Safety products for the woodworker

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Forum topic by Don Butler posted 12-25-2012 02:44 PM 1326 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Don Butler

1092 posts in 3600 days

12-25-2012 02:44 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I’ve been having issues with safety products specifically for the face, ears, eyes and breathing. Haven’t you? Well, maybe not.
My personal problems stem from long time. often daily, exposure to dust, noise and flying particles. I’m not ashamed to say I’m old. That not only implies experience, but also vulnerability to casual hazards in the work shop.
About a year ago I was hospitalized with double pneumonia, but there was no fluid in my lungs, no fever and no response to antibiotics. I asked if it could have been caused by aspiration of wood dust, and the hospitalist replied with a resounding “NO”. I have great doubt as to whether he thought out his answer. I’m convinced it was the result of being exposed to a very great deal of flying cherry dust.
I’m just saying.
Then just in the past week I’ve had a very irritated eye that was first diagnosed as conjunctivitis, but later the condition was called a generalized problem with the whole front part of the eye. As a one eyed woodworker, I can’t afford to take chances with conditions in the shop.
As for the ears, I have experienced a hearing loss from years of exposure to excessive noise.

The upshot is this:
I want to get some products to protect myself that are not burdensome to wear, don’t get in the way and do a good job of guarding against the harm that can accompany working wood with power tools.

The dust mask, even the good ones with a seal around the bridge of the nose and one-way valves to vent the breath, still have straps around the head, goggles have a strap or ear pieces and ear muffs interfere with the other things. The combination of things are very hard to deal with.

Most goggles or eyewear that can be worn over my glasses are too easily scratched, even by just cleaning so that they are quickly useless and expensive because of replacement cost.

Now, I do have a Triton powered respirator, you know, the helmet with its own fan and filter for fresh air, a sealed face mask and ear muffs built in, but it seems like such overkill when I just want to make a cut on the tablesaw or run the ROS. Besides, I’ve been told I look like a mad scientist-beekeeper when wearing it!

All I’m saying is, what else is there to consider when addressing these problems. Even though I spent quite a lot of time browsing the Internet for solutions, somebody must know much more than I do! Huh?

OK, I’m done whining.
Your turn.


-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

10 replies so far

View Wdwerker's profile


333 posts in 2438 days

#1 posted 12-25-2012 03:07 PM

For ease of use try a simple face shield, the kind with a headband. They make plastic sheets that adhere to the lens to protect from damage, you peel them off as they get beat up. I think there is a version with ear muffs

-- Fine Custom Woodwork since 1978

View Richard's profile


400 posts in 2896 days

#2 posted 12-25-2012 03:11 PM

I have an allergic reaction to Western Red Cedar dust, so I must use a respirator when I work with it. I found the 3M Half Facepiece Reusable Respirator combined with a pair of 3M P100 Particulate Filters is an easy on, easy off solution.

-- "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." - Mark Twain

View tinnman65's profile


1364 posts in 3619 days

#3 posted 12-25-2012 03:37 PM

Don, I am by no means an expert on this issue but with that said I can tell you a couple things my wife has told me over the years that I stand by. She has her degree in environmental engineering and has worked in that field. When it comes to ear protection ear plugs are way more effective than ear muffs for deadening sound. I also have a respirator with the double filters and as SWMBO says the respirator is only as good as the filters and you must have the right filter for the job. A dust filter won’t do you much good when applying a chemical finish to a project, also if the seal around the mask isn’t good because you have a beard or are unshaven that isn’t a good thing either. Most of this is common sense but some of us (me included) some times forget the most basic acts of safety and I believe you can never be reminded to often about protecting your eyes,ears, and lungs not to mention those phalanges! Good topic Don.

-- Paul--- Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. — Scott Adams

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30070 posts in 2543 days

#4 posted 12-25-2012 04:06 PM

All. Dust mask, hearing protection and goggles. Just needs to be.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 3191 days

#5 posted 12-25-2012 04:24 PM

I decided to put more effort into dust collection than just a good dusk mask… the other people that come through my shop appreciate it too…

I will echo the idea that ear plugs are better than muffs. I buy these in bulk:

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View Bluepine38's profile


3379 posts in 3290 days

#6 posted 12-25-2012 05:49 PM

The earplugs I use are the Howard Leight by Sperian they have a solid plastic insert in the middle that allows
you to quickly insert them in your ear, so you do not hesitate to take them out when you are finished with a
machine and want to talk to someone or listen to some music. I put them in my pocket, and when I am ready
to make noise, the easily go back in my ears. I have been wearing glasses since I was 21, and the present
frames, which are no longer available, have very large lenses, which give me very good eye protection. If your
lungs are as sensitive to dust as it sounds, you are going to have to put up with that respirator. Hope you can
continue to play in the shop for many more years. I would say that I work in the shop, but I am having too
much fun, and my wife knows me too well.

