Chester Van Ness
Over the years power hand sander designs have been refined to include at least some form of dust collection. The first sanders were simple pad sanders that vibrated or oscillated and they had no means of dust collection, other than sweeping or vacuuming up afterwards. Today, however, you can get a variety of sanders with some form of dust pick-up.
Small random orbit disc sanders are very popular. Some use a through-the-pad dust collection system. It is powered by an internal fan which pulls the dust through the ports in the sanding pad and blows it into a small bucket located on the rear of the machine, under the handle. The sanding discs are held in place by a hook-and-loop fastening system and the holes in the paper must line up with the holes in the pad. The small bucket has several very fine mesh screened openings to allow air to flow through, but traps the dust. With this type of collection you must clean the screens in the bucket to ensure that the system will function efficiently. Through-the-pad systems only work well when the disc fully covers the piece being sanded. As soon as the edge of the disc protrudes past the edge of the work piece, the internal fan cannot handle the extra airflow and fails to capture all the dust particles. Unfortunately, there is no easy method to modify this model of sander so they are best used in conjunction with a down-draft sanding table.
Other models and brands of sanders utilize bags, and porous cup filters to collect the dust. The major drawbacks with these types of machines are the limited capacity of the dust bucket, and the fact that you have to dump the bucket when it gets full. Such dumping is not only time consuming, but it exposes you to the dust that you have collected. Some of the newer models come with a vacuum hose adapter.
Generally, collecting dust from belt sanders with built in dust collection works well, but only if you are diligent in keeping the bag and the dust passageways clean. The design of the belt sander allows for dust collection from along the rear of the belt. Just like the disc sander, this fan cannot capture all the dust once the rear of the sander extends past the piece of wood being sanded. The dust that is captured is removed from the collection bag by un-zipping it and shaking it into the garbage.
Similar to the random orbit disc sander, this is time consuming and exposes you to the dust already collected. My belt sander was easy to adapt to my vacuum because the dust port for the bag was almost exactly the same size as the inside diameter of my vacuum’s hose.
The additional suction of a vacuum will greatly assist in the removal of dust from a sander. There are drawbacks to this collection system, but they can be minimized.
First, the length and weight of the hose could restrict the flexibility and range of the sander’s operation. Second, any time you use a vacuum cleaner to suck up dust you will want to put a finer filter in it. I use a washable cloth bag in my vacuum. The cloth bag filters down to 3-5 microns, whereas most standard vacuum filters are 25-30 microns at best. Finer cartridge type filters are available at most stores that sell large vacuums. Third, any time that you move dust down a plastic hose you will generate static electricity. Therefore, if you don’t want to get shocks, you may want to run bare copper wire inside the hose and ground it at the vacuum cleaner end.