Canadian Woodworking

At-source dust collection

Author: Mark Salusbury
Photos: Mark Salusbury
Published: June July 2022

Dust can be harmful to your health if it’s not dealt with properly. The first place to harness dust is right where it’s created.

I’ve found when working anywhere, cleanliness adds value to the project and my enjoyment of it. Keeping dust, shav­ings and chips away from the working surfaces improves sightlines, yields more precise cuts, better fitting joinery and keener tooling. On top of that, there’s the obvious health benefits. A clean work space also changes my mood and my thought pro­cesses; things just seem to go better. I can focus on the task at hand, not unplanned errors, and I think more clearly about the design and the steps involved. This approach often saves me time and creates pleasingly unforeseen results. And when a change of plans presents itself, solutions come more readily when I’m not being bugged by having to clean up. Have I talked you into the advantages of clean­liness yet?

Start at the Miter Saw
One of the first machines to create lots of dust, a miter saw can be fitted with a dust extraction hose quite easily.

dust collection

Slab Levelling
With a levelling bit chucked into his router, Salusbury fixes his router to a clear baseplate equipped with a dust take-off.

dust collection


The take-off sits just below the surface of the levelling sled and extracts much of the dust produced while levelling slabs (below).

dust collection

The Underside
With Salusbury’s slab levelling attachment flipped upside down you can see how it was made. It’s equipped with dust skirting along the four sides to help contain the dust so an extractor can remove it.

dust collection

Just About Any Router
The Oneida Universal Hood will attach to the base of just about any router.

dust collection

Dust-Free Dovetails
Leigh dovetail jigs can be fitted with a clever dust take-off and router support that accommodates all routers.

dust collection

Tame Your Router
When it comes to making and dispersing dust, a router is prodigious. A dedicated extraction base, like the Oneida Universal Dust-Free Router Hood, makes the task of controlling and removing dust while routing easier.

dust collection

A Big Culprit
A simple matter of connecting a hose to your random orbital sander will help contain one of the worst dust-creating culprits.

Dust collection

From Above and Below
When viewed straight on, you can see the “Y” split in Salusbury’s dust extraction hoses that draw dust from both above and below the bit.

Dust collection

Simple Setup
A biscuit joiner doesn’t produce a lot of dust, but it’s also easy to connect a dust extraction hose to it while in use.

Dust collection

Stationary machinery has always had dust takeoffs, but only recently in woodworking times have portable power tools come designed, or optioned, to vacuum off dust and shavings at-source.
Let me show you the benefits I’m enjoying in my shop since outfitting my portable power tools with at-source dust collection. These benefits are seen not only in my shop space, but in reduced tooling and consumables costs, shorter build times, and improved project quality, precision and finish.

Compound miter saws

Entering my shop, lumber usually goes first to my compound miter saw to be roughly cut to length, then later trimmed to a final fit, generating plumes of sawdust that can plug up the table, the fence and the pivot area behind the saw base. By replacing the stock dust bag with a 35mm i.d. / 2-1/4″ o.d. vacuum line to my shop vac or central dust collector, far less dust becomes airborne, plus heavier dust is drawn away from the work and work surfaces so material being cut fits accurately against the table and fence.

Routers

Routers are multi-functional, taking care of many tasks in a workshop setting. I’ll go over a few options here.
A while back I made a slab levelling setup to flatten too-wide planks. Anticipating the large dado cutter and volume of mate­rial to be removed would make a heck of a mess, I custom fitted a skirt around the sled to contain the dust as much as possible. Then, rather than simply running the stock router along the sled, pass after pass, I crafted a custom base for it featuring a dust collec­tion port for the router to fling dust into as it was being generated. The base is simply a rectangle of 1/4″ Plexiglas (could have been high-density fibreboard) and the dust port I created began life as a multi-step vacuum fitting from Lee Valley (03J6099) trimmed above to accept my 55 mm i.d. / 2-1/4″ o.d. shop vac hose and shaped below to scoop up the dust. It works a like a charm. Now I’m imag­ining another version with two vacuum fittings and a “Y” setup to a 4″ hose for double the extraction to a central dust collector.

