If you ask most woodworkers to cite their least favorite aspect of woodworking, most would say “sanding”. When I asked that question of my father a while back, he said “I don’t mind sanding, but what bothers me is having to stop sanding about every 10 minutes to clear the filter on my shop vacuum”. He connects his 5-HP shop vacuum to a stationary oscillating belt sander which generates a considerable volume of dust in a short period of time. He also connects his random orbital sander and planer to the shop vacuum, which quickly clog the filter as well, requiring the messy job of emptying the dust and shavings from the shop vacuum. Major yuck.
There have been solutions for this in the past, but they were large and expensive. Now Oneida Air Systems offers a solution that is simple, economical, and consumes only a small footprint in the wood shop.
The Dust Deputy, $99, is a small cyclone separator that is placed between the tool and the shop vacuum, and uses air flow physics to remove a claimed 99% of dust before it finds its way to the shop vacuum where it would have otherwise quickly clogged the filter. The concept is identical to the way that Oneida’s larger dust collection cyclones work. Dusty air from the tool enters a cone shaped chamber at the top, and the suction pulls the air through the cone in a way that forms a tornado effect, forcing the debris to the bottom of the barrel while the clean air exists through the top of the barrel. It is one of those designs that looks and sounds super simple, but the physics behind it are quite impressive, optimizing for dust removal while suction performance remains intact.
We bought the Deluxe Kit, which is a turnkey configuration that includes everything necessary to connect to a shop vacuum and tool. Setup was simple, and the kit even includes hardware necessary to connect the Dust Deputy to the shop vacuum, which makes it more compact and less cumbersome. The kit includes universal input and output connections so that a variety of hose sizes can be used, to accommodate various sizes of shop vacuums on the market. (We tested with 2-1/2″ hose which is the largest that the Dust Deputy accepts.) The kit also cleverly includes a double bucket, which makes it simple to empty after it is attached to the shop vacuum.
Strengths: The Dust Deputy exceeded my expectations on nearly all fronts. It removed so much dust from the air stream that I could not find any measurable dust in the shop vacuum after thirty minutes of sanding with a belt sander. I thought I could overwhelm it by hooking it up to a planer, and repeatedly running a 10″ wide board through it. After about 10 minutes of that, the barrel on the Dust Deputy needed to be emptied, but the shop vacuum was still empty and suction remained strong!
Going into the test, I had wondered if the additional length of hose, and passage through a cyclone would negatively impact suction performance. While I suspect that a scientist with proper instrumentation could detect some drop in air flow, there was no drop in performance that was perceivable in terms of dust removal at the tool, or air quality. I was able to sand for extended periods without a dust mask (I nearly always wear one when I am sanding, but wanted to apply the never-fail “sneeze test” to the tool) with no perceivable dust escape.
We also noticed an unmistakable unadvertised feature. The Dust Deputy also serves as a muffler, reducing the noise output of the shop vacuum. I do not have sufficient instrumentation to accurately measure this, but the difference is quite apparent.
Drawbacks: The hose that is included with the Deluxe Kit is not of the quality that I would expect from Oneida. It is quite stiff, and has a cheap feel to it. Also, the universal hose fittings allow the hose to slide off fairly easily, which happens regularly during operation if precautions are not taken. The manual suggests electrical tape, a hose clamp or sheet metal screws to accommodate this. We used duct tape and it worked fine, but unfinished details in a product like this with no solution in the package bother me.
The Dust Deputy is not a substitute for a good dust collector or cyclone unit, running 4″ to 6″ duct system to your tools. That approach will remove far more dust from your larger tools, and will require less frequent emptying of the drum. But for $99, the Dust Deputy dramatically improves shop vacuum dust collection, and will allow you to spend your shop time on activities that are far more satisfying than knocking dust out of your shop vacuum filter. If you use a shop vacuum to collect dust in your shop, and plan to continue to do so, you owe it to yourself to get one of these.