Buying a Dust Collection System
By Joshua Farnsworth
One of the most important purchases to make in a workshop that uses woodworking power tools is a dust collection system. The fine dust produced by woodworking machinery can cause respiratory problems and even cancer. Protecting your lungs should be a major priority. Dust collection systems help to reduce the amount of dust in your workshop.
If you’re just using small power tools, like orbital sanders or routers, then a shop vac will work. But for the big machines you’ll need to upgrade to a good dust collector. The type of dust collector that you buy will depend on your budget and on how many feet of ductwork you’ll be needing. The more ductwork you require, the higher the cost.
A single stage dust collector (pictured above) brings the dust and chips directly into the filter bag. A two stage dust collector (often marketed as “Cyclone”) first passes the big chips over a can, where the majority of the sawdust falls, before it sends the finer particles to the filter. Two stage dust collectors are more efficient, usually more powerful, have finer micron filters, and are more expensive. If you have to run flexible hoses or duct work long long distances between power tools, then a two stage dust collector is best for you. If you’ve got extra money and want a more protective dust collector, and one that is easier to empty (can vs. bag), then buy a two stage dust collector. See the photo below:
But if your machines are localized in a smaller area, you don’t need to run long lengths of hose or ducting, and you’re on a tighter budget, then a single stage dust collector will suffice for you.
And for cheapskates like me, I was able to modify a single stage dust collector to act more like a two stage dust collector (see the photo above). It’s not as powerful or protective, but it works pretty well until I get more money to upgrade to a 2HP or 3HP cyclone dust collector. This is what I did:
Because my workshop is also a woodworking school, all my power tools and dust collection system need to be mobile. Single stage dust collectors are more mobile than the more expensive double stage dust collectors. When classes are not in session, I roll my woodworking machines into place, and I move my dust collector in the middle of all the machines. So the distance between the dust collector and each machine isn’t very long (2-6 feet).
But I have added a trash can and this trash can cyclone lid, so I needed to add a little more horse power to get the dust and wood chips all the way through my system. In the past I’ve used a 1HP dust collector before, and felt that it wasn’t going to be powerful enough for my setup. So I settled on a 1.5HP dust collector that would give me suitable power, and it would work with my budget. Here are the parts that I put together for my dust collection setup:
Before putting together a dust collection system, I suggest that you sketch out the layout of your woodworking machines, and measure the distances of hose that you’ll need. Also figure out which connectors you may need. Here’s a sketch of my woodworking machinery setup and dust collection:
My dust collector isn’t the only good model on the market. There are some other good models, and some that I’d like to upgrade to eventually.
First, I’ll share some Grizzly dust collector models (since I feel that they are the best value for your money) that are practical for a home workshop. I won’t be sharing 1HP dust collectors, since I don’t feel that they’re strong enough:
- Single Stage Dust Collectors:
- Double Stage Dust Collectors (i.e. “cyclone”):
- Here you can see other brands of dust collectors:
Air Filtration Systems;
Another helpful dust extraction accessory to add to your workshop is a remote-controlled hanging air filtration system. Workshop air filters will suck in the dust that didn’t get caught by your dust extractor. You can turn on the air filter while using machinery, while sanding, or while sweeping, and let it run for however long you want, until the timer shuts it off. There are some good filter systems for quite good prices. Just look at the specs on each air filter to make sure you get one that’s big enough for your workshop. Some of them are affordable enough to add a second filtration unit for a larger workshop. Here are some popular air filtration units to compare: