting(s) to finish the job. Without a local supplier, I'd be forced to place an order-likely a small one-and incur additional shipping charges and delays. Time's too much of a premium to lose an entire day because I can't get what I need. This realization sent me searching for alternatives.

It didn't take long for me to find some interesting forum discussions online…but the clincher for me was this extremely well-crafted article. The upshot of reading this article was that I was now certain that I would definitely use the cheaper/easier-to-find S&D PVC piping for my system. Fortunately or Un- I was now also paranoid about what I could appreciate was the most dangerous aspect of my dust collection system-a smoldering fire in a collection bag. (Mental note: daily emptying of the bags is a must. But I digress…)

A bit of searching locally initially indicated that my local "Big Box" stores carried only up to 4" diameter piping. My basic math says that I'd really be better off using a minimum of 5" ducting for the main run. As S&D pipes aren't offered in 5", I opted for the next size up…which, as I mentioned, I was unable to locate locally. That is, until an unrelated and rare trip to Menards where I discovered all the 6" and 4" fittings and pipe I would ever need. Excellent.

Goin' Green

Menards stocks their PVC piping in an outdoor lumber yard. This meant that I placed an order off a sheet with a nice picture of white 6" PVC pipe listed as ASTM 2729 S&D. When I got into the yard, however, the pipe was actually the green stuff..ASTM 3034/SDR35. The Menards product number on the sticker on the pipe and the label on the bin matched my receipt, so I'm not sure if there was a mistake in their inventory or their labeling…or if they for some reason sell the 3034 and 2729 interchangably (seems unlikely), but I didn't see the 2729 anywhere so I figured I'd use the somewhat heavier, green 3034 that I had paid for rather than start the hunt over again. I purchased a few 10' lengths of the 4" thin white stuff from Lowes as well figuring I'd at least have white drops.


I purchased my blast gates and quick disconnect fittings from my local Woodcraft store and started the assembly. What I discovered during the assembly was that the thicker-walled SDR35 was a significantly snugger fit for the pipe fittings. Also, while a special coupling is required to attach the blast gates to 2729, they fit perfectly in the green stuff. So, while the 2729 is a bit cheaper and much lighter, I save money overall with the SDR35 since there are no adapters needed to fit the blast gates to the pipes. Serendipity.

Assembly continues apace. I'm currently roughly 50% complete with the core installation, that is the main 6" line is 80% complete and half the drops are essentially in. I still need to build the hoods for the RAS and CMS and work out the details of the fittings for the router table, which will likely take more time than the assembly time to date. I've still got the two cameras capturing the process and have been sure to move them as needed as there's no one position that can capture even most of the shop. Editing of the time-lapse is ongoing and I will be posting the completed video when the job is done, natch.

(originally posted at
That set up looks great. I am looking forward to the updates which you will keep posting I hope.

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A Short But Productive Weekend


I've been dying to start stowing my tools away in the newly built shop cabinets-getting them both organized and out of the garage where they're making it difficult to keep the car. The last remaining obstacle was finishing the countertops. Not that I couldn't finish them with the drawers full…but some time ago I noted that while the tops were individually level, they weren't perfectly in the same plane with each other. If they're not properly aligned, I'll have a heck of a time using my compound miter saw accurately. Therefore, until I remedied the situation, the drawers needed to remain empty and easy to maneuver. This weekend was my chance.




Once they were properly aligned I routed a 3/4" wide x 1/2" deep dado in the tops 16" from the wall to accept a mini t-track. I had originally planned to use the blue stuff that Rockler sells-but I live much closer to a Woodcraft. Turns out that the only track Woodcraft carries that matches these dimensions is the siginficantly more expensive Incra stuff. Now, you're probably thinking: Why didn't he buy the track first and then route the dado to fit? The simple truth is I had neglected to order the stuff in advance (bad planning) and I didn't want to stop working to head out to the store and the only track I had on hand was a length of the Rockler stuff. I also was actually planning to head to Rockler until google maps reminded me just how long a drive it was…2 hours round trip not counting shopping time would have put too big a dent into my limited time. I ultimately decided to spend the extra bucks for the Incra track rather than wait for a delivery from Rockler. This turned out to be a good move. The Incra stuff is simply better…and for one single reason: the track leaves a space for the mounting screws. My regular mini-track can be a bit annoying to work with since the screws fit into a small countersink…and if you're even a hair off alignment of the screw, the head will protrude from the surface and at the very least provide an occasional snag as you're adjusting your stop block. Incra solves this by giving the screws their own space by milling little ledges on the sides above the screw heads for the guides to ride on. The screws can stand proud of the bottom without a snag. Simple but elegant and worth the extra $$.