-- As ever, Gus-the 79 yr young apprentice carpenter

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3853 days

#7 posted 12-25-2012 06:12 PM

Here’s a product you should know about:

... I have not tried it.

It sounds like you have a significant wood dust sensitivity problem.

Your issues will probably vary from species to species, so you
may want to consider trying some different woods. Personally
I find burnt cherry dust pretty annoying.

None of this is likely to be news to anyone.

Effective dust management starts at the tool and the worst
culprits in the modern hobby woodshop are power saws
and routers. They produce both a lot of fine dust and
air turbulence so it goes all over the place.

There’s a culture in hobby woodworking that emphasizes
use of the table saw. The only way to really get most
of the dust is to have a shroud immediately surrounding
the lower part of the blade and a hose mounted to
the blade guard. The setup gets quite a lot of the
dust in my shop but I still have an overhead air cleaner
I turn on sometimes. My dust collector is only about 1.5 hp
and I would like a much more powerful one, but I’m not
ready to put in the additional wiring to run another line
at 220 volts.

Running your dust collector with an open port helps filter
the air too, so it is something you can do after you’ve
done some cutting to reduce fine airborne dust.

If you want lower dust woodworking I suggest:

1. Rip most solid woods on the band saw. There
is less air turbulence and the dust falls down. What is
produced is mostly pretty fine dust though. Effective
band saw dust collection varies from saw to saw,
but you’ll get quite a lot of it putting a port right under
the bottom wheel where the dust naturally falls
with gravity.

2. Explore hand tools. I do a fair amount of riving when
making small parts, mostly to avoid setting up machines,
but one added benefit is there is not much dust produced.

3. Consider building in a style that de-emphasizes
routed profiles and joints.


In terms of scratching of plastic safety glass lenses I have
not found this to be a major problem. I have a couple
of habits though: I usually push them up on my forehead
for temporary storage, I seldom put them in an apron
pocket and if I notice they are dusty, I rinse them in

View Roger's profile


20952 posts in 3009 days

#8 posted 12-26-2012 01:58 PM

We can only do whatever we can to address these safety concerns. I use a pair of “over the eyeglasses” safety glasses that I bought at a gun store. Since I have bi-focals, ( I’m old too), I found these to work well for myself. Dust collection is another real health concern. I do what I can, and what I’m comfortable with. Ear protection is the same. Do what you can. The main thing and “partial” answer to these 3 main shop safety concerns is simply this: Something is better than nothing at all. Wish you the best in your hunt for what suits you. Work/Play safe. Keep makin dust.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3513 days

#9 posted 12-26-2012 03:19 PM

I doubt that there is one solution that is best for everything but most times a combination of options works best.
When I do a lot of dust producing work such as cutting, grinding, mechanical carving and sanding on my boxes I use my Trend air Shield Pro.
To me it is worth every penny I paid for it and I would most certainly buy it again. It keeps sawdust out of your lungs, eyes, ears and face.
Many days I have worn it for 12+ hours and find it comfortable…When I first bought it several years ago it took a couple of weeks to get accustomed to but now i do not even realize I am wearing it while I am concentrating on my work.
I also use the in-ear plugs for hearing protection…works good for me.

When spraying finishes I use a 3M respirator made for chemical sprays instead of dust.
I also have a central dust collection system that hooks up to every big power tool in my shop. I have 3 home made air cleaners in my sanding room and a Jet air cleaner hanging from my shop ceiling and I am going to pick up another one today that I found on Craigslist.
The next thing I need to add is some sort of dust collection over my blade on the table saw.

View Don Butler's profile

Don Butler

1092 posts in 3600 days

#10 posted 12-26-2012 05:19 PM

Because I hate the blade guards standard on most tablesaws, and that was certainly the case with mine, I installed a Penn State ceiling hung blade guard with DC.

My Triton respirator has extremely good earmuffs and is good for full face protection and got a good review on the forum

I will probably make greater use of the Triton until I see something else that strikes my fancy.


-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

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