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You thought you'd get a short review and a short shop tour, right? No you silly badger, "mini-tour" means a full tour of my mini shop, and when I say "review", you can get a lunch and settle in. You can also bet there'll be references to James Brown, Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66, beavers on lysergic acid diethylamide and the Bulgarian Pocket Hercules. But I digress. And I pity the fool with 14.4 dialup.
At ease, smoke 'em if you got 'em.
A short while ago I decided to upgrade my DC to a cyclone system. After reading quite a bit and taking into account myriad opinions, I decided on an Oneida cyclone system (well, I had decided on two Oneida cyclone's actually, but more on that later).
First goal was replacing the "main" Robland two-bag/four inch flex system in the garage shop connected to the Hammer machines, the bandsaw, router table, etc. This is the "before" picture, no spitting coffee on your monitor as you chuckle.
Secondary project was to cannibalize the current Robland dc you see nestled above, combining the good bits with an Oneida cyclone and putting it in a "mini" package in the basement, the Damn!-It's-cold-out-there! shop.
The Main Cyclone
I already knew a fair amount about the Oneida offerings, so I went into this more or less knowing what was what and that the 1.5hp cyclone would be the way to go in terms of budget (after some use it's apparent that the 2hp system probably would have been even better - hell, so would the 15hp system - but at some point jagotta draw the line). My first impressions of dealing with Oneida is that A) they must be mighty busy these days and B) they've become too busy to design systems for folks who never end up buying. It took email and a few phone calls of cajoling to get a call back and to get across that I was a "serious" buyer and not just kicking tires. Not a huge ordeal, just a personal irk.
During the initial calls it dawned on me that I'd better bone up on dc info, so I followed Ponder Jim Halbert's recommendation and got the new Rick Peters book. It provided lots of insight (not difficult considering my starting point). I also contacted fellow Ponder Dale Sherman, who managed to quickly educate me in the course of a few emails (something I felt Oneida should be doing, BTW).
Thusly armed, I then spent the time to lay out my full system and ductwork. Due to various and sundry physical considerations (such as a new garage door on the way), this was not a quick process for my shop and I made educated guesses as to what was "correct", although I'm glad I read the book and conversed with Dale first. It took a little while to lay out the ductwork, considering I have such short duct runs - but that meant lots of options.
Now I've been down this you-design-your-system-and-we'll-finalize-the-design path before, and classically there are always bits and pieces of "local knowledge" lost along the way. This time around was no exception, as it took perhaps 2-3 iterations to get to the point were both of us agreed the plan and parts list were relatively sound. Not the fastest, most efficient process in the world (but hey, they can't visit my shop, right?), but I did end up with a drawing, parts list and delivery date.
My eventual, final order had a few wrinkles. I needed a right-handed cyclone and Oneida has kind of standardized on lefties - but getting a rightie only took a few days and was obviously no bother for Oneida. I also needed adaptors to metric ports (120mm and 80mm), for which Oneida had a few suggestions. I went with the Oneida metal ducting all around with two wall gates transitioning to flex hose and two ceiling drops to flex hose.
Since I happen to live about an hour or so from Oneida I made arrangements to stop in, meet the folks and pick up my system. They are not really geared towards "walk up" business, so it was hinted that I should not expect any showroom sizzle. Indeed, the building is perfect inner city industrial - and huge - thank goodness they have a sign over the loading dock otherwise I would've stumbled around a bit more.
First folks I met were the fella's at the loading dock. I've since been back and have nothing but good things to say about this crew.
Upstairs are the offices and factory. I met Steve my sales guy, who showed me around the offices and "development" area. At this point I heard the 1.5 cyclone with and without the muffler and decided to get the muffler. Saw a few new ideas under development, met Robert the VP/development guy and Jeff the senior designer/web guy.
Took a tour of the plant floor, plasma cutter abuzz. I have to say they do some darn fine sheetmetal work here - the plenums are a real piece of work, especially considering the price, in my opinion. You can make your own but I don't see any rationalization which would outweigh buying same from Oneida.
Anyway, all in all I'm glad I had the chance to visit, see the factory and meet the players. I did go through my "second cyclone" plan with Steve and Jeff, more on that one later.
Anyway, quick ride home and load the boxes into the garage. First order of business was to beef up the wall where this baby will reside and get fresh paint down. The area where the dc would be mounted was simply "studs showing", so I put in cripple studs where the mounting lag bolts would go and then topped it all with 3/4" plywood. This made a fairly sturdy mounting surface. Skipping ahead a bit, here's how it ended up (no, the bandsaw is not that small/Oneida that big - it's an illusion).
