I remember when men were men and we didn’t mind breathing the clouds of dust that shot out the back of the vacuum while we suctioned up gnarly construction debris. Fortunately — or not, if you’re into old-fashioned manliness — vacuums have improved to the point where that cloud of dust is a thing of the past. But now we have a different problem…

How do you avoid going through huge numbers of collection bags while collecting non-toxic material? It’s one thing to fill expensive collection bags with dust that contains lead, asbestos, and other harmful material; but quite another to fill them chips and sawdust from unfinished wood. This non-toxic material accumulates quickly and it seems like a shame to collect it in expensive single-use bags. But that’s what most of the better vacuums are set up to do.

An easy way to reduce your consumption of collection bags is to put a cyclone separator in line with the hose and capture dust (non-toxic only) before it reaches the dust extractor or vacuum. Cyclone separators have been around forever; you see them at millwork shops, lumber yards, and anywhere else dust and chips are produced in quantity.

The video below is an excellent review of three of the most common (and least expensive) small cyclone separators. It was produced by Marc Spagnuolo — who I applaud for comparing multiple products and ranking a sponsor’s separator below a competing model.