The Importance of Dust Control & Collection in Small Shops
With so much research available, it’s hard (and outright foolish) to ignore that shop dust is a serious health concern. However, there are relatively easy and cost effective steps you can take to reduce or eliminate this dust in small shops and workspaces. I personally decided that the most efficient way to eliminate the hazards associated with shop dust was to build a dust collection system in my workspace. I want to share how I planned and executed my small shop dust collection, including the build and installation of my dust collection system.
Determine Your Dust Control Needs
As with any project, you need to analyze your current and future dust collection needs. This means you need to determine what current tools create dust and any future tools you may add to your shop that will also create dust. I found that my biggest causes of shop dust were my router table, plunge router, sander, jigsaw, table sanding and drilling. I keep my miter and table saws in the garage since they would not fit in my 64 sq. ft. shop. Being able to separate the two largest contributors of dust and chips allowed me to specialize my dust collection system and cater to finishing tools.
The second stage of planning is determining how many tools will be used at one time and the size of your shop. I didn’t need to worry about distance because my shop is only 8 ft. x 8 ft. The number of tools was a concern because I will most likely want more than one tool hooked up to the system at a time. I decided to go with a dedicated 2 ½” line to my router table and then 2 additional ports for handheld tools that would be connected to the system.
After you’ve identified your dust control needs, it’s time to focus on the heart of the system – the vacuum. The world of vacuums is a tough one to navigate; you have HEPA vacuums, shop vacuums, dust collectors and vacuum pumps. If you have allergies or asthma you may want to consider a HEPA vacuum to drive your system. The advantage of using HEPA is that you’re going to eliminate virtually all dust trying to escape out the exhaust port of the vacuum. If you’re looking for better CFM (cubic feet of air flow per minute) because you will be pulling a lot of dust and chips through your system, or you will have long pipe runs, then a stronger dust collector will be needed. I have a small shop and small demand for my collection system so I opted for a 14 gallon Ridgid shop vacuum to power the system.
The next phase of planning is to determine how you want to separate your dust and chips. You have several options for dust separation. The easiest method would be to simply connect your dust extractor to your manifold and let the filter do the separating and simply empty the canister when it’s full. The drawback is that your filter will need to be cleaned and replaced often and the costs will add up over time. The second method is to use a bag in your dust extractor to collect the dust and chips. This keeps your filter from getting clogged, but you do have the cost of the bags which can be $5-20 each. The last option (and my personal favorite) is a cyclonic dust separator. I opted for a Dust Deputy separator for my system but there are several to choose from. A cyclonic dust separator is situated between your suction device and the debris source. The cyclonic force separates out dust and chips into a separate receptacle, in my case a 5 gallon plastic bucket. I have been using mine for several months now and the separator has collected over 99% of the dust and chips before they reach the vacuum.
Building the Dust Control and Collection System
Now that you know what’s going to drive your system, how many tools you will need to hook up and the method for collecting your dust, you can finally build the system. Once I had the dust extractor and separator in place, I was able to design the details of the manifold system. For the manifold I chose to keep everything 2 ½” since that is what the Vac and dust deputy are setup to accept. The main stack consists of two Y-Connector fittings stacked on top of each other. Each dust port is controlled with a 2 ½” metal blast gate. To connect hoses to the outlet ports I opted to use 2 ½” to 2 ¼” swivel conversion ports. These ports allowed me to easily connect Bosch and other standard vacuum hoses to the manifold. I had to use 2 ½” splices and a good layer of PVC cement due to the complexity and various piece in my dust control system
Once the manifold was complete I mounted it to the wall using 2 ½” horseshoe brackets and a 2 x 6. I placed the shop vacuum in a separate room to reduce the noise while in operation. Since the vacuum is located in another room, I mounted a Rockler Safety Power Tool Switch to the face of my work bench. This remote switch allows me to run the shop vacuum to the switch and then just plug the switch in the wall. I chose not use an automatic power sensing switch because I wanted to be able to use multiple tools in the system at the same time.
The whole manifold system only has enough power to have one blast gate open at a time but this is not an issue because I only have a one-man shop. With the fences properly setup on the router table the vacuum is powerful enough to collect over 95% of the chips and dust that are produced. Read even more details on my forum post discussing this project.
What do think? Share your thoughts about my dust control and collection system, or how you’ve created your own dust control for your shop.
More Dust Control and Collection Tips on BTP
- 13 Best Practices for Controlling Remodeling Dust
- 9 Jobsite Dust Control Tips
- More examples of dust control and collection
- All dust control and vacuum discussions on our Pro Forum