Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The 21st Century, it's about time...

Since my wife reads this blog, upon occasion, I'm starting my Christmas list early.

Behold, the brand new iRobot Dirt Dog.

I want one of these. Unlike the iRobot Roomba, which is pretty cool in it's own right, the Dirt Dog is designed for garages and shops. And at $130, it's reasonably priced too. I'd love to have a Roomba for the house too, but I think I'll wait until they come out with a 55gal drum sized one, we have a lot of cat hair and I think those little frisbee sized Roombas would have an electronic stroke just looking at it all. Also, speaking of the cats, I'd have to have a Roomba that could defend itself, say with some kind of built in Taser or death ray, because the cats would destroy it in short order otherwise.

I have a heavy duty, dedicated dust collection system in the shop, which I custom built from various parts acquired from scrap piles and craigslist, which looks something like this:

Dust collection in a shop like mine is very important. Especially in the winter when I can't work with the highbay doors open, because it's, you know, -40F outside. Sawdust is flammable, extremely so. It's also a breathing hazard and can lead to pneumoconiosis if you breath enough of it in a confined space. The dust/chip collector, which is sort of like a super dooper version of a house vac, is attached via ductwork to each piece of woodworking equipment in the shop, and also has a couple of vacuum hose connections so that I can use it to suck up dust and chips off the floor. But it doesn't quite get everything, especially under the workbenches where fine dust tends to collect until I get down on my hands and knees and reach under there with a foxtail and dustpan, but sweeping fine dust tends to throw it up into the air which defeats the whole purpose. The iRobot Dirt Dog is designed for exactly this situation, roving under the benches where I can't easily reach. And it can be programmed to do it late at night, so that what little dust it does raise I'm not around to breath in.

How cool is that?

See, that's what robots are supposed to do - make our lives easier. They're supposed to take care of the little details so that we don't have to ruin what's left of our knees on the cold concrete floors of our woodshops. I don't want a robot that talks and walks and acts like it's a member of the family (and I especially don't want a robot that walks and talks and acts like Robin Williams!). I want a robot that's small and cheap and can reliably get into or out of tight spots on it's own, taking care of the little jobs that are hard or inconvenient for me to do. I think I've mentioned a couple of times that we're big automation fans around here at Stonekettle Station, we already have a robot cat feeder and a robot cat box, I'm sure they'd welcome a robot shop sweeper to the household.

So, what do you want for Christmas?


  1. Working on my own list. But I had to question (since you talked about other things your dust system has), you do have static charge protection on your dust collection system right (looping cooper wires that ground)? I'm sure you do, I just want to make sure and not have another of those, "if I had only asked" moments.

  2. Steve, the dust collector is grounded at the motor electrical connection. I use metal ductwork (6 and 4" snaplock furnace duct, sealed with duct tape) specifically to reduce static charge build-up, which can lead to a dust explosion). Many folks use PVC because it appears cheaper, but PVC is extremely hard to ground (basically you have to wrap the tubes in copper wire and copper is hideously expensive nowadays). And even if you do that, you still haven't achieved truly effective static charge dissipation. I'd would have liked to use spiral cut sheet steel duct but that's very expensive. So I defaulted to cheap rolled aluminum snaplock, like you can find at Home Depot, sealed with duct tape, and it works great and ended up being very cheap. It's conductive right back to the grounded machine, so no problems.

    Also,at the take-up ends of each duct, each machine is connected to ground, and I routinely (about once a year) check each power socket in the shop with a earth-ground tester, just to make sure. I also have dry powder ABC fire extinguishers at each corner of the shop. (Yeah, yeah, once a Navy safety officer, always a Navy safety officer. Shut up, Senior Chief Janiece).

    In a dust collection system, the ductwork for a shop the size of mine can easily cost ten times the amount you spend on the collector itself. A system like this one can run into the thousands. I built this whole thing, ductwork included for under $300.

    I may write a book on building a professional shop for cheap someday.

  3. (Yeah, yeah, once a Navy safety officer, always a Navy safety officer. Shut up, Senior Chief Janiece).

    Hey, now. No need to get snippy. I'm very glad that you're safety boy, because otherwise I may be forced to read about you and your family's fiery death some day. That would be a supremely unacceptable conclusion to our nascent friendship.

    However, safety protocol is boring, if necessary.

    I'm much more interested in speculating about the Roomba Laser Death Ray. Although I suspect there are some safety-related jokes to be made regarding that little piece of technology. Like this.

    I have no Christmas list for myself, because that would defeat the purpose of me being the hardest person in the world to buy for. Well, maybe not the hardest person in the world...but I'm pretty tough. Or so my family tells me.

  4. Lego, specifically Castle Lego.

    I put it on my wish list every year, and John's family still gets me things I'll never use and don't want. Le sigh. The year I asked for a toaster I got a digital camera, the mind boggles at what they'll come up with this year.

    But when and if a Roomba Laser Death Ray comes out, Santa will be getting me one. Santa always gets me what I want, since I do his shopping for him. A benefit of living in North Pole!

  5. Hmmmm. An upgrade to 36-hour days. An elimination of the need to sleep. A personal teleport.

    That shouldn't be too much to ask, right?

  6. I want a vacuum system like yours!

    That would be a good start for my Christmas list.

  7. MWT, 36 hour days? Screw that, I swore I was done with 30 hour days after I left the Navy. Never again.

    justanotherjohn, Nice to see a new face around here. A dust collection system like mine doesn't have to be expensive. I found most of what I needed in salvage piles or on places like craigslist. I bought the Oneida cyclone separator from a guy on craigslist for $35, and that was a stroke of luck. Up till I found that I was intending to build one from a couple of 55g drum and some sheet metal. It would have been larger, but I have a lot of room. The impeller came from a Grizzly 3hp portable system that I also found for cheap on CL, about $100 if I remember correctly. I dismounted it from the roller stand and redrilled it to fit on top of the cyclone. The filter stack I got for free from the local military base, the filters came from an old Chemical/Gas warfare system - they were no good for that anymore and were being thrown into a dumpster. I asked permission and they gave them to me for nothing. My filters (I got 12 of them) are 1micron 200cf per minute, I stacked 4 of them for 800cf capacity and could expand it if I had to. I bought some of ductwork, and got a bunch for free from a home demolition site. A couple of 2x4's and some scrap wood for the support stand and the rest is just fiddlework. All in all, I spent just under $300. Works great and is very quiet, still this winter's project is enclose the stand and cover the inside with acoustic insulation to make it nearly silent.

    This thing has been money and effort well spent. When I'm working on a big project I generate enough dust and chips to fill that 55g drum under the cyclone 3 or 4 times a day. It's literately 2 minutes to empty the system in my ATV utility trailer (the chips usually end up in my flower beds). Prior to this system, those chips would have ended up on the floor behind the planer, which meant I'd have at least an hour clean up every night. I'm pretty happy with it.

  8. But think of all the additional stuff you could get done!

    Granted, I'd probably get more done if I just worked a bit faster and didn't keep stopping to, say, read people's blogs ...

  9. ...and didn't keep stopping to, say, read people's blogs...

    But, but, that's just crazy talk!

  10. But, but, that's just crazy talk!

    Unless you're haranguing the Senior Chief to get back to work, that is.



Comments on this blog are moderated. Each will be reviewed before being allowed to post. This may take a while. I don't allow personal attacks, trolling, or obnoxious stupidity. If you post anonymously and hide behind an IP blocker, I'm a lot more likely to consider you a troll. Be sure to read the commenting rules before you start typing. Really.