Up until just a few years ago, the primary means of dust collection in most woodshops was a simple broom and dustpan. But 21st-century woodworkers are much more aware of the impact of wood dust on their respiratory health. They are also aware of the fire danger that sawdust poses to their shops -- and the homes that are often attached to them. Hence, woodshop dust control has become a hot topic, and the devices and strategies used to collect chips or filter dust now receive almost as much attention in the woodworking press as the latest and greatest machines, portable power tools, and shop gadgets.
Since Woodshop Dust Control was first published seven years ago, hardly a week goes by when I don't receive an e-mail query or telephone plea from a puzzled reader: Can I design a ductwork system using my computer? Should I replace the bags in my portable chip collector with advanced filter media? Are there affordable ways I can automatically control my central system? Is there some new way I can ground my plastic ductwork? Which disposable dust mask is best for me, according to the new guidelines of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)? Can I make the power sanding of wood parts a cleaner task? Keeping up on the latest collection equipment and methods is essential to providing the best answers to such questions.
Fortunately, technology and product design have kept pace with the current trend to make dust collection as much a standard part of a woodshop as electricity and lighting. Lots of noteworthy innovations and improvements in dust equipment and accessories have come to market in the last seven years, including: better filters for dust and chip collectors, disposable bags for portable power tools, advanced electronic systems that make central collection systems easier to control, air-filtration devices that are more convenient to use, affordable downdraft tables to capture fine dust while sanding, and easier-to-use shop vacuums with better fine-particle filtration. One of the goals of the new and updated version of this book is to acquaint you with the complete range of dust-control devices and methods available to outfit your small (or not-so-small) woodworking shop.
Some things about dust control haven't changed since the earliest days of woodworking. Sawdust is still a woodshop nuisance: a messy by-product that's hard to avoid. Our machines churn out great heaps of chips and shavings that combust all too readily. They also throw a ton of fine wood dust into the air, which, as medical studies continue to reveal, can pose a significant health hazard. Do we really need more to convince us that capturing and controlling woodshop dust is an essential duty?
Probably the hardest part of dealing with dust is knowing which devices and methods to choose from among the extensive assortment of collection, filtration, and ventilation devices currently available. One class of devices, including shop vacuums and central collectors, is designed to capture dust at its source -- at a woodworking machine, a sanding table, or a workstation where portable power tools are used. These devices provide the most direct and efficient means of dust control since the majority of chips and dust are captured and collected before they can escape. Airborne dust can be abated by several different secondary control methods, including ventilation and air filtration or by wearable protection devices such as disposable masks, replaceable-cartridge respirators, and powered air-purifying respirators.
Unfortunately, buying the right respirator to protect your lungs or picking a collector powerful enough to handle your shop's sawdust output isn't as straightforward as the process of buying a handplane or table saw. If you've browsed a woodworking supply catalog or website lately, you've likely been confronted by a confusing array of information about particle size, filtration efficiency, airflow and ductwork sizing, cubic-feet-per-minute (cfm) and static-pressure ratings, etc. This kind of technical data is usually more befuddling than helpful. A troubling result is that many woodworkers end up with equipment that provides only a poor or partial solution to their dust problems.
This updated version of my book presents all the latest information you'll need to choose and implement dust control in your shop with a minimum of head scratching. Everything you need to know is explained in layperson's terms that you don't need an engineering degree to understand. Better still, there are lots of suggestions for how to achieve your dust-control goals without breaking your bank account.
This book's chapters progress from simple and inexpensive dust-control measures, such as wearing a dust mask and ventilating the shop, to more complex and expensive means of capturing and filtering dust, from shop vacuums and portable collectors on up to full central collection systems. Because installing a complete central system is an extensive undertaking, the last four chapters are devoted to all the necessary steps, from choosing a collector and designing the ductwork, to hooking up machines, to fine tuning the system for best performance.
Whichever dust-control measures you choose, you'll end up with a shop that's a cleaner and healthier place to work. After you take the plunge, I'm sure you'll never let a little thing like sawdust get in the way of your enjoyment of woodworking again.