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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I thought I would share my loss with you guys. I read many stories here and decided to chime in.

Several years ago, I had a 12'x24" shop dedicated to wood working. I always was as safe as possible. I heated it with a catalytic type propane heater stuck in a corner well away fro fumes of finishing products. Always used a exhaust fan when finish products were in use and always used the industrial dust collector I had.

It was cold out and I needed to sand a piece quickly. I didn't turn on my dust collector figuring minimal amounts of dust and the cold wouldn't allow motor to start.

I sanded the piece and headed for the door back into the house. I turned off the heater but the glow still remained. I opened the door and heard a dull thud. I turned around just in time to see the wind through the door had blown the dust into the air. It hit the glowing heater and it was like a fireworks went off flashing the fine dust particles. They flash throughout the shop, blew me out the door and engulfed into flames inside. From there I guess it ignited the fumes from the finish storage area.

Needless to say, my shop was a total loss and still hasn't been rebuilt. My hair was a total loss but it grew back luckily.

Fire chief told me he has seen one other time that woodworkers done this, even with an electric element heater.

Yesterday, another wwod shop blew and burned in town. They are sure it was a dust burn. They were heating shop with a old style gas furnace that had a open air flame area.:thumbdown:
 

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Oil filled radiator heater here. No exposed element, just the warm metal radiator tubes...

I am a bit shocked you had enough ambient dust to catch like that with dust collection working. Would make me seriously question the effectiveness of your dust collection / control system.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I am a bit shocked you had enough ambient dust to catch like that with dust collection working. Would make me seriously question the effectiveness of your dust collection / control system.
I can't really remember the whole situation as it was several years ago. I think the wind had a large roll in everything as it whipped through the door when I opened it. There may have been a trash can by the door that I had thrown some dust in too.
Like I said, I didn't turn on the dust collector which was probably my ignorance in not doing so. There may have been more dust than I thought there was. I do remember the dust was floating around at the sanding table, as I sucked it up my nose because as usual, I was in a hurry and didn't have my dust mask on either.

My finishing area was behind a closed partition to help eliminate dust problems there but that doesn't stop finish fumes from seeking there way out. There may have been some lingering to excel the situation.

I still wonder what the thud noise was. Who knows, maybe something else ignited the boom and the dust was an after affect.

Regardless, I won't ever use an open flame heat source again, even a catalytic one. Going by the fire chief investigation, it was an dust explosion they ruled.
 

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Wow thanks for the info. I will have to evaluate my system. I was working with the heater on today. My shop is in my garage under the master bedroom.

Sent from my iPhone using Wood Forum
 

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About 2+ years ago, Babine Forest Products in Burns Lake, BC, exploded. Not many weeks later, Lakeland Mills in Prince George, BC, exploded. Men died. Men were burnt and crippled.
Not silly little POOF explosions = those mills were LEVELLED by the blast.
Everybody is still pointing fingers at everybody else.
The investigating agency has phuqued up most of the evidence.

Dust in corners, dust on ledges, a cascade of dust explosions was probably the cause in each case.
Take care = this is worse that house cleaning.
OR
Do you want to beat the next NASA rocket to Mars?
 

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Thanks for sharing and I'm sorry for the loss of your shop. Glad that you escaped relatively unharmed.

I use a small electric heater in my garage, but rarely have to run it because it doesn't get that cold here. Sometimes I'll turn it know and see a couple of tiny bursts which look like some settled dust burning off, but I had no idea something like this was even possible.
I run a dust collector, air cleaner, and I sweep up regularly. I did a big clean this past weekend and I was shocked as to how much dust still makes its way around the shop. I will think twice before turning on my heater again.
 

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I am with Captain Awesome on this one. I had not even considered the risk on this one since I don't keep highly flammable materials (other than wood) in my shop. I have a wood burning stove in my shop that I rarely use anyway, but I'll think twice before firing up ever after reading this.
 

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I do not use any open ignition sources, but must admit with the amount of fine sanding dust in my shop at times, this thread is scary.

