The Importance of Being Dustless

Dust collection is a serious problem for a woodworker.  Not only are dust and wood chips annoying and problematic by ruining finishes and preventing work from sitting flush against the bench top or against the router fence, dust is a serious health threat.

Wood dust considered carcinogenic, in addition, the micron and sub-micron sized dust particles can reach the very small alveoli in your lungs where they cannot be removed the the normal body processes that clean your lungs.  That means your lung capacity will diminish over time.

An inexpensive way to lower your dust exposure is to use a good quality dust mask.  Not those paper things, rather something more, like this:


This is called the elipse mask.  It is lightweight, has cleanable and replaceable filters, and is the most comfortable I have used.  It can be found at the  Lee Valley website, but you can find it lots of places, including Amazon.

That said, I find it uncomfortable to wear a mask all day.  Also, this does nothing to keep your shop clean.  Another thing you can do is install an air filter.  Here is a picture of mine, which is hung from the garage ceiling joists:


This will filter the air itself.  Its a good idea to leave this running when you are doing things that make dust – including sweeping.  It also has a timer.  I’ll set it for 2 hours after sanding and leave the shop to run errands. When I come back, the air is clear.  It’s not too loud.

Another easy thing to do is to use dust ported tools, like this sander:


Of course it requires a vacuum to work, but you can use a shop vac.  I have a fairly expensive Festool dust extractor.  It work fine for hand held electric tools like this, but for bigger tools it doesn’t generate enough air flow and velocity.  That doesn’t stop me from using it though:


The dust extractor is connected to a “cyclone”, which separates the heavier wood chips from the lighter dust.  This collects into a 5 gallon bucket which you can empty in the trash.  Dust collector filter bags are expensive, and you will dump that bucket 10 times before you need a new bag.

Also note that in the line to the tools I have a bunch of gates that I can open and close to isolate one tool.  You can see that the table saw is not collecting very efficiently.  There is still dust everywhere.  There are two issues here, one is that the table saw is naturally inefficient collecting dust internally.  It needs a dust hood above the blade.  I don’t have one of those.  The other thing is the air volume/velocity problem.  Not nearly enough to even come close.

It works fairly well for my sander and bigger band saw.  But what I really need is one of these:


This is a Clear Vue cyclone dust collector. 5 HP motor, Wynn filters and a giant drum for the chips.  The whole assembly is about 8 feet tall and takes about 40″x50″ of floor area.  My problem (as usual), is space.  I was going to put it here:


But this is where i do my sharpening and I now have a sink, a dehumidifier, a small miter box, a few cans of lacquer, and some wood scraps.  And paper towels.  And a collection of plastic bags.  And that looks like my hammer drill…

Anyway, what I need to do is build a small shed outside this door and run duct and power between the shed and the shop.


About 5’x5′ should do it.  It would go where the picket fence is.  Not only is it better than taking space in my small shop, it will be quieter in the shop.

One of these days.




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