If you’re a woodworker or you regularly cut wood in an enclosed shop, you need an effective dust collection system. Sawdust and wood chips can be an obvious nuisance, settling on your workbench and tools and making your shop look messy. But they also pose hidden hazards: Wood dust is a fuel that ignites and burns easily, and fine dust particles that you can’t even see can cause serious health problems.
The goal of dust collection isn’t complicated. Robert Witter, founder and president of Oneida Air, puts it quite simply: “You collect as much dust as you can at the source and then stop it with a rated fine micron filter.” It really is that simple.
So if it’s such a no-brainer, why do woodworkers tolerate inadequate dust collection? It’s not that they aren’t trying to collect the dust they create. But unfortunately, many are only cleaning up the mess they can see — and missing the fine particles that are most harmful to their health. Their efforts and resources are often wasted because of manufacturers’ overstated claims. Even with the best intentions, many woodworkers set up a system that isn’t capable of collecting most of the dust created by woodworking tools.
Cost is another factor. An effective dust-collection system can be a relatively major investment – as much as $2,000 for a full system, depending on size. But many shops don’t need that much equipment, and there are many incremental improvements you can make that are not expensive. It’s also true that a new dust collection system won’t make the same kind of visible contributions to the quality of your projects as other new tools (such as a new table saw), but it will make your work more enjoyable and your shop a healthier place to spend time.
Finally, it’s easy to get bogged down in the technical calculations and jargon involved in setting up a dust-collection system. Accurate calculations are critical for complicated layouts and commercial shops, but setting up a small shop system is fairly straightforward. Here’s how to get started.
Design and installation
The frequency that you use your shop shouldn’t affect the type of system you install. The type of tools you use...
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