See video.

 

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Working in the utility industry I have received plenty of training on combustible dust. The coal plants worry about it all of the time and it is also a big deal at grain silos. My question on wood dust exploding (yes I think it could) is how much do you really need? I am reading this thread wondering about fumes and dust. Not trying to be a smart*** but if you have all of your containers closed properly and in a cabinet for storage how do you get fumes? I sand quite often and can honestly say I do not know how much it would take. I just put a gas heater in my garage due to the extreme cold up here in MN but plan on running it when I am not sanding or sealing. I have been using a propane heater, electric and kerosene for years but will be looking a lot closer to see if I was just lucky or actually doing it right. Mind you I also change out the air in my shop quite often by fans and opening the garage door.
 

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I'm not sure of the science but an explosion is possible from air borne dust when it reaches a point that the dust particles burn from one particle to the other so fast that it is an explosion. So if my assumption is right then the dust in the corners are not the problem, although good housekeeping should be a priority regardless, especially within electrical switches.

I heat with a wood stove and have sanded and routed a lot with a nice warm fire going and I don't have a dust collector. I take the time to open the two doors to the shop to ventilate the air borne dust out from time to time during the process in hopes the concentrations are kept low.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not discounting the concern, it is real and I keep it in mind every time I work in my shop with the fire going. Grain elevators are wired with explosion proof fixtures for the same reason, but the concentration of the air borne dust is a lot higher than a typical wood shop.

I have seen a fire start in a dust collector from a static spark, nasty to put out. So as we try to collect dust from the source we are also creating a large potential for a static electrical discharge that can ignite the dust. So it isn't just heaters or wood stoves.

All that said, man it must have hurt to lose the shop, I feel for you..
 

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Here in mich I use wood for heating my shop. I always burn my saw dust, shavings, stuff off the floor and at time some projects. Anyways many times I've had a fire going and throw in a shovel of saw dust etc and it will poof back before it even hits the ashes or fire.

What really concerns me is a dust collector and static elect. Before running a wire through my PVC duct work, I had 1 inch sparks coming off my pipes. Real scarey to me.
 

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Here is a link to a very informative presentation on explosive wood dust:

http://www.healthandsafetyontario.c...es/Webinar-Canadian-Combustible-Wood-Dust.pdf

It is focused on industrial applications but the principles are the same in our small wood shops. The part where it describes primary and secondary explosions might explain the effect Gregad described with the smaller "woof" before the fire.

Certainly a topic to be aware of and to take a few simple housekeeping precautions.
 

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As a woodworker in Utah who has a garage shop with master bedroom directly above. I can't imagine suffering an explosion or a burn down as it would destroy my shop but likely also my home!! So this thread is particularly interesting to me.

I have use several diff types of heaters in my shop and luckily no issues with flame but I definitely haven't put much thought into it. It gets cold here during the winter so that's when I'd be really concerned about a fire. I will not use propane or open flames anymore! I have an oil filled radiator heater also and will turn to that for heat going forward. I'll definitely be careful with finish products as well as that presents a serious flash threat.

Best explosion prevention method: Ventilation, ventilation, Ventilation! Right? (Assuming that your shop is cleaned regularly and not covered in inches of dust!)
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Here is a link to a very informative presentation on explosive wood dust:
Carvel, I have thought about this many times. This could be possible answer. I did hear a first explosion, a loud pop. When I opened the door, the wind outside was blowing quite good. It could have blown the dust from sanding off the sander into the heater and the first ignition could have blown more dust and caused the larger second explosion. They were just close enough that I didn't realize it. I always took care to vacuum up saw dust and normally used the dust collector but house keeping was never one of my strongest assets. There may have been some dust on top of cabinets, shelves or places I rarely cleaned. I do know that fumes from finishes coming out around the door to the room I stored my flammables did ignite as there were fire traces going form the floor up the walls around the door.
The heater was 28 feet from that door. So that tells me there was dust blowing towards that end of the shop.
 
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