One of the biggest problems with your upright 1HP and larger
machines is portability. Sure, many of them come on wheels for
mobility, but they are really no more mobile than a bad shopping
trolley, and if you don't have a lot of floor space, chances are
they aren't going to be going anywhere anyway because of all the
other machines or floor obstructions in its way. Enter the
FM-150. This mini-dust extractor weighs just over 8kg (18lbs)
and comes with a handle allowing you to just pick it up and
carry it wherever you like. Take a look at the intro image. You
can see the relative size of the machine against the male
holding it. I also own a 2HP dust extractor (FM-300) and there
is no way I can pick that up and move it around as easily. The
integrated carry handle accessible at the top of the unit
provides a balanced and comfortable carrying grip.
The footprint of the metal-framed unit is quite small. It
measures just over 33cm (L) x 30cm (W) x 30cm (H). In imperial
measurement, this is 13-1/4" (L) x 12" (W) x 12" (H). Bear in
mind that when in use, the footprint grows because of the
inflated collection bag.
The unit is fitted with 4 small castors to roll around the
shop floor. Two of the castors have wheel brakes to help prevent
movement in use. We found the unit still moves a little when
first powered up (only talking an inch maximum) before it
settles down and remains fairly stagnant once it gets up to full
Another interesting feature is the inclusion of wall-mounting
keyholes in the metal base of the unit. Given the small weight
of the machine, you can actually hang it on a wall and get it up
off the ground if needed. This would be a good way to mount a
unit if floor space is limited, or if you wish to use it on a
single preferred machine.. Just hook it up on the wall and away
you go, and easily remove it later again for portable use. You
may have to remove the wheels for wall mounting however.
Dust Sucking Power
What allows this unit to be so small but still accept a
standard 4" dust hose? The answer is the motor. The FM-150 uses
a universal brush motor rated at 1HP. Yes, this means the motor
is going to be noisier than your regular induction motor, but
also means the overall size of the unit is greatly reduced,
because the smaller universal motor can deliver more power on a
power-versus-size ratio. The noise emission rating from the unit
is not actually listed in the tool's manual, and without a noise
measuring device, I can only say that it is as noisy as any
other 1HP universal motor. Its quite manageable but does require
ear protection. It's no where near as noisy as a petrol chainsaw
however, but perhaps equal to a mid-range shop or home vacuum,
but with less high-pitch whine. Given the benefit of size and
portability as a result of using a universal motor, the
consequence of the actual added noise level remains relatively
tame, in my opinion. Power is controlled via standard ON (green)
and OFF (red) buttons on top of the motor component. These are
dust protected with a clear rubber cover.
The FM-150 utilizes a contained, 6" steel impeller to provide
the reverse airflow into the dust bag. As mentioned above, the
plastic air inlet connector accepts standard 4" dust collection
hose without any problem, so there is no need to buy reducers or
other parts to hook up your hose if you already have spare 4"
hose, or use 4" hose in the workshop. The inlet to the impeller
is covered by a wire grill to prevent damage to the impeller by
large objects, however, I did find that using the extractor on
particular machines can pose an occasional problem. When used
with the jointer or thicknesser, large shavings or chips can
collect on the wire grill causing blockage and reduced
efficiency. Let me stress however, the use of the word
'occasional' above, as this was not a 'regular' occurrence. We
had no problems in use with any other machines, except for later
cleanup of lathe shavings that were clumped together to start
with. We had 1 blockage there, but collecting shavings while
turning on the lathe was not a problem.
The rated airflow of the FM-150 is listed at 914 CFM. This is
a pretty interesting figure because most 1 HP induction motor
extractors only deliver around 600 CFM. So the FM-150 claims to
deliver around 50% more airflow than the induction motor
equivalent. Again, I don't have the tools to measure air flow,
but I can tell by feeling the 'sucking' force of the air that it
is definitely more than a 1HP induction unit delivers. It
achieves this higher figure by spinning the impeller at much
faster rates, which creates higher airflow. A conservative
estimate of around 4,000 RPM is standard for brush motors of
this size, whereas the average induction motor may spin at
around 2,800 RPM.
The dust collection bag on the FM-150 is a woven fabric
material and rated to 35 microns, so it's not going to filter
out all the smallest dust particles that are collected by the
machine. As is the case with most other off-the-shelf extractors
in the budget range - smaller particles (mostly non-visible) will
still be expelled into the air. It will catch the visible
'coarse' dust of course and save you a LOT of time with cleanup
later, but when used in tandem with a ceiling mounted room air
cleaner (with 1 micron filter installed), and with a dust mask
(where possible), the FM-150 provides a good platform for
"practical" dust collection effectiveness. Sure, you can argue
that you need less than 1 micron filters on everything that
collects dust, but the reality is that most woodworkers do not
have the money to invest in such gear, and having any dust
collection is certainly better than having none. Finer micron
bags (3 - 5 micron needle felt) are expected to be available for
this unit in the near future.
The collection bag adds another 60cm or so (23") to the
footprint of the machine when in use (i.e. inflated), so take
that into account as well. It's usually not a problem because
the unit can easily be turned any direction for bag clearance.
Bag capacity is 15L. It will require regular emptying as it
fills up like any bag extraction system, and it is a good idea
to empty it out before it fills up too much to ensure airflow is
maintained. With a collection bag at 3/4 full, the unit's
capacity to move air may be reduced down to around 600 CFM, so
keeping the bag half full or less is a good idea, although at
600 CFM it is still on par with an upright 1HP 2-bag extractor
with empty bags!
An occasional full clean and wash of the collection bag will
further improve airflow.
The printed manual is fairly basic and in black and white.
However, assembling and using this machine is practically
child's play. All you really need to do is attach the castor
wheels using supplied nuts and washers, attach the collection
bag using supplied bag clamp and then attach your 4" hose (not
included), plug in, and away you go. Note that the manual
recommends connection the extractor to only one unit at a time
and to regularly check the impeller and working parts, including
motor brushes regularly to maintain tool efficiency.
I purchased this tool primarily because I wanted a portable
dust extraction solution, and the FM-150 is certainly that. The
ease of which it can be carried around from machine to machine,
or from workplace to workplace is excellent. No back straining
and no lengthy assembly/disassembly procedures to move it from
one spot to another or to transport it in a vehicle. In most
cases you will only have to unplug the power cord.
I have attached a 4" quick connector to the far end of the
collection hose so I can easily connect and disconnect the
extractor from most of the my woodworking machines as needed,
however, I primarily use this extractor for the miter saw (in
conjunction with a "big gulp" dust hood and with the lathe when
turning, and especially when sanding. I also often connect it up
to my floor sweep to collect dust and shavings at the end of a
woodworking day. Additionally, because my router table also acts
as a general tool table, I can now connect my removable router
table fence to a 4" dust collection source quickly and easily
without having to run a dedicated hose from my larger 2HP
stationary collector sitting down the other end of the shop.
On its own, the FM-150 may sound noisy, but it comes a
distant second to my 3HP router, my 3HP miter saw, and many
other power tools that it is used in conjunction with in the
shop. Often I can't even hear the extractor because of the
greater noise emitted from the tool it is hooked up to.
Vibration seems to be in check, but the motor will give off a
bit of a 'new motor' smell and you may see some sparks inside
the motor assembly the first few times you use the unit. This is
normal with new universal, brush-type motors as the tool 'wears'
itself in to normal operating use.
As long as you regularly maintain the unit (keep bags
emptied and ensure no blockages, check motor brushes etc), you
should be able to get quite a lot of use out of the tool. It
works best when used as a portable dust extractor, simply
because it is designed to be that way, and it achieves that task
so much better than any other larger dust extraction system.
This, of course, does not count vacuum systems with smaller
diameter hoses, they are in a different operational category.
If you have a small workshop or need a portable dust
extractor, the FM-150 is hard to pass up, and is very reasonably
priced at AUD$169 (Sept 2005) given its performance
specifications. I am happy I laid down the dollars to purchase
one of these machines. It certainly saves me a lot of hassle
moving collection hoses all over the place while I wait for my
new "shed" with full ducting to become a reality.