My next "phase" may be to eliminate the internal filter and vent this puppy directly out the adjacent wall (that spindle you see hanging from the wall is the router spindle for the Hammer B3). Yer on yer own for wiring and on/off functions of the cyclone unit. Wiring was no problem, I followed the motor plate for connections. I already had a Lone Ranger III remote system and a transmitter on each machine, so that was employed for the on/off function.
The cyclone assembly instructions outline a mounting sequence assuming more than one person is involved, with a sidebar titled "If you are working alone...". Nice touch, nice thought, but a tad off the reality meter, for me anyway. The suggestion "if working alone" is to attach the motor/plate/fan section to the main cyclone body and then mount it all on the brackets (where as if you had help you'd do the motor first and then the main body, since putting the main body on the motor section is a little tricky for anyone with less than five arms).
Well, I'm not sure if there's a Gold's Gym nearby Oneida which skews the thinking a bit, but if you put these sections together first and then try to mount them you had better be named Naim Suleymanoglu (byname Pocket Hercules, Bulgarian-born Turkish weight lifter who dominated the sport in the mid-1980s and '90s .ed) or be able to clean and jerk a small cow. The assembly combines decent weight (80-90 lbs?) with the handling properties of 200 lbs. of jello in a garbage bag. For this person to climb a step ladder and wrangle this puppy up onto wall brackets (mine were about 7' high) would be a chore. However the separates would be darn impossible to get together if one was mounted on the brackets first.
So now what? I'm working alone with literally no shot at getting help since everyone else in the family is quite literally out of town and most of my neighbors have been in AARP since inception.
With no prayer of lifting or rigging up (I tried) to lift the full assembly, I mount the top section first. I find that the optimal positioning of the top section means the mounting holes won't mate up with the holes on the brackets. Drill a quick hole and I'm all set. Now to get the main body up to the top section, hold it in place while I arrange and tighten the band clamp. Of course it's a clumsy piece with non-centered weight and a non-flat bottom. Hmmm. Best I could do was use a dead man, climb the ladder (did I mention this thing is 7' off the ground?) and use my knees to hold that sucker while I wrangled and tightened the band clamp. I would have made Lucy and Ethel proud - the only thing missing was the laugh track. It took a good 20 minutes (OK, maybe 30) of huffing, swearing, sweating, cussin', mussin' and tussin', but by golly we made it [note to Oneida - having a longer bolt on the band clamp would have helped here, since then I could've at least started the nut while on the ground].
From there on out the main dc unit is a breeze to install ;o). As you can see from the earlier shot and below, I built a small mobile storage cabinet (scrap plywood/mdf along with "unidentified hardwood" from dried-out pallets) for the drum. This unit holds shaper cutters, router bits, about eight tablesaw blades and all the associated accoutrements for same (more pix in another post perhaps). This allows me to roll the drum about halfway down the driveway before doing the amorphous "dust dump" into a waste bin.
I mounted the transition and muffler, which cuts several db's off the relatively quiet unit. The fit on the cyclone parts was very good and the finish was "mostly" good. The paint was not quite dry on the motor unit and there were several scuff marks on the cyclone itself, but certainly nothing to affect functionality in any way. Fine Leeson motor with close to instant start and little to no "ramp up" to full speed, unlike my prior system.
Now for the ducting, as you've seen already. From the 6" main I went to 5" just about all around, except for the overhead drop for the tablesaw (5" to 4" to 80mm). The overhead connections to the tablesaw blade and the shaper/router.
Oneida supplies snap-lock ducting which comes "unsnapped" and makes it relatively (!) easy to cut to length and then assemble. Or so the theory goes. [BTW, the only Oneida-supplied item(s) in which I was disappointed were the hose clamps. You'll do better getting the two-wire jobs].
The Oneida Snap-Lock ducting is heavy gage (forgot the actual #) and while "snap lock" is not exactly a misnomer it's somewhat misleading since this stuff is not a snap to lock together, nosir. While it's not as difficult as finding the lyrics to "Mais Que Nada" (you're welcome, ed), manual effort is and will be required. Use of a band clamp during assembly helps greatly.
My first attempts at cutting the ducting looked like a lodge of beavers on LSD had run amok and needed to get through the ducting to get to the cache of Twinkies. A few sections later and my sheet metal cutting skills improved along with the size of my right forearm. After I was done, Oneida recommended a Sawzall which I don't own anyway. Use it if you've got it. Outside of the cutting, my only bitch with assembly was the varying tolerances of crimped pipes and fittings. Some of this can be attributed to "out of round" conditions as one "maniuplates" the ducting, but those were relatively easy to overcome. The real bitch was when a "factory crimped" end was not crimped quite enough and "persuasion" or re-crimping became necessary. Not a big deal, but not a snap to put together either.
