Clear Vue Cyclones Model 1800LH Review
My “Before” Situation
I had convinced myself that I was getting by for a while with a 1.5HP dust collector with a 2 micron cartridge filter; a pretty typical hobbyist woodshop dust collection configuration. As time went on, however, I realized that it wasn’t as good as I had originally thought. Fine dust was still accumulating everywhere, and I could still “taste dust” after a day in the shop. As my shop grew and my tool arsenal expanded, I realized that my dust collector was under-performing in a couple of key areas:
Not enough oomph. The suction from this system was adequate (barely) for very short runs, but not for the large duct system that I now had in place. When my dust collector was operating at peak performance (right after the filter was cleaned), it was picking up most of the chips and larger dust particles, but far too many of the fine dust particles were ending up in my nose and lungs rather than in the dust bag.
Filter clogging quickly. Like most single stage systems, mine did a dreadful job of separating the fine dust from the air and it packed a great deal of it into the filter. This quickly killed performance and required frequent cleaning (sometimes multiple times per day). A separator could have been added to deal with some of this, but these can also degrade performance a bit, and even with better separation I still lacked the suction that my shop configuration requires, so the “fine dust in the nose” problem would have remained.
I Finally Got Serious About Solving the Problem
These problems had been on my mind for several years so I did extensive research on many aspects of dust collection, including filters, cyclones, ducting, etc. My goals for upgrading my dust collection system were simple:
- Capture all the dust at the source. I wanted to exceed the suction requirements to each tool, giving me headroom to expand the system. Fine dust was settling everywhere in my shop, and worse, drifting into my attached home where it was irritating my son’s asthma and dust allergies. The starting point for achieving this requirement is with a powerful system capable of adequate suction through a network of ductwork.
- Put as much of the dust in the barrel as possible. I hated cleaning my filter all the time and seeing my performance degrade, so I wanted a system that put the fine dust in the barrel, along with the chips, leaving the filter clear and free flowing. Plus, if it lands in the bag, there is no chance that it will sneak past the filter and back into your shop air. For this requirement we need to look at the dust collector’s ability to separate fine dust from the air that it pulls through the system. I talked to many vendors and owners of various dust collection systems to get perspective on this.
- Capture anything in the filter that sneaks past the barrel. I wanted a filter that trapped more of the fine dust without pumping it back into my shop. My old filter would spew everything smaller than 2 microns (about the size of a hair’s thickness) back into my shop’s air at nose level. If your filter doesn’t capture it, your nose hairs are the next line of defense (not pleasant). If they don’t get it, your lungs are next in line (worse scenario). To alleviate this concern, we need a filter with a rating of below 1 micron, ideally in the .5 micron range, to capture the majority of the dust that might otherwise get pumped back into the shop.
Clear Vue Cyclones Stood Out In My Analysis
Both my experience and my research suggested that single stage dust collection systems were not optimized for fine dust separation, so I decided that a cyclone design would better serve my needs. Cyclones do a better job of separating dust out of the air and putting it into the collection barrel, rather than into a filter. Over the years of doing my investigation, many new entrants got into the cyclone game. I talked to owners and read user accounts of their experience, reviews, etc. I also spoke with most of the manufacturers to gauge their understanding of dust collection and to get their perspectives on the strengths of their design. My research drove me to the conclusion that Clear Vue Cyclones had what I wanted. They were known for great air movement performance, leading in fine dust separation and great filtration. I also liked their creative design, using clear PETG for the cyclone body that allows you to monitor what is happening as it collects debris. Plus the product is American made by a small, innovative company using the cyclone design of Bill Pentz, an iconic figure who has been a major advocate for modernizing small shop dust collection, and whose research has influenced much of my own thinking on this topic.
Part of my early research included multiple telephone and email conversations with Ed Morgano, the founder and then-owner of Clear Vue Cyclones. But around the same time that I came to the conclusion that Clear Vue was my choice, Mr. Morgano announced that he was shutting down the company due to personal reasons.
Perhaps a year later I learned that Clear Vue Cyclones had been purchased by three brothers: James, Paul and Chuck Bushey, who had moved the company’s operations to Seattle. I refreshed my research to be sure that Clear Vue was still my choice, and indeed, it was. I contacted the Bushey brothers to get a sense for their passion for the business and their intentions for moving forward. I have seen businesses that “lose their soul” when they change hands and I wanted to feel confident that this was not the case. I was delighted to find that the new owners carry the same passion for dust collection as Ed Morgano. They also bring a fresh level of energy to the business that impresses me and fills me with confidence for the future of Clear Vue Cyclones. I liked everything that I heard, so I made arrangements to have them ship a unit to me.
