Controlling Woodshop Dust

Cabinetmakers discuss vacuum tool attachments, filters, fans, and whole-shop dust collection systems. February 9, 2006

We create quite a bit of dust from sanding and need a way to filter the air. The only system that I have seen is a downdraft table and the fan type filter system that hangs from the ceiling, made by Delta. I have thought about using a fan with furnace filters but don't know if this would be effective any thoughts?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor A:
I have two of the JDS air filters - the big ones, about 1,700 each. They are basically a squirrel cage with a corrugated paper filter and bag filters, followed by fabric filters on the exit side. They seem to work well if you keep them running. The paper entry filter needs to be changed frequently. I would recommend them, as they have made a big difference in my shop (size 40 x 60).

From contributor B:
If you're looking for a cheap and extremely effective way to eliminate dust created by sanders with dust holes on the pad, get a vacuum hose that fits whatever sander you're using a long, flexible hose is best, but about any kind will work. Get a window fan and put it in a window, blowing out. Rig one end of your hose to the fan, and the other to the sander. The amount of dust that this primitive dust removal system eliminates is astounding, especially when you're used to having no system at all. It is not sophisticated but it works. It'll take some time to get used to the hose, but it's not too bad. You have to be in the right location to do this though as your neighbors might not appreciate dust coming in their windows. Otherwise, there are air sanders with very effective dust extraction, and you could hook a small vacuum to each sander. Air filters are good to have even in a dust free shop.

From contributor C:
You could buy a vacuum and hook the sander to it and stop sending harmful dust into someone's air space. A decent shop vac might set you back $75 - if you want something fancy it's more. But your health, your worker's health and the health of others is worth $100 isn't it?

From contributor D:
I recently bought a new shop vac to dedicate to my Festool ROS. The filter on the vac clogs quickly, and I know the life of the shop vac will be short if I keep this up. I'm going to have to buy a Festool or Fein sander to dedicate to my ROS. Of course, seeing how much dust is generated and clogging my filter makes me realize how much I was breathing.

From contributor E:
I bought one of the Fein Vacuums about three years ago. To be honest, I really balked at the cost, thinking I could get about four pretty good shop vacs for the price. It is proving to be one of the best tool purchases I have ever made. It's powerful, quiet, tool activated, and after a day of sanding with it I continue to be amazed at how clean the shop is. I've hooked it up to a variety of 5 hole sanders and so far it's outlasted three Porter Cable RO's and works wonders now hooked up to my Festool sanders, which are far superior. It also keeps the dust down to zero when hooked up to my biscuit joiner. When I first turned it on I actually thought I'd forgotten to put sandpaper on the pad - there was absolutely no sawdust spewing about the workpiece. I figure it was a very worthwhile purchase, investing not only in a cleaner shop but in the future of my lungs. Couple that with an appropriately sized hanging air filter and a downdraft table for these tools that don't handily hook up to a vacuum and that's about as good as it's going to get.

From contributor F:
I use one $18 three speed box fan, with one furnace filter. Two would be better. It works great, runs all the time on the slowest speed, stored in an open box about 8' up from the floor. I used to use expensive furnace filters, but the inexpensive ones work just as well as they soon collect enough dust to help filter out the very fine stuff. Once a week I take off the filter and blow it off outside. You know it's working very well, as it creates a large fine dust cloud that spreads through the neighborhood. If your run the fan on the lowest speed you can get 5 years out of a fan motor easy, or you can buy something that does the same thing for $1000 or more that looks nicer! I've been using this simple system for 15 years.

From contributor C:
I bought the Festool Mini Turbo 6 years ago. I use it for dust collection on sanding only. On many days it runs all day, not stopping for hours at a time. I have never replaced anything except bags and filters. I wonder have much lung capacity I'd have left if I hadn't bought that thing. I just bought the Turbo II so I can have two, one for shop and the spray room. I would buy another tomorrow even if it was $500. The cost is worth my breathing capacity for the rest of my life.

From contributor H:
I have a direct vent gas heater in my shop and to increase it's effectiveness I built a plywood duct. It has two 550 cfm fans in it. It also has slots for four 16 x 25" filters. I'm using three regular blue filters and a Filtrete filter. On the side I have a manometer to show when the filters are getting clogged.

From contributor I:
I have very good dust control and one of the best machines I have is a Jet roof-mounted air circulator/filter. This makes a huge difference and was well worth the almost $1500. One thing you all must remember when making up your own - dust is explosive under the right conditions and you should use properly sealed electric motors, designed for this task, and not some $10 open fan motor. The old adage for motorcycling is "If you've got a $10 head, wear a $10 helmet". I think the same strategy applies to dust control - you only have one set of lungs.

From contributor J:
I have two of the big filter units you hang under the ceiling. They are wireless remote controlled and I had them installed in my 3000 sq ft shop in a way that the air is nicely circulated. At that time we used a vertical panel saw and created a good amount of dust that was just hanging in mid air. Now we have a beam saw connected to a central collection system. The remote also has a timer function so we leave it running for an hour or so after the shop closes. The units have been used for approximately one year and they look and perform like brand new. Now we just moved into our new shop and have air conditioning in the shop and had a huge DISA central dust collection installed.

From contributor K:
I'll put in a good word for the Fein. I sprung for the HEPA filter and my sinuses have loved it for 4 years now.

From contributor L:
I cast another vote for the Fein. I got mine about six years ago, and it had the lowest noise level and highest static pressure of any of the vacs at the time. The low noise is important to me because my previous ShopVac made such a loud and irritating whine I didn't use it as much as I should have. The Fein is great. Another trick I found is to avoid sweeping. That really throws a lot of fine dust into the air that seems to just hang. My shop is only 700 sq ft, and the floor area I need to sweep is less than half of that, so with a 12" floor nozzle, vacuuming the floor instead of sweeping doesn't take too much longer. It is certainly worth the effort to prevent having that hanging dust, which also seemed to settle on everything else in the shop.