Dust is the bane of the woodworker; pretty much everything you do in your shop creates dust. Some woods create pretty hazardous sawdust and inhaling it can irritate your lungs or cause other medical problems. Larger shops have dust collection solutions in place to greatly reduce these problems, but they aren’t always appropriate for smaller home wood shops. That doesn’t mean you’re doomed to just deal with the dust, though. There are several ways to reduce the dust in your home woodshop even if a large-scale collection system is out of the question.
Make the Most of Your Equipment
Several of the tools in your wood shop may already be set up for dust collection. Hooking a shop vac up to the tool will suck up most of the dust from your work as it’s produced. This is especially common on larger stationary tools since the hose of the vacuum is unlikely to get in the way. Empty the vacuum canister outdoors when you’re finished so that you don’t accidentally introduce all of that sucked-up dust back into your shop environment.
If your current tools don’t have points of attachments for dust collection, then it’s something to look for on future purchases. Dust hoods and collection ports are also available; they attach to your shop vac and are placed near your work area or mounted nearby. When choosing a location for the dust hood or port, make sure it won’t get in the way of you, your equipment or your workpiece.
Dust in the Wind
Even with a shop vac to collect dust, some dust inevitably escapes into the rest of your shop. Your next line of defense involves taking out this dust while it’s still in the air. Air filters and dust collectors are some of your best tools here. Ordinary box fans can also be very effective in some situations.
Air filters and dust collectors work similarly – they both use filters to remove dust from the air. Choose a unit with a HEPA filter to remove the widest range of dust particles and clean or change those filters regularly. The filters will require more frequent cleaning or changing than under normal circumstances since you’re generating so much more dust. Because of this, check the filter after every work session and clean or replace them as needed. Dust collectors have a bin that needs periodic emptying as well because the bin fills up with sawdust and other wood particles.
If your woodshop is located in a garage or outdoor building, then a box fan placed in the window or doorway will also help with your dust problem. Set up the fan so that it blows out instead of in and the moving air will carry some of your small dust particles with it as it goes.
It’s important to clean up whatever dust you can when you’re done for the day to prevent it from accumulating. A shop vac with surface-cleaning attachments is ideal for this. Connecting the vacuum hose to the output port so that it blows air also helps, as it blows dust out of seams and corners where it may otherwise accumulate. Keep your fans and filters going while you do this to get as much dust out of the air as possible.
Also, remember to check your tools and equipment once you’re finished and remove any dust that clings to them. This prevents the dust from holding in moisture which causes rust and other problems.
Dust and Safety Equipment
It’s easy to forget how problematic dust is until it’s too late. Consider wearing a dust mask or possibly even a full respirator along with your other safety equipment instead of just opting for safety glasses. It’s definitely worth the extra moments it takes to put the new equipment on if it prevents lung irritation or other problems. If you use a respirator, turn it on before you start working and keep it going until you’ve finished your project and the dust is out of the air.
If you have problems with asthma, you should also keep an extra inhaler in your shop first aid kit. Even if you normally keep your inhaler with you, it’s important to keep an extra in your kit where it’s easy to find. If every other precaution fails, then you’ll have quick access to an inhaler without having to search for it.