When mortising, I use a 1/2″ plunge router fitted with either an end-cutting straight fluted bit or an up-cut spiral bit, depending on the width and depth of mortise. Both bits produced wads of dust and spread it all over. That is, until I invested in an Oneida Universal Dust-Free Router Hood (Oneida-air.com). The uni­versal base fits a host of router makes/models and is designed to extract dust from both above and below the bit. By drawing off the dust and shavings as they’re created, the bit can do its prime job of cutting, working more quickly, efficiently and cleanly. I fit the Oneida’s port with the same 55mm i.d. / 2-1/4″ o.d. vacuum line used on my compound miter saw. I’ve been able to create deeper mortises, with less setup time between cuts, and far less cleanup once all the mortises are done. And because the Oneida base travels with the router, any and all hand-held routing operations bene­fit. Plus, router bits stay sharp longer and have a longer life due to reduced heat and pitch buildup.

Dovetail joinery is done in my shop with a Leigh dovetail jig, and until they introduced their VRS vacuum and router support (Leightools.com), it was a messy chore. Using resinous or oily woods quickly fouled the bits with resin or pitch, slowing the job and dulling the cutters. Plus, avoiding the obvious flying dust meant keeping my setup low, at 32″ bench height, so I couldn’t see or “feel” the cut as I was mak­ing it. Since fitting the VRS to my jig, its universal design allows me to use any router I choose, and the dust is drawn away as the bit creates it. Here, I fit the VRS with a 25mm i.d. hose with a 2-1/4″ fitting to suit my shop vac.

As a bonus, the VRS eliminates any temptation for the router to tip as it weaves in and out as it transverses the length of the jig. This improves results and reduces the stress of every cut.

I’ve been able to safely raise both my mortising and dovetailing setups to a more comfortable 42″ working height, improving vis­ibility, making adjustments much easier and faster, plus gaining valuable space below the jigs to machine longer furniture parts.

Trim routers are often accessorized with bases equipped for dust extraction. For example, my versatile little Bosch has many exchangeable bases. One is a plunge base with a removable, revers­ible dust “dome” which when fitted with a 25mm i.d. vacuum hose with 2-1/4″ end can be positioned toward or away from the user as preferred. It’s very effective for routing small dadoes and prepping for inlays.

I set up my router table to extract dust from both above and below the table. My experience is the lion’s share of dust, especially the most harmful, finest dust, is drawn off instantly. Shop-built table routing setups can be customized to include effective top and bottom dust extraction, especially when connected to a high-volume source like a central dust collector. My cobbled setup has 2-1/4” hoses top and bottom with a “Y” connecting them to a 4″ duct feeding into my central dust collector.

Biscuit joiners

Plate or “biscuit” joiners are another great candidate for at-source dust extraction. I use mine often for spline-mitered frames, plank alignment when edge gluing, etc., and quickly pack the stock dust bag with dust. But with its accessory dust take-off and a 25mm i.d. hose with 2-1/4″ shop vac fitting, the job goes more quickly, the cutter lasts longer, mortises are crisper and more pre­cise, and there’s zero cleanup afterwards.

Sanding

Hand power sanding also benefits from localized extraction. Fitting a flex hose to a random orbital sander just as you would a biscuit joiner produces smooth results much faster. The abrasive works more effectively, not having to wade through its own dust, and any loose grit cast off by the disc is instantly removed for more uniform results before changing to finer grits. And because the dust is removed instantly there’s less resin buildup on the discs, greatly extending disc life.

And if a belt sander is what you use for rough levelling or plank prep, then a vacuum take-off is a great feature. No more re-sanding dust-covered surfaces the first pass failed to clean, endlessly purging dust bags and prematurely replacing costly pitch-packed belts.

As I see it, at-source extraction is a wonderful complement to the quality, enjoyment and product of the wood­working we craft, regardless if we also create dust, shavings, chips or swarf.

Universal hoses, adapters and fittings can be sourced at retailers across Canada.


MARK SALUSBURY - [email protected]

Whether it is joinery or turnery, Mark has enjoyed designing and making furniture, decorative and functional items and home remodeling ... anything to do with woodworking, for over 35 years.

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