Wood Dust Removal Allegan MI
Busting Your Shop Dust
Using modern power tools to cut, shape and sand wood, you can create useful and beautiful projects. You'll also create wood dust - probably lots of it. Ranging in size from the relatively large wood chips that might shoot out the back of a thickness planer to fine dust from sanding (with some particles smaller than one micron), this dust is more than a just a nuisance - it's downright dangerous. The dangers of wood dust in the shop come on two basic fronts: health hazards and fire risks.
On the health front, the primary problem is with inhaling the airborne dust, which can clog your lungs and reduce their capacity to transfer oxygen to your blood. This problem is usually temporary - your lungs will clean themselves the same way they always do - but some permanent damage lingers, and over time the cumulative effect of breathing too much wood dust will reduce your lung capacity for good. A few medical studies have also found a possible link between nasal cancer and prolonged exposure to wood dust, mostly in furniture shop workers. Finally, some of the more exotic tropical species of wood that are popular for home woodworking contain high amounts of silica, a known lung irritant. Some highly allergic people are said to react to certain tropical species as if the wood was a giant poison ivy plant.
Wood dust as a fire hazard is a surprising phenomenon, but if airborne dust gets thick enough in the shop, a single spark (such as from flicking a power switch or pulling an electrical plug) could ignite the stuff and turn the shop into an inferno. Obviously, you'll benefit from clearing the air. The simplest way is to open a couple of windows, put a fan in each window and establish a nice cross-ventilation, blowing dust-laden air out on one side of the room and bringing in fresh air on the other. If you don't have convenient windows, or if the weather isn't cooperating, you'll need to corral and contain the dust inside the shop.
Here are some options for doing that. On-Board Dust Collection Tool manufacturers recognize the need to control dust in workshops and have designed tool features that help. On tools like belt sanders and random-orbit sanders, both of which produce lots of fine, airborne dust, tool designers include dust bags to catch it. A fan attached to the motor's shaft directs the dust through a chute and into the bag, which inflates. The bags are a mix of plastic mesh and tightly woven fabric that is just porous enough to let the air pass through and retain the wood dust. Estimates vary, but most companies agree that the bags catch between 60 and 90 percent of the dust.
That's a good start, but here's the catch: The 10 to 40 percent that passes through the bag is mostly the finest dust, and the fan pushing it through the porous bag just helps it get airborne. To improve on these numbers, some companies offer adapters to hook your shop vacuum right to the tool's dust port. This increases the efficiency tremendously. Depending on the filter in your vac, you'll capture roughly 80 to 95 percent of the dust. If you can't find an adapter for your vac, just improvise.
This is what duct tape is actually for. Really. Pad sanders and random-orbit sanders often employ an extra measure of protection - through-the-pad dust collection. The sandpaper for these tools has five to seven holes punched through it. You line these holes up with corresponding holes on the tool's pad when you attach the paper, and an extra fan inside the tool provides suction to pick up the dust and pull it through the holes into the dust port while the tool is running. This not only increases the dust pick-up, but prolongs the life of the sandpaper. You can almost sand without a dust mask with this system, but you'll probably need some earplugs to protect your ears from the whining vacuum. Circular saws, jigsaws, reciprocating saws and routers are examples of other tools that often include a dust port. Portable Dust Collectors One step up from a shop vacuum is the portable dust collector. It's a little bigger, a little stronger, and the hose coming out of it usually has a larger diameter, as much as 4 or 5 inches.
These are for attaching to stationary power tools, such as table saws, thickness planers and lathes. Some stationary tools have dust collection ports built in. On others you'll need to do your best to position the end of the hose close enough to the action to do some good, but not so close that it gets in the way. On a lathe, try taping the hose to the tool rest to position the end just under the work. Unless there's a good place to put the hose underneath the table of a table saw, tape it to the sliding miter gauge and aim the opening toward the blade. Central Dust Collection Another option is to install a permanent dust collector in a corner of the shop and run metal ducts either around the walls or across the ceiling. Then drop branch arms to each of your stationary tools and a flexible hose to hook up to portable power tools near the bench. The secret to success with this system is to caulk or tape all the joints between ducts and to use airtight blast gates at each terminal end. These gates allow you to close off sections of the ducting, ensuring maximum airflow through the duct you're using at the moment.
A useful option with this kind of system is an oversized intake at floor level, complete with blast gate to close it off when not in use. At the end of the day, when you're cleaning up, just sweep the pile of larger wood chips toward the activated intake and they'll disappear. If you don't want to use the flexible hose on your portable power tools, set up a dust hood. This is a large box with one open side facing you and a connection to the dust collection ducting at the back. Any dust you create working either inside the box or just in front of it is pulled into the system. Make the top of the dust hood out of Plexiglas to increase the light on your work. Ambient Air Cleaners Ambient air cleaners circulate air around the shop, filtering it and removing dust particles as it passes through the unit. It's sort of a high-tech version of opening two windows, but much more efficient. Typical ambient air cleaners move from 700 to 1,800 cubic feet of air per minute through the filter elements, enough to change the air in an average home shop in just a couple minutes. You do need to monitor the filter elements and replace them as necessary. These air cleaners aren't very impressive looking, just a rectangular metal box, but the action on the inside is what counts. The typical installation technique is simply to bolt the box to the ceiling of your shop. You can offset the unit to one side of the room, which will set up a circular flow, increasing the efficiency. More advanced units have multiple speeds, remote control and a function to set a shut-off time several hours ahead. And finally, use a last line of defense - a dust mask or respirator. Dust masks are cheap, disposable and a good choice for short sanding projects. A respirator with reusable, replaceable filters will cost more, but will also seal tightly to your face and offer excellent protection. You can even buy specific filter elements to match certain chemical fumes, such as when you are applying a finish with lots of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) to your latest masterpiece.