Dust Collection 101



Dust collection has to be more than a broom and a dust pan if you are using power tools to any extent. There are three basic types of dust collection necessary, a large Dust Collector, a good Shop Vacuum and an Air Filtration Unit.

Wood dust can be hazardous to your health, if your skin and respiratory systems become sensitized to it further exposure could result in allergic reactions ranging from eye irritation and nasal dryness to dermatitis and asthma. If that hasn't got you worried, OSHA has classified wood dust as a known carcinogen.

Health risks are only part of the dangers, sawdust makes floors slippery and can be a fire risk. It will clog motors, wear parts of machinery and foul critical adjustment settings.

Different machines make different kinds of dust, thickness planers produce piles of wood chips, sanding machines produce clouds of fine dust, sometimes one machine is not the answer, there has to be a combination, each doing what it does best.

Having a tool connected to a machine to catch the dust is not always 100% effective, some will escape and hang in the air, this is why the air has to be cleaned as well with an air filtration system.

Dust Collectors

Dust collectors come in many different sizes, some are lower capacity, portable and run on 110 volt current, they are usually conneced to the tool with a short flexible hose.

Larger units usually run on a 220 volt circuit, some on 3 phase current, they are usually stationary with a piping system permently connecting each machine with gate valves to control the suction.

Dust collectors get the big pieces and suck them up through large diameter pipes, 4 - 8 inches in diameter, once the pipes are reduced down to a hose small enough to fit on a tool such as a hand sander they don't work as well as a shop vacuum for that application. Round pipes are the most common as dust tends to collect in the corners of square tubing, but it can be used if there are no other options, it is a good idea to tap it once in a while to free any trapped dust.

The design of the piping layout is important, right angle bends should be avoided, use two 45 degree elbows, the pipe has to be sized to match the dust collector unit capacity. Both metal and plastic tubing, usually PVC, are used, it comes down to personal preference, some are concerned about static build up in the plastic tubes. There are grounding solutions to prevent static but many do not find it a problem or consider it a danger. Piping may be overhead or underground if added when shop is constructed or if there is a crawl space. Some prefer to run a covered trough through center of shop to contain DC piping, compressed air and electrical feeds.

Most collectors have the fan unit connected between two bags, a solid bag on the bottom to catch the dust and chips and a porus bag on the top that acts as a filter for the exhaust air. Many units come with a 5 micron filter bag which means that any particles smaller than that will pass through and enter the room air. Some units come with1 micron filter bags that removes much smaller particles from the exhaust, these bags are also available to replace the 5 micron style bags.

With a 650 CFM suction capacity and a 3/4 HP, 60 Hz, 110 Volt, 12 amp motor, this compact dust collector handles serious shop messes without cluttering up your workspace. It mounts in seconds with a simple Z-bracket, extra brackets can be set up around your shop making this unit totally portable with flexible piping to the machine.

More info from Rockler.com

The PM1900 Dust Collector features the exclusive TurboCone™ which improves chip separation to prevent clogging of the filter, and increases packing efficiency of the collector bag. The canister filter offers superior filtering surface area over standard bags, and captures 98% of 2-micron particles. A digital timer can be set for up to 99 minutes, and an infrared sensor allows remote control operation. The all-metal duct improves rigidity and air flow. This style unit is generally plumbed with permanent piping to the machines through-out the shop.

More info from Rockler.com

Dust Gates

With multiple branches to your machines there has to be a way of shutting off the pipes to increase the vacuum in the line you are using. This is done with a dust gate, they can be factory made from metal or plastic, or you can make them yourself.

More info from Rockler

Make your own

Wood magazine Plan

NC Woodworker Plans


PSI dust gate

Turns on 220 volt D/C when opening blast gate, multiple gates can be connected so it turns off when last gate closes,

PSI Woodworking LRMSET220 220 Volt Long Ranger Multigate Switch System


Shop Vacuums

Even with a large dust collector there are times when a shop vacuum is more suitable, particularily working with miter saws, bandsaws, belt sanders, and ROS. Drywall kits have light flexible hoses which allow freedom of movement of the ROS especially. A dust separator will help keep the shop vacuum filter clean.

There is not a lot of difference in the performance of most shop vacuums, some are slightly better than others, any of them will likely do the job. The difference is in the noise level, the more you pay, generally the quieter they run, noise can be distracting and without hearing protection hazardious to your hearing.

Powerful suction, quiet operation, and compact size has made the Fein Turbo II a long-standing benchmark for high-end shop vacuums. With convenient tool-triggered on/off, the Turbo II is particularly well-suited for woodworking shops, where it is used just as often for dust collection with power tools as it is for cleanup.

More info from Rockler.com

Turns any shop vacuum with a 2-1/4'' ID outlet into a 2-stage dust and chip separator. When used with most power tools and shop vacuums, the Dust Right® Separator captures sawdust, wood chips, and other debris before it enters your vacuum, preventing the loss of suction power caused by a clogged vacuum filter.

More info from Rockler.com


Air Filteration

Dust collectors and shop vacuums remove chips and most of the dust but there will still be fine particles of dust in the air. An air filtration system will clean the air as it is drawn through filters and exhausted out the other side. These units are usually hung from the ceiling but can be placed on a bench if so desired close to the source. The filters have to be cleaned, frequency depends on the conditions in your shop. There are manufactured units available and also many plans to make your own using stock furnace filters.

air filtration system

Simply hang it from the ceiling and turn it on, and it will clear the room of those fine dust particles. This unit was the first with remote control, timer and three speeds – now standard in the industry.

More info from Rockler


No matter what system or systems you have unless all the dust is extracted from the machine it is not doing its job. Some machines come factory equipped to be connected to your system, many older machines have to be modified. There are many products on the market and a lot of good information for alterations you can do yourself.

table saw dust collector guard

When connected to a dust collection system, this style Dust Collection Guard captures the dust thrown up by your table saw blade. They can be used on any table saw with an extension table. They are very easy to install and easily swings out of the way.

This type of guard works with dado blades or molding heads as well a standard saw blade.

More info at Amazon.com 

Links I gleaned from Absolutely Free Plans

Bandsaw Dust Collection

Drill Press Dust Collector

Capture More Dust From Your Router Table (video)

Blast Gate, Shop Built

Table Saw Dust Collector


bandsaw patent
Frame For Illustration Only

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