I'm sick of sawdust. I use a circular saw and a router by Hitachi with hacked-on plastic ports that I can attach to my Ridgid shop vac, and frankly speaking, the dust collection sucks. The problem is either the vac, the port connection or the design of my (admittedly low-cost) power tools themselves, as they're not designed for the stellar dust collection of the much-pricier Festool offerings.
For starters, let's say it's the vac. Cleaning out a shop vac filter is a holy PITA, as just using an air compressor isn't enough; you really need to blow from inside the filter while scraping between the vanes, which takes freaking forever, to say nothing of the mess created. But if you don't do it on a regular basis the sawdust trapped in the vanes becomes impacted, and your vacuum's efficiency drops way down. You also need to do this outdoors (no easy feat in my crowded Manhattan neighborhood), unless you plan on vacuuming up the mess again with the same vac, defeating the entire purpose of your exercise.
If you don't clean out the filter, you wind up with a weak-ass vacuum, which means the tool it's hooked up to blows more dust all over the place. This might not be a problem for those of you with dedicated shop areas, but since the only workspace I have is in the photography studio I run, I need to eliminate every mote of dust before the next shooter comes in. So I've been searching for an alternative.
All of you that work in small shops that cut wood have heard of cyclones, which drastically reduce the amount of dust that clogs up your shop vac's filter. The idea is that by attaching your vac to this conical intermediary, then feeding a second hose to the actual tool, most of the dust (and particularly the fine particles) gets sucked away by the vortex and into a bucket for easy disposal. Using physics, or aerodynamics I guess, even a modestly-powered vacuum can create a powerful cyclone. Just ask Dyson.
There are a bunch of cyclones on the market, but which to buy? I was able to find just three options within my modest budget: Oneida's Dust Deputy, ClearVue's Mini CV06 and Rockler's Dust Right Vortex, all for around the same price of 80-90 bucks. Oneida's of course a prominent manufacturer of vacuums, ClearVue's larger CVMAX system has an awesome reputation in big shops (though I can't afford a full $1,845 CVMAX system) and Rockler's stuff is pretty hit-and-miss; they're one of those companies that I've found has no problem stocking junk alongside some stellar products, which for some reason pisses me off more than if they'd just sold junk.Luckily for me, I found the Wood Whisperer guy did a review of these three models exactly. It was done several months ago, which is why he refers to out-of-date prices: Since the review went live, Clearvue's Mini CV06 dropped from $149 to $79, Rockler's dropped from $89 to $74.99 and Oneida's increased from $79 to $89. Does that give you any indication of which one worked best?
See 'em in action:
Before I bite the $90 bullet on the Oneida, there is another option I'm looking into, a clever DIY solution devised by an unselfish woodworker. But before I get to that—do you guys have any good cyclonic experience? Please let us know in the comments below. (And I'm not looking to hear from those of you that work in large shops with a CVMAX—have some mercy and don't brag about your Ferrari when I'm shopping for a Volkswagen. Jerks.)