All About Dust Collection
All About Dust Collection
Learn how to protect your lungs with top-notch dust collection tips and techniques.
In 2002, wood dust went from being a nuisance to an official health risk. It has been linked to a variety of nose, throat, and lung cancers. But it has taken our corner of the woodworking industry a while to catch up with reality.
Collecting and exhausting dust at its source, before it reaches you, is the most efficient way to deal with wood dust. That’s why woodworking machines—from table saws to disk sanders—come with exhaust hoods or ports.
The trouble with older woodworking machines was that their exhaust hoods and ports were, at best, ineffective—and often non-existent. But improvements have been steady and significant. If you are buying new machines or power tools, look for products that make dust collection convenient and effective. For your existing tools, take a day in the shop to improve the ports.
Fifteen or twenty years ago, if you collected dust at all, you probably did it with a single-stage collector and a 30-micron polyester bag. Those porous bags act like fine-dust delivery systems, blasting out a cloud of the most dangerous stuff at head height. Ironically, the people who didn’t bother with dust collection at all, leaving big piles of sawdust under their table saws, were probably safer!
Not surprisingly, the most dangerous dust particles, the very fine ones, are also the most difficult to collect. Particulate smaller than 10 microns hangs in the air the longest, penetrates deepest into the lungs, and is the hardest for the body to filter and eject.
Tool companies eventually decided to get serious about filtration. Enter the pleated filter, which can pack hundreds of square feet of surface area into a small canister. That lets you get much finer filtration without killing airflow/suction. If you are in the market for a dust collector or shop vacuum of any kind, look for the ones that use a pleated filter. But let’s first talk about the power plant, the dust collector itself.
Add a dust mask or respirator to your arsenal
Despite your best efforts, you will not be able to collect dust from every source. Mitre saws are notoriously hard to collect from, and how do you suck up all the dust from hand sanding? In these cases, a snug-fitting dust mask or a respirator is your next best line of defence. Look for dust masks and respirators rated N-95 or higher. If you have a beard, a dust mask or normal respirator won’t make an effective seal against your face. In that case, consider buying a powered respirator. These keep a positive flow of air going past the face.
Air filters are controversial
Collecting hazardous dust where it’s coming out of the machine is the best way to protect your lungs. And experts agree that a respirator or a good dust mask is the next best thing. But those feel like a nuisance to some woodworkers, and many turn to ceiling-mounted air filtration units in an effort to clear the air.
What no one disputes is that capturing dust at its source, with powerful suction and fine filtration, is the best way to clear the air in your workshop.
Here are some great options we have here at Hardware Centre;