Jointer Dust Port

One of the items I had left 'til now was hooking up the dust collection to my Ridgid 6" jointer. The jointer lives under the countertop in the middle of the wall. I cut a hole in the back corner of the top and continued the run under the counter. I installed the blast gate at a convenient spot just above the counter.


CMS Dust Collection

Collection from my DeWalt 706 CMS was a bigger unknown. When setting up the PVC lines, I set a 4" drop with blast gate just off center of the saw on the wall behind it. As I started to work out the details, I realized that I'd have to offset the pipe a bit more. The reason was that I wanted to have a hose hooked up to the built-in dust collection port installed in the "throat" of the saw…but I knew from past experience that this wouldn't be sufficient, so I also was planning to build a venturi-box to collect from a wider area just behind the saw. The problem is that the hose sticking out of the back of the saw presses in pretty low at the back, making it impossible to run a pipe straight down from behind. Thankfully I didn't use any glue in connecting the PVC, so moving the drop roughly 6" to the right was fairly straightforward. At this point I've got the 1-1/2" hose hooked up to the saw and a 4" open pipe waiting to be hooked up to the yet-to-be-built venturi box. Next weekend, maybe?


Remote Control

This is still a work in progress-and if you've read this far and have had any experience at all, I very much welcome your suggestions/recommendations/comments. No where is this more true than with my emerging remote control setup. The dust collector is plugged into a 240V 20A Leviton X10-enabled outlet. I use Insteon for the majority of lighting controllers in my house and for the most part I love it. I decided to extend this into the shop. Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, there was no Insteon version of the 240v oulet. As Insteon is X-10 compatible, I decided to try it. I was unable to find much information/discussion online regarding using X-10 for dust collection, though I seem to recall reading a comment somewhere where someone indicated that it was less than reliable. This doesn't surprise me as I've read quite a bit about the unreliability of X-10, and in fact have experienced it first hand in my setup where I've been forced to use it. Undeterred (or crazy), I decided to forge ahead anyway. Early on I had considered a blast-gate operated system like the Long Ranger or JDS system. It certain is an elegant solution, but the thing is I wasn't sure I wanted to be forced to close all the gates in order to turn off the system…though there is clearly an advantage in that you'd know when a gate was inadvertantly left open. Anyway, I still wasn't sold and have thought that what I'd really prefer is a bunch of discrete momentary switches placed strategically around the shop - a single switch that I could press once to turn on and then again on any of them to turn it off again. After some searching and a brief chat with a Smarthome employee, I decided to try an X10 Universal Module. It's still not clear to me that "mode 3" will actually do what I want - I'm very skeptical - but the Smarthome guy said it would and for $26, I'm willing to give it a try. I also picked up an X-10 keychain remote. In the meantime, I've programmed one of the buttons on my main shop KeypadLinc to control collector and have also plugged in an extra X10 controller I happened to have gathering dust in a corner. I guess it's still gathering dust, just in a very different way!


(originally posted at
Awesome looking shop.

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Hacking the Delta 50-875 Air Cleaner

(This post is based on a forum thread.)

After completing my dust collection system installation, I turned to my air cleaner, the Delta 50-875. I had decided to install it just above my table saw-about 2/3rd's of the way along the wall, where the intake would be in line with the front door and the outfeed inline with the ceiling mounted vent fan. After reading "Woodshop Dust Control" this seemed like the ideal placement and this location had the added benefit of not obscuring any usable wall space-which is at a premium in my small shop.


