Clear Vue Cyclone Review

Clear Vue Cyclones Model 1800LH Review

Reviewing the Clear Vue Cyclones Model 1800LH The reason that we woodworkers need to implement dust collection in our shops is not to keep the shop clean per se, as a broom can do an adequate job of that for a fraction of the cost. The real purpose of dust collection is to keep the microscopic dust out of our lungs, where it can do all kinds of bad things to us.  In spite of that, many dust collection systems fail to protect us against this chronic allergen/irritant/carcinogen that floats pervasively where we work and play. Many systems come up short because they deliver insufficient airflow and provide unsafe levels of dust filtration. To steal a phrase from Al Gore, these facts can be considered the “inconvenient truths” of woodworking dust collection.

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

Reviewing the Clear Vue Cyclones Model 1800LH Unpack and take inventory. Everything was packed extremely well, and in perfect condition. The quality of joints and machined surfaces was perfect. A quick walk through of the instructions while the parts were laid out reassured me that everything was there and it was obvious that the process would be straightforward. The instructions were clear, and included a lot of pictures that were helpful.

Reviewing the Clear Vue Cyclones Model 1800LH(Easily adjusted bracket design for my installation.)

Installation adjustments.

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.

Reviewing the Clear Vue Cyclones Model 1800LHEasy installation. Complete installation, including pulling a 10 gauge wire through the attic of my shop, took about 4-1/2 hours, with a helper. The manual said it would take 4 hours, not including wiring, so our experience was right in line, and honestly much faster, than I expected. David, my assembly partner, and I agreed that the project was actually unexpectedly fun, and not intimidating in the least.

Reviewing the Clear Vue Cyclones Model 1800LHPre-wired electrical box is a great option.When I had originally researched Clear Vue, the only thing that I was concerned about was the wiring installation. I know basic wiring pretty well, but this looked a bit intimidating to me. Fortunately, the Bushey brothers recognized this as well. They now offer a pre-wired electrical box that takes all of the guesswork out of the process (I don’t like guessing with 30 amp service!). You can still wire it “from scratch” if you prefer, but this is faster and simpler in my view. They still advise having an electrician install the pre-wired, fully UL compliant box, but if you are comfortable with basic wiring you should be ok here. If you have the slightest reservation, however, hire the electrician. It shouldn’t cost much because 95% of the work is already done.I did not experience any surprises during the installation. We spent the next day extending my ducting to additional tools to take advantage of the new power, and then it was ready for action.

Let’s run a few tests

Reviewing the Clear Vue Cyclones Model 1800LHHow loud is it? The first test that I ran was a sound measurement. Proper dust collection is going to make some noise and I wanted to see how loud it was. I was expecting it to be quite loud, given the large 5 HP motor, and the fact that it is spinning a huge 15″ impeller and moving air at blinding speeds. From 10 feet away, (which is the standard measuring distance) it measured at 88-89 decibels. I was expecting worse. I suspect that sound levels for various installations will vary quite a bit depending upon the size of your shop, height of ceilings, wall material, etc. In my shop, you can carry a conversation when it is running, albeit with voices raised. My old dust collector ran at 84 decibels in the same setting, and had a much smaller motor and impeller. As another comparison point, my planer screams at over 100 decibels. I had planned on building an insulated closet around the cyclone to muffle the sound, but since I generally wear hearing protection when I am operating power tools, and the sound cannot be heard from most rooms in the attached house, I probably won’t bother with the closet. If you have the space to build an enclosure with sound dampening material, however, it is not a bad idea.

How well does it actually suck?

Reviewing the Clear Vue Cyclones Model 1800LHBowling ball test? If you want a simple summary without having to digest all of the data in the table below, here it is: COWABUNGA! Don’t let pets or small children near the dust ports, or they might disappear as fast as the dust in your shop! If this thing can suck up a bowling ball from the longest duct run in my shop, I don’t think it will break a sweat with little particles of wood dust. But, for those engineering types among us, let’s proceed to some data!Air movement measured in Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM), along with velocity measured in Feet Per Minute (FPM), are standard ways to measure the capabilities of dust collection systems. The amount of air movement at the inlet to the dust collector itself is an important starting point and is a function of several things including the impeller size, design and power of the motor. This is the point from which the dust collector vendors normally take their air flow measurements. Ultimately what is important, is how much air movement occurs at each of our dust producing tools. This is what I measured, which means the values are not as high as they would be in a laboratory test, but they are an actual example of real world data from one guy’s shop.

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.

Reviewing the Clear Vue Cyclones Model 1800LHCFM = Cubic feet per minute, and is a measure of the volume of air captured and moved through the pipe. The ideal minimum target is 1000 CFM per tool. FPM = Feet per Minute, which is a measure of velocity of air movement. The minimum target is 4000 FPM.These measurements show dramatic improvement in airflow. Another way to illustrate this point was when I first fired up the Clear Vue cyclone after my ductwork was in place. As I opened each blast gate, there was substantial amount of dust pulled to the cyclone, even though I wasn’t operating any of the machines! There was a great deal of residual dust and debris left in the pipes and interior corners of my tools that my old system had failed to capture. I was actually cleaning the ductwork and my tools with the new cyclone.

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:

Reviewing the Clear Vue Cyclones Model 1800LHFilter Clean-out Box. This makes cleaning the filter a breeze. Even though you won’t have to do it very often, it makes life easy when you do. It has a 4″ PVC connection so you can hook a flex pipe to it and clean it out in seconds after blowing the dust free from the filter using low pressure compressed air.

