Unless you’re using only hand tools, and don’t sand any of your surfaces, you’re creating dust in your workshop. Dust is a carcinogen when it’s inside your lungs. The smaller the particle, the deeper it can go in your lungs, and the more damage it can do in the long run. Don’t take a chance with your health. Follow these tips to ensure your dust collection is up to this important, and often overlooked, task.
By Rob Brown
Photo by Rob Brown
Size your dust collector’s CFM (cubic feet per minute) rating for existing and future machinery. If two machines will be used at the same time you should add the two CFM requirements together to determine your overall requirements. Also keep in mind that manufacturer’s numbers are intended for perfect scientific conditions, which woodworkers don’t work in. Err on the side of too much CFM.
Try to reduce the overall length of ducts by placing the collector nearest to the center of the area. The longer the ducts, the more friction and turbulence is caused, reducing the effectiveness of your collector.
Avoid narrow collection hoses/ducts; less than 4″ isn’t going to provide much suction at all. Narrow ducts cause friction and reduce suction at the source of the dust.
In order to close off areas or machines not in use, the blast gate can be closed. This allows you to have multiple arms of dust collection ducts and direct the suction to where it’s needed.
Grounded wires wrapped around the ducts will reduce the chance of shock and combustion.
Check machines periodically to ensure larger pieces of wood are not blocking airflow, and reducing the suction near the dust source. Table saws commonly have strips of wood fall into the dust storage area, but some other machines may also have this problem.
Ensure no ducts/hoses are clogged, as any obstruction will affect the airflow in the ducts, and reduce suction. Corners are especially vulnerable to this type of blockage.
Consider smaller dust collection units dedicated to distant machines. If your space is large, having two dust collectors may help to increase suction, compared to using a long run of ducting.
By using a remote/automatic device that automatically turns on the dust collector every time you turn on a machine you will never be without dust collection.
Don’t be afraid to use a dust mask, especially when you’re creating lots of fine dust; i.e., sanding.
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