An Awkward Arrangement

One of the selling points of this unit is the built-in infrared remote control that allows you to install it out of reach and control it from below. The problem is that the remote sensor is in the back of the unit. While the unit location is ideal for air flow, it's rather awkward for IR control as I'd need to walk around to the back of the unit, and to a "far" corner of the shop, to turn it on/off. I've always thought that what I really wanted to do was to control it with a switched outlet. The problem with that scenario is that the control panel built into the unit is solid state and doesn't "remember" the settings when you unplug the unit. That is, if you turn it on and then switch off the outlet it's plugged into, when you switch the outlet back on, the air cleaner will remain "off" until you again manually press the "on" key on the unit or the remote control.

So, there was no way to make this happen…or was there? I reasoned that since it's just an electric motor and a control panel, certainly there would be a way to re-wire the unit, bypassing the built-in solid-state controls so that I could hook to a switched outlet.



The air cleaner itself is pretty basic. It's a rectangular metal box with a blower motor/fan in a housing, and a control panel. The motor and control panel are both mounted on the back panel which is simply screwed into the metal box. Once the backpanel assembly, including the blower was removed, I began the process of working out exactly what needed to be done to re-wire the motor. Fortunately, the motor wiring connects to wires from the controller through a nylon connector that, once unplugged provided an easy means of measuring various voltages and resistance. As I knew nothing about wiring AC motors, I began the process with a google search…many of them. Unfortunately, none provided me with anything that I could really use to definitively determine how this motor worked. In fact, I was left with more questions than I'd had originally…who knew there were so many types of AC motors! Initially, as there were 3 colored wires (Red, Blue and Black) and one White (clearly "common"), I assumed there were 3 windings and each color represented one of the 3 speeds that the unit boasts. Based on what I'd read, however, I was now concerned that the large-ish capacitor on the red wire indicated that I might have a "capacitor start" motor which would require something more complicated than simply applying voltage to one of the wires. Perhaps an electrical engineer, at this point, would have provided me a definitive way to check this out…but there weren't any in my shop, so I tried a different tack.

I reasoned that the best way to reverse engineer this setup was to hook up each of the colored wires in turn to my volt meter-using white for common-and turn the unit on, cycle through the various speed settings and note the voltages. This did the trick. Here are the measured results:


Clearly this was going to be as straight-forward as I had first hoped! Red = slow, blue = medium and black = fast. That's all there was to it!

Let the hacking begin…

Now I was ready to start. In thinking through exactly how I wanted to wire this up, I realized that I might want to have the ability to change the speed at some point without opening the unit up. I also figured it would be pretty simple to install a switch that would basically allow me to "undo" this hack and use the unit as nature, and the Chinese factory had intended without having to un-hang and re-open the unit. The solution was a couple toggle switches. Since there's an Ace hardware store right up the street from my office, I decided to stop by at lunch and see what they had. I was looking for a SP3T rotary switch that would allow me to cycle through all three speeds-but the only one they had was rated at 4A max. The fuse mounted in the control panel is rated at 5A, so I figured this switch wouldn't do. The next closest was a SPDT switch, center off-and two speeds seemed "close enough." For the "hack bypass" switch, I got a DPDT. While it seemed like it should be sufficient to switch only the "hot" wire, since I was going to essentially be supplying power to the output of the controller when using the hack (see drawing), I was concerned that a closed common connection might allow a circuit to complete and result in "who knows what"(tm) happening. So, I decided the safest thing to do would be to simply switch both common and hot.

The plan

Here's a basic drawing of what was done:

50-875 hack

Moving forward

So the whole point of this modification was to allow me to control the unit by a switched outlet. The switched outlet is managed by an Insteon SwitchLinc which will allow for event-driven activation, such as turning on and off automatically with tools and/or the dust collection unit and wireless RF remote control via an X10 keychain remote. I'll be refining the programming over the coming weeks/months.



(originally posted at
Very nice write up on the conversion you made. I want to say that your shop is an inspiration and I look forward to your blog postings about it.
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