Canadian Woodworking

Reduce dust from your lathe

Author: Chester Van Ness
Published: April May 2003
lathe dust
lathe dust

This article focuses on dust collection for the wood turner, however, any woodworker who works with the woods listed below should take the same precautions when handling or working with these woods.


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I often hear turners say that the only time that they feel they really need dust collection is when they are sanding. I generally agree, since turning involves the removal of wood with chisels that cut or gouge the wood off in large shavings. However, the other main reason for dust collection while turning is to reduce contact with toxic or hazardous woods. The most common hazardous wood is spalted maple (maple that has started to rot). This wood is identified by the black line patterns running through its grain. It contains corticale mold. Mold is made up of spores, which thrive in dark damp places, such as lungs where it causes “pneumonitis” or “alveolotis”, (hypersensitivity pneumonia). Virtually any thing you do to spalted maple, can release the spores contained in the wood: so be especially careful when cutting, machining or sanding this wood.


Rosewood is another wood that needs to be handled with caution; it can be an irritant to your skin, your eyes, and your respiratory system. Cocobolo, Obeche, Olivewood, and Beech also fall into this category.

The dust from the following woods is known to cause cancer of the nose: Beech, Hemlock, Oak, Quebracho, Redwood, and Sassafras. Although some woods are more toxic than others, people can become sensitized to any wood if they are overexposed to the wood and especially to its dust. Protect yourself by wearing a special mask and protective coatings for skin. If you turn in your basement, remember to be responsible toward other people who live in the house. Forced-air furnaces in homes can easily transmit dust and spores throughout the home if there is not proper dust collection to remove it as you work. The recommended velocity for dust and shaving removal in industrial applications is between 3500 and 4200 feet per minute and the volume should be near 785 cubic feet per minute. To achieve this, the home shop owner would need to have at least a 2hp dust collector with a 6-inch line running to the lathe’s dust collection hood.

It is easy to find the 2hp dust collector but 6” flex hose is expensive and rather hard to find. So I developed a hood to fit a four inch flex line. A typical roughing out operation on a piece of green wood results in the long shavings being directed toward the operator. These shavings are typically harmless except in the case of toxic woods. When sanding a bowl there are a couple of important things to note about proper dust collection. First, the dust hood is positioned and oriented toward the bowl to maximize its effect. Secondly, the operator is keeping his hands in the 6 – 9 o’clock quadrant of the bowl, which is the safest position.

Notice the operator’s hand placement in this spindle sanding operation, with the hood oriented for pick up. This is a manufactured lathe hood. The arrow indicates the universal mounting bracket.

The bracket is bendable and can be bent as necessary and permanently fastened or clamped to the lathe. The “end boot” is an HVAC (heating, ventilating and air-conditioning) fitting that can be adapted to dust collection. You can fashion a bracket to hold it in place or you can permanently fasten this to your lathe. Be sure to fold the exposed edges over to eliminate the sharp edges indicated by the arrow.

Another option is to wet sand your project, thus eliminating the need for dust collection. This procedure is done using mineral oil on the sand paper. However, note that the oil is not compatible with all finishes.

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