How To Control Dust And Debris
If your idea of controlling sawdust is a broom and dust pan – think again! Today’s power tools not only create dust, they also produce clouds of fine, airborne particles that stay suspended for long periods and get into your eyes, nose, mouth, and lungs. For safety and cleanliness while working, faster cleanups, and for better long-term health, you’ll want to incorporate modern methods to control dust and debris. Here are the top five solutions.
1. Personal respiratory protection
This includes a disposable dust mask, a reusable respirator, or an air-filtering face shield.
These solutions do not keep dust from getting in your shop, but they do help prevent dust from getting inside you. The disposable mask is an inexpensive option. But, if your woodworking produces a lot of fine dust, the reusable respirator is a better choice because it forms a tighter seal around your mouth and nose. The air-filtering face shield gives you eye protection along with respiratory protection, and even helps to cool your face and keep perspiration out of your eyes when it’s hot in the shop by circulating a stream of filtered air across your face.
2. Air-filtration units
These devices are basically a box with a motorized fan that pulls air through a series of filters to scrub it clean. Try to locate the air filter in your shop near the source of the fine dust. They work well, and save space, when hung from the ceiling.
Pick the size of unit that is adequate for the size of your shop. A unit’s capacity is rated in CFM (cubic feet per minute of air that is filtered). As an example, a unit with a 900 CFM rating can clean a 35’ x 35’ x 7 ½’ shop in ten minutes. If your shop is irregular shaped, you’ll need a unit with a higher CFM rating to move the air around corners.
You’ll need to clean the filters regularly, especially in dusty shops. While air-filtration units do a good job of removing fine dust particles from the air, they don’t replace primary collection units that attach directly to your woodworking equipment. For large shops, consider buying two air-filtration units and positioning at opposite ends of your shop to keep the air circulating. And, look for a model with a timer so you can leave the unit(s) running after you’re done working in order to scrub the air completely and prevent the dust from settling out and getting stirred up later.
3. Shop vacuums
These compact and portable picker-uppers are great for cleaning your shop at the end of the day. And, the hose can be connected to many benchtop and portable power tools to collect dust as you work.
Since you’ll be working around the vacuum, pick a quieter model and wear hearing protection. Also, choose a model with a larger bag or drum so you don’t have to empty it as often. Some units come with switches that automatically turn the vacuum on and off as your tool goes on and off.
4. Portable chip and dust collectors
These collectors can be wheeled from tool to tool to suck in large volumes of dust and fine dust at multiple sources.
Debris-laden air is pulled through a hose from stationary machines to the collector. Once in the collector, the debris ends up in a large collection bag and the air is pushed through a filter bag back into the room. Choose a collector with a filter bag rated for catching extremely small particles (rated in microns); it’s the smallest particles that linger in the air the longest and pose the greatest threat to your respiratory system.
5. Central dust-collection system
This is the most powerful and effective way to collect debris and fine dust at multiple sources.
These units are installed in a permanent location—sometimes just outside the shop to save on space and cut down on noise—and connect to a system of ductwork, blast gates, and hoses running to all your dust-producing machines. There are many sizes and types of central dust collectors. To choose the right one, consider the number and types of tools the collector will be connected to, and the amount of ductwork between these tools and the collector. Many manufacturers supply charts and formulas for helping you make that determination.