Dust collection has never been a high-priority subject for me. It’s not that I wasn’t a believer in shop safety. Indeed, I always wore a dust mask when sanding, running a router, etc. However, most of my tools were a low enough output that the shop vacuum could take care of extraction. For the really messy stuff, I have a 3′ gable fan near the roof that exhausts a prodigious amount of air, taking the suspended dust along with it. With it on one end, and a roll-up door on the other, I could generate a veritable hurricane while planing or routing.
Hand tools, of course, are a different animal entirely. Dust collection there primarily involves a broom and dust pan. Simple.
However, a couple of factors have emerged that changed my approach to these things.
First was the purchase of a SawStop contractor’s table saw. This machine has an excellent dust shroud around the blade that efficiently traps the majority of the sawdust and sends it towards the dust port. The problem arises if you don’t have some sort of vacuum source attached to pull said dust out of the shroud. In this case, the sawdust tends to pack up around the jack screw that raises and lowers the blade assembly, making operation very difficult until all is made clean again.
The other is shop kittens. When they’re young, they see every soft pile of absorbent material as a litter box.
These things caused me to rethink the subject of dust collection. Obviously, I needed to do something, but what? The shop vacuum was clearly inadequate for bigger things like tablesaws and planers. Like many woodworkers, I originally envisioned a magnificent 5hp cyclone system with metal ductwork running all over the shop. Of course, I also envisioned myself retired at 50 and supplementing my magnificent retirement income with the odd shop project. Once I stopped laughing, I started looking for something more realistic.
I decided on the Shop Fox 1.5hp single-stage collector. My original choice had been a similar model by Grizzly, but the Shop Fox was available locally. Though the Grizzly list price was less, shipping pushed it higher, and the specifications were practically identical. The 1280 CFM pull of the Shop Fox (1300 for the Grizzly) was more than adequate for any single machine I would run, so we threw it in the truck and off I went.
Single-stage units have their drawbacks, such as difficulty of emptying and wear on the impeller from debris. To help alleviate these, I added Woodcraft’s Trash-Can Cyclone Lid and a 31-gallon galvanized trash can as a pre-collector. People tend to blow hot or cold on these, but I’ve found this approach very effective. It traps the majority of shavings and larger dust, reducing the load on the collector itself. The results are most dramatic when performing an operation like surface planing, which produces large volumes of coarse shavings. Emptying is easy for me – just lift the lid and dump the trash can on the burn pile.
Why am I showing a picture of the hose? Because I want to sing the praises of Rockler’s Dust-Right system. I have three different 4″ flexible hoses. One “collapsible” one is more akin to fighting with a boa constricter, and subsequently has earned a place permanently attached to my planer. The other, which runs from the cyclone to the dust collector, is just a hose – nothing special. But this Rockler Dust-Right hose, which extends to 28 feet, is another matter entirely. While it’s easy to pull out to its full length, it will also smoothly retract into a contracted position without making you feel like you’ve been in a tug-of-war. I recommend it highly.
Their Dust Right Quick Release System uses a slip-fit connector that let you attach the hose quickly to any tool with a 4″ port. With this, you can change the hose from one tool to another in seconds without the need for any sort of tool. For other tools, Rockler sells a series of adapters that will convert something like a 2 1/2″ port to a 4″ port for use with the Dust Right connecter. The only problem with this system is if the port is in a location that won’t allow the 4″ adapter to connect – my old Craftsman 6″ belt sander is a good example. For these, I’m going to have to rig up some sort of extension. If any of you have done this, leave a comment and let me know your solution.
So far, I’ve set up dust collection on the tablesaw, bandsaw, and planer. I’ll be adding the belt sander when I figure out an adapter, and will be modifying my router table to accept connections as well. The planer deserves a post all to itself, and that will be coming in the near future.
I have to say that the difference has been beyond dramatic. Besides things simply being cleaner, my cleanup time during and after a project has been slashed to a fraction of its former self, giving more time for the fun stuff.
As for the shop kittens, it’s back to the litter box.