201 – Installing Nordfab Ductwork

Written on 05/09/2013
Marc Spagnuolo

How to install Nordfab ductwork in a woodworking shop.

After installing the Clear Vue CV1800 cyclone, the next step was to install the Nordfab ductwork. This video shows you how I did the job and how this system works.


Over the years, I have tried a few of the common options out there for ductwork including home store HVAC, sewer & drain PVC, and economy snap-lock pipe. Below on the left you can see my old HVAC ductwork system in my first shop in Temecula, CA. I was running a Penn State Tempest cyclone at the time and didn’t have much ground to cover. The ductwork consisted of the 28 gauge snap-lock HVLP dutwork available at the home stores for a very reasonable price. While fairly thin-walled, I didn’t have any issues with the pipe collapsing and the system worked well enough.

az-shop-ductworkAfter moving to the monster shop in Arizona, I had much more ground to cover and I quickly upgraded to a Clear Vue CV1800. Even back then I considered them to be the best bang for the buck in cyclone dust collection. Most folks who run a Clear Vue utilize 6″ sewer & drain PVC pipe. I found a local source and picked up a bunch of pipe and various fittings. Because the system is PVC, assembling the joints was a piece of cake. Hanging the relatively heavy pipe from a 16 foot high ceiling, however, was a pain in the pooper. In spite of the awkward suspended ductwork and harsh 90 degree angles, the system was serviceable and I had adequate collection at each tool. And no, I did not fear

Fast-forward through several painful shop moves and I finally ended up back in the monster shop, once again challenged with designing a ductwork run that didn’t suck, or actually, on that DOES suck. So I decided to drop a few beans on some better quality metal ductwork from Penn State Industries. I purchase a few boxes of their 26 gauge Economy Snap-Lock Ductwork. Metal ductwork is never quite “fun” and involves self-tapping sheet metal screws, tin snips, aluminum duct tape, and many band-aids. But because the pipe is lighter, it’s much easier to hang. Unfortunately, thanks to my poor design and excessive use of 90 degree angles, the system did not perform well at all. It’s such a bad memory that I don’t even have a picture to share with you. Fortunately, the Dream Shop was in my future and I would have one final chance to do it right.

Doing it Right!

In the new shop, I decided I was done screwing around with ductwork. Not only would I get the stuff that’s incredibly easy to install, I would also enlist the assistance of a professional ductwork designer. Now before you go thinking, “Hey, I can barely afford the ductwork let alone a design service!”, keep in mind that most vendors that sell ductwork will also provide a courtesy design service. I HIGHLY recommend you take advantage of that service and let someone who knows what they are doing help you make the right choices for your shop. Your lungs will thank you.

nordfab-ductworkThe ductwork I used is called Nordfab. It’s a smooth-walled pipe that snaps together end to end using their ingenious clamping system. This means the system can be modified, expanded, or reduced in a matter of seconds by simply unclamping various components. When clamped together, the pipes and fittings form an air-tight seal with no interior obstruction. The video shows you how the system works, in detail.

nordfab-planAn essential part of this process was planning. In order for the design service to work their magic, they needed a tool layout and floor plan that shows the approximate tool locations as well as their port sizes. Without this information, it’s all just guesswork. So take measurements and sketch it out on paper. If you are so inclined, you should consider mocking up your shop in SketchUp like I did. The design service was actually able to overlay the proposed ductwork layout right into my SketchUp file. Feel free to download and check it out.


The one single massive gargantuan drawback to Nordfab ductwork is the price. For all of the things it does well, is it any surprise that it also does an incredibly good job of sucking the money out of your wallet? Here’s a rough run-down of some common metal ductwork prices for the sake of comparison.

5′ section of 26 ga Snaplock Pipe (Oneida) – $19.83
5′ section of 26 ga Snaplock (Penn State Industries via 5-pack) – $16
5′ section of 24 ga Spiral Pipe (Oneida) – $21.32
5′ section of 22 ga Nordfab – $33.80

Of course, the straight pipe is probably the least expensive part of any ductwork setup. There are blast gates, wyes, elbows, and flex pipe to consider, and those tend to hurt the most. Even the cheapest ductwork system is going to be a hefty sum. So when you are ready to get serious about quality integral dust collection, make sure you budget appropriately.

Geeky Side Note

A lot of you were concerned after we moved into the new shop that my videos would be continually plagued by horrible audio due to echoes. As promised, the echo was addressed and this video shows an excellent before and after. Listen to the audio at the beginning and then compare that to the audio at the very end. That’s before and after sound treatment. Just thought some of you might be interested in that.

Products Used