I used sheet metal screws and ducting caulk on all the connections, with plumbers strap to hold the ducting in place. I'd have rathered pop rivets, but this is not to be a permanent system unless I die before my time.
The flex hose to the two main machines had to be 9' and 11' respectively due to the fact they get moved about in use.
There was some initial concern on Oneida's part about this length of hose but in the end I really had no choice in the matter, since the machines have to be mobile.
So how's it work? With one gate open it'll hold your hand. That is, if you put your hand over the opening you can completely relax and it'll hold your hand/arm in place. This is A LOT of suction. My old system was obviously a most-of-the-chips-and-none-of-the-dust collector - not a "true" dust collector. With the floor hookup and the overhead blade hookup the dust captured off the tablesaw has improved immensely. Not perfect however. As you may surmise, the overhead hookups could easily be more efficient if and when I standardize on one spot on the floor for the machine. As it is I need flexibility, so the flex hose run is inefficient. Still, perhaps 85-90% of the off-the-blade dust is captured. The innards of the saw leading to the floor flex is also a sub-optimal design, leading to less than optimal performance.
The 16" jointer/planer habitually and selfishly kept a softball-sized clump of chips all to itself in jointing mode - it's a real chip creator - but first tests showed only a stray chip or seven remaining on the jointer table when facing 10-12" wide boards (about 75% less chips than before, wish I could say that about my diet). A simply mad amount of planing resulted in my only disappointment so far - perhaps 20-30% of the chips were thrown about the shop. Ponder Dale Sherman dropped by one day and noted an anomaly with the Hammer dust hood setup while in planing mode. Might be an easy fix which I've not tried as of yet.
The shaper hookup and dust collection worked fairly well, certainly much better than before. Once again, the port itself is not that efficient and a little brainpower should improve things immensely. Similar results for the router table.
Overall I'm very pleased with the Oneida product. While I'm thrilled with the dearth of ambient dust settling on bikes and big wheels, I'm somewhat nonplussed by my "chip collecting" results to date, most likely due to the inefficient "capture" points on my machines and the flex runs.
I've had a nagging feeling about the whole buying process however, and couldn't really put my finger on it - the product was very good and Oneida was OK to deal with - what was it? I finally decided the reason was that through the course of this process I had to ask for most if not all of the info and input. Very similar to when I bought my Hammer machines, with similar results (very happy with the product). So in the end I'd give Oneida about an 8 out of 10, but they missed an opportunity to thrill me if they had worked at initiating the information flow in terms of configuration, dc education, pricing, callbacks, etc. YMMV.
Overall at this point I'm happy with the product/service and would recommend Oneida with little reservation. The areas they could improve upon include communications (in terms of initial call-backs and returned emails) and definitely information flow. They could and should have documents detailing methods of cutting pipe, pipe assembly and sealing hints, piece-part connection recommendations, etc. They should gently suggest you purchase book A or B and then proceed, etc. To their credit they have started a forum on their website where many of these questions can be answered. But once again, you'll have to know enough to ask in order to get an answer.
In my experience it's a requirement to educate yourself on dc systems before upgrading your system, with Oneida or anyone else for that matter.
The Second Cyclone
My plan for a second cyclone in the basement area (I do a few chip-producing tasks in the massive, cavernous 6' x 8' basement "shop" if the garage is just too damned cold, which for me is below 10°) would involve a "small" system (small cyclone with less than 10' total duct run). Plan A would be to have the system ducted to vent directly outside. BTW, piping from the garage system would have been inordinately long.
When I went through this plan with Steve at Oneida he mentioned they used to manufacture a cyclone which was a good deal smaller than the current 1.5hp unit - but it cost just as much to produce so they dropped it. However they might have one or two remaining units in the bowels of the building - would I care to take a look? Sure would. Off Jeff and I go and lo and behold there's a small, cute little cyclone unit in the pile, almost complete. Oneida welding on a 5" inlet would allow me to take the other bits from my prior Robland system and get a halfway decent, compact cyclone system in the basement [Oneida also gets kudos for doing me a pricing favor with this unit]. The Robland motor, on/off, power cord and impellor are all one unit separated by a sheet metal baffle, so making all these parts into a functioning cyclone should be fairly straightforward, as long as I don't have to dig up any of Archimedes' methods to design the housing.
This unit has yet to be built/installed, but the deadline is likely November/Decemberish anyway. So the next installment will cover this one, and have perhaps 30 or 40 pix of the know-your-way-back-so-you-don't-get-lost hand tool haven ...
If you are not comatose at this stage and have any questions, please let me know.
Originally posted 10 July 2001
wb 10 July 2001