Setup and Installation
The Clear Vue Cyclone comes as a kit. This requires a bit more installation time, but the advantage of this is that you have great flexibility in how it is installed and configured. An example of this was that I wanted to have the cyclone extend an additional 6″ from the wall to accommodate my existing ductwork. One call to Clear Vue (It’s cool when you call a company and the owner answers the phone and is actually the one who helps you) and they walked me through exactly how to modify the hanger bracket. The modification added about 5 minutes to the overall installation. And because the system is so light (only about 110 pounds), the bracket had no problem handling the additional burden placed on it by extending the cyclone further from the wall. I have also seen numerous examples of people making modifications to the unit to fit their purposes for low ceilings, angled installations, etc.
Let’s run a few tests
How well does it actually suck?
How much suction is needed?
The minimum air flow requirement per tool is a widely debated topic. From various sources you will see targets ranging from 300 CFM – woefully low for anything but chip collection, to 1100 CFM or higher, depending on the tool, to capture the fine dust that is most harmful. To keep our vertical ducting runs from plugging, we also need to keep the air speed at a minimum of about 4000 FPM. Based upon years of experience I am positive that my old system was not moving enough air through my 6″ ducts because there was dust left in the tools as well as in my ducts. I am equally confident that my new CV1800 system IS delivering adequate air flow to every tool because there is virtually no dust left in the tool or ducts, and the air quality is noticeably improved in the shop. When a ray of sunlight beams through my shop, I no longer see dust particles suspended in the air. So the effective minimum for my shop lies somewhere between the capabilities of my old and new systems. I am now quite happy to be above the line rather than below it. In my view, the objective is not to achieve the minimum, but to comfortably exceed it to allow for performance decline due to some filter clogging, and to allow for occasional use of two simultaneously open blast gates if your dust collector can handle it. It is a health hazard after all, so “squeaking by” should not be the goal.
“Real world” data from my shop
This table shows “before and after” data in my shop. Please note that this is not a highly scientific study and the airflow measurements are not presented as empirical data. I simply placed an anemometer at the end of the dust collection hose at the tool port for each tool. The measurements were taken in the same fashion for the before and after tests, so I am confident that the results are directionally accurate and the relative improvements are indicative of the net effect of my upgrade. Also, I fully acknowledge that I have additional work to do in running better ducts to some of my tools, and now with a dust collector that is capable of pulling more air, I will continue on my journey of continual refinement toward better dust capture. The main thing that I was interested in for now was the % improvement for each tool, and the results significantly exceeded my expectations.
What about separation of dust and air?
The final test of the system was how well it separated fine dust. I measured this by how much dust came out of the filter when I cleaned it. After running enough dust through the system to fill the bin twice, I got about two tablespoons of dust out of the filter and could not measure any drop in air movement prior to cleaning (those are big filters, so 2 tablespoons of dust wasn’t going to do much to clog it). My old system would have pushed well over a gallon, and probably more like 2-3 gallons into the filter in that time and would have suffered major drop in air movement that I couldn’t afford. So the CV1800 provided a huge improvement on the separation front. I will post back with an update after I have a bit more run-time with the system, but early indications are spectacular.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Do yourself a favor and take a hard look at your dust collection system. Is it removing the fine dust from the air and keeping it out of your lungs? Or is it simply sucking up the debris that you could remove with a broom and pumping fine particles back into the room? If you can justify stepping up to a cyclone, the CV1800 absolutely rocks. The upgrade has been a huge success on all fronts. Given the quality and performance of this system, I believe it would meet the needs of nearly any hobbyist or small professional woodworking shop. Plus, it is cool to see what is happening inside the cyclone by looking through the clear walls of the cyclone.
For most shops I believe that the CV1800 would be more than adequate, but for larger shops, or when you need to run multiple tools simultaneously on a regular basis, you might consider the CVMAX which uses a slightly larger impeller and expanded 8″ cyclone inlet and outlet. If a dust collector from Clear Vue Cyclones looks like a good fit for your requirements, I would encourage you to also consider the following options:
On a final note, a great dust collector is just the start of an effective overall dust management system. Proper duct design and installation is equally important and I will cover that in an upcoming article, along with other tips and tricks to maximize the effectiveness of your system.
Photos By Author
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Clear Vue Cyclones