The Dawn of the Quiet Shop Vacuum
About a decade ago I basically stopped sweeping up my shop. No, I’m not up to my armpits in sawdust and shavings, I simply switched to vacuuming up the detritus rather than sweeping.
About a decade ago I basically stopped sweeping up my shop. No, I’m not up to my armpits in sawdust and shavings, I simply switched to vacuuming up the detritus rather than sweeping. A couple of things that brought me to this change were the proliferation of quiet vacuums and the fact that I got tired of breathing the really dirty dust that comes from sweeping a floor. Plus, the dust cloud that sweeping generates simply spreads dust all over my shop, on everything.
I bought a Bosch Airsweep and it was a game-changer. Up until that purchase I had a series of Craftsman, Black & Decker, and other popular brand screamers (remember the good old days before quiet vacs?) that died after a couple of years of use and abuse and frankly weren’t missed. With the addition of the Airsweep’s great vacuum capabilities and quiet operation, I found that I was using it more and more to keep the joint clean as well as a great way to keep the dust out of the air right at the source.
I also have a small canister vac that hangs at the end of my big bench and has 10 ft. of hose hanging right next to it ready to quickly clean off the benchtop, vacuum out a mortise, or clear away debris from planing. It’s actually a bit humorous that we sweep the debris off our benches onto the floor where we can sweep it up again.
I still use a broom to sweep up the big portion of handplane curls, but as soon as the bulk is gone the vacuum springs to life and finishes the job, no fine dust swept back into the air. Gone, finite.
Another plus of using a vacuum is that it’s easy to get that junk that tends to accumulate under benches and stationary tools as well as keeping little dust piles from creeping up the wall in the shop’s corners and cubbies. This might sound like I’m a clean fanatic, but one look at the assorted junk in my shop would dissuade anyone from that idea. But it’s clean junk!
How do you keep your shop clean? Anyone have any slick tricks that can help avoid the mess to begin with?
Oh by the way, having a vacuum cleaner handy is a great way to keep your tools sharper. Quite a few of us buy roughsawn lumber because it gives us better yield, but the rough surface hides lots of dust and grit which can quickly dull sharp knives and cutters. Even planed wood can hold dirt in its pores, but sweeping or using compressed air to clean the detritus off simply pushes it deeper into the rough surface. Running a vac with a brush attachment over the surface pulls the abrasive material out of the grain and away from those sharp knives. Keeping a shop vacuum handy, like my bench-mounted vac, makes this housekeeping chore easy.