Woodworking is an awesome craft, hobby, profession and avocation. You can build family heirlooms, make your living area more functional or create a work of art. It’s something that can make your spirits soar or just provide you an opportunity to unwind after a hard day’s work.
But, it should never be something you get hurt doing.
That’s why a lot of research and development money is spent on safety equipment. Safety glasses, hearing protection, guards and jigs are developed and improved each year. And, they protect the users from risks such as eye or hand injuries.
When it comes to safety, another critical component to consider is dust collection. Keeping the dust out of your lungs and nose can prevent a number of problems such as nasal polyps, sinus infections and cancer.
“Besides the health concerns, there are far more practical things to consider,” said Tim Walter of Eagle America. “If you don’t like sweeping up mountains of sawdust, adequate dust collection is for you!”
Tim explained to me that when it comes to dust collection, defense in depth is a key. “Taking care of dust in your shop starts where it’s created with the big stuff and gets finer and finer.”
Tim pointed out that the big offenders in the shop need to be addressed first. “A bigger dust collector in your shop can pull in dust from your table saw, jointer, planer, band saw and other tools. You can have a portable hose that you move from tool to tool, or, if you have a powerful enough collector, you can set up a fixed dust collector system with piping in place from tool to tool.”
Some tools – such as cabinet table saws – make dust collection an easy proposition. They already have a dust collection port and handling built in to the design. “There are many other tools such as contractor table saws and router tables that are a lot tougher. That’s why we offer products such as the Dust Cutter which make these tools a lot easier to collect dust from.”
While fixed systems are great for stationary shop tools, those hand-held power tools can generate a blizzard of sawdust that needs to be handled as well. “Ever try collecting the dust from a session of routing into MDF? You’ll drive yourself nuts!” To help with these situations, you can rely on light flexible hoses that can plug into your larger system, or get a point of origin collector. “Any shop vacuum can serve well as a dust collector, but there’s definitely a step up with either a Fein or a Festool collector. They both come with a feature that will turn the collector on when the tool is activated. It makes using the collector a lot easier.” Added bonuses include portability, better filtration than your average shop vacuum and a whole lot less noise. Built in mufflers keep both the Fein and Festool at a more comfortable decibel level.
For the finer dust that gets into the air, filtration systems can help keep the airborne particles at bay. “These are not replacements for a dust collection system, but offer another layer of protection for your lungs.” While most tool manufacturers offer expensive systems that can be hung in the shop, Eagle offers the Demo AirNet. “It’s a very cool system that attaches to a normal fan. It will filter debris out down to five microns, making the air a whole lot easier to breathe.”
Finally, when working it a very dusty environment, there’s nothing quite like a personal air mask. “If you are working in dusty environments for a short time or not too frequently, disposable masks make a lot of sense. If you spend more time in the dust or haven’t yet gotten your dust collection system up to snuff, a respirator with replaceable filters is a sound investment in your health.”
While it may not be as glamorous as a new table saw or the latest router bit collection, dust collection is a sound investment in keeping your shop a safer, cleaner and more productive place.