Dust Collection for the Small Shop
An effective and budget-conscious trio of solutions
Synopsis: Though it might be hard to get excited about dust collection when your shop and budget are small, it should be a priority. Anatole Burkin suggests using a three-pronged approach to attack dust before it has a chance to endanger your health and dirty your workshop. Use a dust collector for bigger, stationary machines, a shop vacuum for handheld tools, and round things out with an overhead air filtration system combined with a dust mask.
The importance of dust collection cannot be overstressed in woodworking. But honestly, it’s tough to get excited about spending money on tools that, well, collect dust. No matter how fancy, these machines just don’t have the cachet of sleek hand tools or powerful machines that cut and shape wood. The good news is that a basic kit of dust-collection products won’t cost a fortune. And whether you’re doing woodworking in a basement or garage, building projects large or small, the essentials are the same.
In my case, I’m remodeling a house—trim work, cabinets, and built-ins—and working out of a two-car garage. The materials I’m using range from rough lumber to sheet goods. To make things more difficult, I live in a community with strict homeowners’ association rules that prohibit turning a garage into a permanent workshop. So at the end of the day (or a few days running), I need to be able to park the motor vehicles back in the shop … er, garage. And to keep from tracking lots of dust into the house, I’ve gotten into the habit of keeping the garage pretty clean with minimal effort. In the end, no matter what size shop you’re in, a three-pronged approach is the best way to attack dust before it settles on you and everything around you. Use a dust collector for bigger, stationary machines, a shop vacuum for handheld tools, and round things out with an overhead air filtration system combined with a dust mask.
It’s tempting to think that a good shop vacuum can solve all dust-collection issues. That might be true when working with only small benchtop tools that don’t include a jointer and planer. But if your woodworking involves milling rough lumber, a jointer and planer (or a combo machine) are absolutely essential, and so is a dust collector. Jointing and planing wood produces large, heavy sawdust particles, and to move them, a fairly large amount of air volume (about 350 cfm) as well as a 4-in.-dia. hose are required. Shop vacuums aren’t suitable for a job that big. A dust collector is also more capable of grabbing sawdust from a tablesaw and bandsaw, again because of the large volume of airflow. That said, I’ve had pretty good luck using a shop vacuum hooked up to a 14-in. bandsaw and a benchtop tablesaw that has a built-in dust housing under the blade.
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