Reviewing the Clear Vue Cyclones Model 1800LHFiber Drum. I like this better than using a trash can. Seals better, looks cooler. I bought mine from McMaster Carr. Including shipping to my door this was only $41. The folks at Clear Vue indicated that they were looking into adding these to their product line as well.

Reviewing the Clear Vue Cyclones Model 1800LHRemote Control. It’s handy to have a remote and it is a relatively inexpensive add-on. The pre-wired electrical box from Clear Vue comes with a nice radio frequency remote and you can order additional transmitters to keep one by each tool. I bought three additional transmitters and placed one near my table saw, jointer, planer and miter saw.

Reviewing the Clear Vue Cyclones Model 1800LHClear Vue blast gates. These are the best blast gates I have ever seen for use with 6″ PVC. They fit perfectly on the outside of the pipe (plastic and metal go into the inside, serving as a bottleneck), operate smoothly, and don’t leak. As my old plastic ones break, and I have a track record of cracking them, I will replace them with these. The metal ones I have work well enough so I probably won’t replace those, but I’ll add the new plastic/metal versions for any new ports moving forward.

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

Sources:

  • CV1800 LH Single Phase With Filter, $1,476
  • CVBG 6″ Blast Gate, $15
  • CVELECBX Electrical Box, $250 (includes remote)
  • CVCLEANOUT Filter Cleanout Box, $75
  • 4142T3 30 Gal Fiber Drum with Galvanized Steel Rims, $34

Clear Vue Cyclones

www.clearvuecyclones.com

888-299-0221

McMaster Carr

www.mcmaster.com

630-600-3600

Discussion
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9 Responses to “Clear Vue Cyclone Review”
  1. Phil Gallasch

    How long has it been since the installation of the Clear Vue? Has it held up to your expectations? Would you purchase it or another brand today?

    Reply
    • WWGOA Team

      Hi, Phil!

      It’s been about 4-5 years now, and it still works great. The CFM has held solid over time, and I rarely have to clean the filters. If I were going to buy a cyclone today I would not have any reservations about going with Clear Vue.

      Reply
  2. Kim Kasdorf

    Very nice review. I bought my CV1800 directly from Ed Morgano shortly before he sold the business and I really could not be happier with it after over four years of use. A couple of points I would like to make. Closing off the bottom of the filter stack, usually with a clean out box is not really an option. If the bottom of the stack is left open system performance will suffer greatly. This was clearly demonstrated by the poor review done by Wood Magazine where their system was not so carefully assembled and suffered accordingly.

    Another thing that is an option I would highly reccommend is to add a bin sensor to warn and then shut down the system when the dust bin gets full. I have the McRabbet sensor that Clear-Vue sells and it works beautifully.

    Finally, I would suggest that anyone considering a cyclone system take the time to check out the pretty extensive site of Bill Pentz and also the Clear Vue User Forum. There is a wealth of great information on both sites that you can bore your friends and family with.

    Reply
  3. Al

    What are the dimensions of your shop? Would 4″ pipes (ducts) be adequate? My shop is 12′ x 22′. Two tools never running at the same time.

    Reply
    • WWGOA Team

      My current shop is 24×30. Your duct size is more of a function of how much CFM you need to adequately collect dust for a given tool, and how much CFM your dust collector can deliver. For many dust collectors in the 1-1.5 HP range, you won’t be able to move enough air to utilize a 6″ duct, because debris will build up in the duct system. If your dust collector fits into that size range, then you are better off going with 4″ ducts because you will be able to keep the air speed up to an adequate level to keep the line clear. For some tools, this will provide adequate CFM to keep the air clear of small dust particles, and in other cases, you will leave some dust lingering in the air. But a smaller dust collector with 4″ pipes will be MUCH better than no dust collector at all! If you have a machine that has the ability to move AIR the way that the ClearVue does, then I would figure out a way to use 6″ ducts to your bigger tools if at all possible, because it will make a significant difference in CFM and air quality in your shop.

      Reply
  4. Spencer Taylor

    I share your concerns. I would question your method of determining quality of performance. You said you took a spoon and scraped the dust off the filter. I would think an air quality test inside the shop would be a more accurate test. Regards Spencer ps thanks for all your research time.

    Reply
    • WWGOA Team

      I didn’t actually use a spoon to scrape the filter, but was actually just making a reference to the volume of dust that ended up in the bottom of the filter stack after cleaning the filter with low-pressure compressed air. This is a non-scientific approach to determine the effectiveness of the air/dust separation capabilities of the cyclone. Air quality (particulate count) would be a good scientific approach to measure the overall effectiveness of the dust collection system, but would not be useful in determining air/dust separation within the cyclone. The cyclone could perform poorly on separation, but high on dust capture, which would mean that a lot of dust was getting trapped in the filter, and you would need to clean the filter a lot. One of the biggest benefits that I noticed when upgrading to the ClearVue system is that I rarely have to clean the filter, and CFM performance remains high. With my previous system I had to constantly clean the filter or CFM would plummet.

      Reply
  5. Larry Boehmler

    I am building a new shop and need a new dust system. If I send you a diagram of the building and tool placement will you tell me what system will work best?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi Larry,
      There are lots of good options out there. I’d suggest taking a look at Oneida, Jet, Laguna and Clear Vue. All of these are known to be good quality dust collectors.
      Paul

      Reply