What Is Workshop Dust Collection?

Christian Petersen
Christian Petersen
Man with a drill
Man with a drill

Workshop dust collection is any technique or use of equipment in a woodworking shop to control and collect particles of waste from operations. When talking about dust in a woodworking shop, the term refers to three types of waste — shavings, wood chips, and sawdust. Workshop dust collection equipment and techniques are designed to remove as much of these types of waste as possible from the work area, ideally as they are produced. Workshop dust collection techniques and equipment can range from improvised systems like attaching a vacuum hose to a tool with duct tape to complex, purpose-built systems with fans, ducting and filtration such as might be found in a large woodworking business.

All woodworking shops produce dust and other waste. Sawdust can vary in size from snowflake size down to particles almost too small to be seen with the naked eye. Chips are slightly larger than sawdust and are produced by woodworking machine tools like planers and routers. Shavings are the largest type of woodworking waste and are usually the result of turning on a lathe or using hand tools like a plane. All of these forms of waste can cause problems and hazards, and workshop dust collection is intended to reduce their presence as much as possible.

The largest pieces of wast,e such as large shavings and chips, are difficult to collect by mechanical means and are usually simply swept up with a broom. Smaller pieces, like the smaller chips and sawdust, are another matter and can be collected in a number of ways. Many residential hand tools are equipped with dust collection bags as an attachment. Some of these work well, but few are capable of collecting even a majority of dust particles. One trick employed by some woodworkers is to remove the dust collection bag from the tool, attach the hose of a shop vacuum to where the bag mounts, and run the vacuum while operating the tool.

Purpose-built systems for workshop dust collection are available for most home workshops as well. They consist of a large central vacuum unit and tubes which run to each tool in the workshop. Many of these tools are large and stationary — like drill presses, table saws, radial arm saws and planers. The system is turned on and removes the dust and other waste that are produced during the work process. Some individual tools and machines have their own integral dust collection systems.

For large workshops, more powerful systems are used, but they work in essentially the same way. Large vacuum units draw up the dust and other waste and transport it by duct or tubing to a central location where it is deposited in bags or bins. These units often use filters to catch the smallest dust particles and an air return system to maintain the balance of air flow and pressure between the shop and the collection system.

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      Man with a drill