Why I'm Upgrading Dust Extraction
Submitted by Keith on Thursday 28/12/2017
In this video I'm going to talk about why I'm upgrading the dust collection system in my workshop. This will be the first of two parts - in this video I'm covering why I'm upgrading, and in the second part I'll show what I'm upgrading to and how I upgraded it.
This is going to be predominantly a talking video so if that's not your thing, you probably won't be interested in this one.
MY CURRENT SYSTEM
Currently I have 2x 30l shop vacs for dust extraction. One is connected permanently to my tablesaw, the other I use for my mitresaw and bench top sander by simply moving the hose from here to here. Occasionally I'll also connect this one up to my bandsaw if I'm using it for a long time, but usually I just rely on the passive dust collection drawer on the bandsaw. I also sometimes use this one for hand tools like my random orbit sander or circular saw too.
The one machine that I don't currently have a dust extraction solution for is my planer/thicknesser. That's because the amount of chips it creates really requires a large 100mm diameter hose, and I don't have a way of connecting that up to my shop vacs so when I use that machine, I rely on a respirator and a dustpan and brush to clear up the chips.
There are a few issues I have with my current set up that I wanted to address with my new set up and these are:
Firstly - Health - while regular shop vacs like mine are good for collecting most of the dust and chips produced by machines, they are not good at providing a complete solution for the very small micron particles that are the most harmful to your lungs. The reason for this, and by the way this was a complete surprise to me, is because unless your shop vac is "M rated" and has a HEPA cartridge or bag fitted, and most of them don't, once the shop vac has collected the dust, some of the very smallest dust particles escape from the shop vac through the exhaust of the vacuum back in to the workspace. And when you move around the workshop and disturb that dust, it floats around again and potentially ends up in your lungs again if you're not wearing a respirator most of the time. Those small particles tend to be mainly created by sanding or cutting materials like MDF or hardwoods. So it was important to me that my new dust system would be rated M class, to deal with those small dangerous dust particles.
Secondly, noise - of my two shop vacs - one is quite loud and the other is even louder. Most inexpensive shop vacs tend to be rated at around 80 decibels, and if your workspace is close to other people like neighbours, that can be a nuisance, especially when coupled with the noise produced by the machine that you're using that is connected to the shop vac. For example, my tablesaw is very loud, and it's connected to a shop vac that is also loud. That's fine for me because I'm wearing ear protection - but I'd like to be less of a nuisance to my neighbours when I use my workshop. You can buy quieter machines, I've seen some rated at much lower decibel rating so that's what I'm going to upgrade to. And you can also try to contain some of that noise level with sound insulation - which is why I've used Rockwool sound insulation in my extension where the dust extractor will be located.
Thirdly space. Having two shop vacs in such a small workshop isn't ideal. My plan is that my new dust extractor will be the only one that I use for everything, connected up to all my machines. If I can remove both of the shop vacs I currently use from the workshop in exchange for a new system housed in my extension, that means I can use the space that those machines take up for other things.
Fourth - dealing with dust particles once they've been collected. For a long time now I've wanted a cyclone system but I've never figured out how I could fit one in to my shop due to lack of space. But now I have the extension, I also have space in that for a home-made cyclone system that will collect a lot of the chips and dust before they reach my dust extractor. That means I won't have to clean shop vac filters anywhere near as often. Currently I clean both of my shop vac filters at least once a month and have to empty the 30l bins quite regularly too. A cyclone and dust collection bin will make the process of getting rid of chips and dust much easier and less time spent cleaning filters will mean more time in the shop.
DRAWBACKS FOR UPGRADING
So they're the issues with my current system, and while I'm hoping to improve on most of those things with the new system, there are a few challenges to overcome with the new set up. These are:
Ducting and connectivity. To extract dust from all my machines in to one dust extractor, I will need to install ducting to all my machines. In order to do that, I need to decide what size pipe to use, I need to find a way to install them in my small workshop without them being too intrusive, I have to find the right fittings to fit my machines which all have various sized dust ports, and I'll need a blast gate solution so that I can control which machine the suction from the extractor is working on, and I need to find a way to minimise the chances of getting blockages of chips in the pipework.
Convenience - in upgrading to my new system, I'll sacrifice some convenience - and here are two examples. Firstly, even though my current dust collection is quite basic, it is actually very convenient because both my shop vacs have a power socket built in to them and an automatic start up feature which means they turn on automatically as soon as I turn on the machines that I'm using and turn off automatically when I turn the machines off. My new system will not have that functionality. Instead I will need to get used to turning on my dust extractor before using a machine and turn it off when I'm finished. And if that wasn't enough, secondly I'll also have to get used to opening and closing blast gates each and every time I use a machine. All of that is going to be really difficult for me to get used to and remember, because I'm so used to just turning on and using a machine without doing any of that other stuff.
And suction - and this is a complete unknown at the moment, but in theory the suction from my new dust extractor will not be as effective as it should be due to the length of the ducting running from the extractor to my machines. The longest length it will be running will be around 4m. I am hoping that it will be OK but that's one of those things that I won't know until I try it. So it's a bit of a risk.
So to summarise, I think that I'm doing the right thing here and that the benefits of the new system will outweigh the drawbacks - but I can't be sure until I have installed it and tested it out, and by that point I will have done quite a lot of work, and spent a lot of money... So it's going to be an adventure!
If you have a small workshop like mine, then the 100mm or 4 inch diameter pipes aren't very practical as they take up too much space.
I haven't decided what size I'm going to use yet, but there are cheap options like using PVC pipe, which can create issues with static shocks, but apparently that is very low risk, or more expensive options like using flexible ducting