Thanks largely to tool-triggered vacuums and HEPA filters, today’s jobsites are much cleaner and safer than back when I got started. The only thing I don’t care for is the expense of replacing filled dust bags and clogged filters.
To minimize this problem, cyclonic devices that pull dust particles out of the air ahead of the filtration have been standard equipment in woodworking shops for decades. Thankfully, this technology is finally making it to the jobsite. Earlier this year, I reviewed a portable cyclonic air scrubber (see “Filter-free Air Scrubber,” Apr/22). Soon afterward, I had the opportunity to test the Mullet, a cyclonic dust separator that’s designed to easily attach to most wet/dry vacuums.
Putting it together. Upon opening the box, what struck me was that the Mullet’s entire body is molded from a single piece of sturdy plastic. Company co-founder DJ Bell told me that it’s manufactured using a process called “rotational molding,” in which the raw plastic is placed inside a metal mold, heated up, and slowly rotated, causing the softened material to adhere to the inside walls of the mold and gradually form the desired shape. Besides affording the opportunity to make the unit lightweight and practically unbreakable, rotational molding enables the cyclone separator portion on top to have curved parabolic walls as opposed to the straight cone shape typically seen on dust separators. This tornado shape is more effective at spinning dust particles out of the air before they reach the vacuum, Bell said.
Assembling the unit simply required screwing casters to the base and connecting the exhaust to the vacuum’s inlet port using 1 1/2-inch PVC pipe. All the fittings necessary to make a rigid connection with almost any shop vacuum were included in the box, as was a self-adhesive template that ensured I cut the vertical pipe in exactly the right places. The pipe fittings are pressure-fit, not glued, so if anyone wanted to use the Mullet with more than one vac, they could order an extra pipe from the manufacturer or use standard 1 1/2-inch Schedule 40.
Wheeling the conjoined twins around the work site was no problem—the integrated outlet pipe on top made a perfect handle—and separating them for transport required only the turn of a thumbscrew.
Does it suck? I put this device through rigorous testing in my home shop and on various jobsites. Freed from concerns about running up the costs mentioned previously, I soon found myself breaking out the vac when the day before I might have reached for a broom, or settled for a tool-mounted dust bag, or cut the MDF in the driveway.
Inserting a middleman into the dust collection process never resulted in any noticeable loss of suction, even when the 5-gallon dump bin was filled to the brim. After I had twice emptied the bin, the dust bag in my vac felt as empty as when I started testing.
When full, the bin is emptied by unscrewing the lid and pouring the contents into a trash bag. To prevent dust from escaping, Bell suggested using a rubber band or duct tape to fasten the trash bag over the opening or adding water to make a slurry. When a torrential rainstorm flooded my normally dry shop space, I was glad to find out that the Mullet also excels at wet vacuuming.
The Mullet is made in the U.S. and is available directly from the manufacturer for $250, shipping included. As of this writing, it has not been certified for work covered by RRP or silica rules, but testing is ongoing. mullettools.com
Photos by Tom O'Brien