Powerful suction, excellent dust filtration and a reasonably low noise level make this a good choice for the small to medium size workshop.
Wood chips and dust are two unavoidable by-products of woodworking. Managing them is both an ongoing chore and a challenge. Essentially you have two choices – using either a centralized (usually stationary) dust collector, or a compact and portable dust collector.
For shops that produce large volumes of wood chips the best choice is usually a single or two-stage (cyclonic) dust collector. But for any shop that generates smaller volumes of wood chips, and particularly for shops that use powered hand tools that typically produce a lot of finer dust rather than wood chips, a dust extractor (aka ‘shop vac’) is an efficient alternative.
The new Record Power CamVac line of cannister-style dust collectors offers a compromise between a large conventional stationary dust collector and a portable dust extractor.
Manufacturer: Record Power
Model: CGV336 / CGV386
Price: $649.99 / $999.99
Warranty: 5 years
Made in: UK
Power: Two 1.33 hp, 220V motors (CGV336) / Three 1.33 hp, 220V motors (CGV386)
Air flow: 573 CFM at 4′ (CGV336) / 891 CFM at 4′ (CGV386)
Static water lift: 81″
Filtration: 0.5 microns
Noise level: 78 dB (68 dB with optional 2-1/2″ hoses attached)
Capacity: 55 L / 14.5 gl (CGV336) / 90 L / 24 gl (CGV336)
Power cord: 13′
Dimensions: 14.75″ D x 24-5/8″ H (CGV336) / 20.5″ D x 21.1″ H (CGV336)
Weight: 13 kg / 28.7 lb (CGV336) / 17 kg / 37.5 lb (CGV336)
Includes: 6.5′ of 4″ dust extraction hose and DX100X easy-fit cuff
There are two sizes of CamVac dust extractors available from Stockroom Supply – the CGV336, a 2.77 hp, 55 L model, which I’ve been using for the past couple of months (replacing a 9 gl DeWALT shop vac) and a larger CGV386 4 hp motor, 90 L model. The CGV336 is recommended for light use with woodworking machinery. The CGV386 model, which sports three 1.3 hp motors (4 hp in total) that can be used individually or simultaneously, is the better choice if you’re doing full-time production work.
You’ll need a 220V receptacle to use the CamVac. I had one installed in my shop at a cost of $475. Unless you know what you’re doing this job is best left to a qualified electrician.
The CamVac looks more like a mini stationary dust collector than a traditional shop vac. At just under 30 pounds it’s not too heavy to move around the shop, and if you do occasional onsite work it’s light enough to transport to and from a job site. For extra convenience you can purchase an optional caster set or make your own mobility base.
The cannister is made of steel, which should provide years of dependable service. It has a 4″ dust port and comes with an easy-fit hose cuff to connect the supplied 6-1/2′ hose to the unit. I suggest you also purchase the optional 4″ to 2-1/2″ reducer (#DX100R63 $26.99) if you’ll be using the unit with hand held power tools. While the reducer fits snugly on the 4″ inlet I found that it too easily fell off when the dust hose was moved about. A couple of hose clamps resolved the issue for me.
The CamVac has two 1.33 hp direct airflow hp motors – you can run either motor by itself, which will generate around 285 CFM of air flow, or jointly, which delivers the full 573 CFM of air flow and 81″ of static water lift. On the top of the CamVac (the lid) you’ll see dual air outlets and two on/off switches for the motors. You get two acoustic lids that fit over the outlets, ostensibly to reduce noise. To really reduce motor noise you can install 2-1/2″ dust hoses to the air outlets for an astounding 10 dB reduction in noise levels.
The CamVac lacks an onboard tool power outlet that would automatically turn the extractor on when a power tool plugged into it is switched on. This would be particularly useful for tasks like sanding, where I’m often working in short 2 or 3 minute bursts, repeatedly turning the sander on and off.
The motors are suspended underneath the lid. In the photo below you can see that the motor is attached to the lid, and below the motor is a filter cage. The motor on the right has a filter covering the filter cage.
The CamVac has a triple filter system. First there is a washable cloth bag that covers the motor housing (left in the photo below). Over this filter you install a paper filter (right in the photo) – the paper filter (#CGV170-101, $8.99/6 bags) should last 4 to 6 months depending on how much use the CamVac gets.
The main cloth filter is installed over the cannister.
The CamVac is not a true cyclonic separator. Rather it uses a neutral vane – the 4″ inlet is offset and extends into the cannister (rather than being installed in the middle of the cannister and flush to the inner surface.) This forces the wood chips and dust around the inside surface of the cannister, away from the main cloth filter. The heavier chips fall to the bottom of the cannister as they whirl around, and the finer dust is trapped by the outer cloth filter bag. The inner motor filter bag and the paper filter bag provide a second and third barrier to the very fine dust. This ‘triple bag system’ removes dust particles down to 0.5 microns, which I find very impressive. I run the CamVac almost every day in my shop and I’ve not seen a micron of dust escape from the air outlets atop the unit.
The CamVac doesn’t have a built-in sensor to let you know when the cannister is full. When you notice a reduction in suction you’ll know it’s time to empty the cannister.
The first time I emptied the CamVac I was very impressed by how little dust there was on the inside of the main cannister filter. Likewise there was virtually no dust on the paper bag filter. The two photos below were taken after the 3rd time emptying the CamVac.
To empty the cannister you need to remove the main filter bag. I found out, much to my chagrin, that you want to do this gently, and preferably outdoors. The outer surface of the bag sports a layer of dust. Remove the bag too quickly and it disperses the fine dust everywhere. Even doing the job outdoors you’ll want to wear a respirator.
Don’t knock that fine layer of dust off the bag just yet. The dust cake works with the fibers of the filter to trap very small particles of dust. Over time the dust layer will become thicker, and if you notice dust bleeding through the bag, or if vacuum suction is lower than usual even after you empty the cannister, it’s time to clean the bag.
In use the CamVac is noticeably less noisy than the DeWALT shop vac. I have a 14′ 2-1/2″ hose with a smooth, low-friction inner surface that helps reduce turbulence attached to the CamVac. When connected to a stationary machine (bandsaw, table saw, jointer, benchtop planer) I switch on both motors; when used with hand held power tools (sander, router table, domino joiner) one motor is sufficient.
So far I’m very pleased with the CamVac – it holds a lot more dust chips than the shop vac I was using, it has sufficient suction to pick up most of the debris from my stationary tools and power tools, it’s reasonably quiet, and it has excellent dust filtration (which is especially important in a small shop like mine that doesn’t have windows which can be opened). Equally important, it doesn’t take up much in the way of precious floor space.
Carl Duguay - [email protected]
Carl is a Victoria-based furniture maker and the web editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement.