Shortly after opening up the shop, I realized that dust was going to be an issue. After a day of work, psychosomatic or not, I could feel the day’s dust, dry in the back of my throat. I tried paper dust masks, but they were not only uncomfortable, they fog up glasses, which I wear both for safety and for vision—trading lung health for clear eyesight (and a potential accident). For loud operations, I found myself donning the mask, glasses and ear protection, which looked and felt ridiculous.
Towards the end of fall, I switched from the dust masks to a full-on respirator, which was clumsy, but more comfortable—and it didn’t fog my glasses. Still, I wander out of my shop on occasion, and with the respirator, I’m sure the neighbors were beginning to wonder just what was going on behind my shop doors.
Finally, about a month ago, I broke down and bought a two horsepower dust collector and a truckload of ductwork from the local big-box home improvement store. I drew up a plan, got out my tinsnips and set to work.
Most of my larger tools were made at a time when dust collection meant a broom and dustpan. After running ductwork, I fabricated collection scoops for the table saw and planer. (The bandsaw has two built-in 4″ ports that hooked right into the system.) After a few modifications, virtually all of the shavings produced at the planer are caught by the collector. (To the disappointment of my dogs, who saw those shavings as strangely flavorless treats.) The table saw still spits quite a bit of sawdust at me during operation, but at the end of the day, cleanup is far easier. I rigged up my sliding miter saw to accept the hose from my shop vac, but like the table saw, only some of the dust is collected.
As the shop expands, so will the system. I’ll be building a proper router table after the first of the year. After that, I’ll install a downdraft table in my workbench to help collect dust from sanding operations.
I had no idea what a difference this change would make. After the system was up and running, I realized I had been putting off tasks to avoid the hassles of safety gear and cleanup. Now, despite having to open and shut blast gates, I find myself moving breezily from one machine to another, even for small tasks, improving my production significantly.