Dust free sanding (for allergies/asthma)????

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Forum topic by DustyCellist posted 03-20-2014 06:21 AM 2335 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View DustyCellist's profile


71 posts in 1527 days

03-20-2014 06:21 AM

Topic tags/keywords: pine question sander planer sanding traditional arts and crafts rustic

I have severe allergic asthma, and I’m allergic to pine. I know. Unfortunate. Before I’m told to find a new hobby, I’m doing a lot of this with my 8 year old son who is very interested. Thanks for your concern!!

Can’t afford hardwood stock for practice, and I might react to other soft woods anyway. I Don’t even have any power tools yet (besides jig saw and drill/driver) but my problem is already noticeable from sandpaper!

Can I use chisels? Planes? Scrapers? Are there ways of smoothing cuts without ever sanding?

For power sanders (belts, spindles, orbitals, etc) with collection bags, can I connect my shop vac to them? Does that actually work? Or do you cover the room in dust anyway? Basically, would anyone use a power sander with collected in the dining room when their wife isn’t around? (I’ve a shop in the basement, just using that example for illustration)

Thanks so much in advance, I’m trying to cut up a stud with my son right now to make a bunch of toy cars for a school project!

14 replies so far

View Vjeko's profile


135 posts in 3413 days

#1 posted 03-20-2014 09:23 AM

The most dangerous/unhealthy dust is the invisible dust (microns in size)- it’s invisible and takes days/weeks
to settle. Don’t try sanding anywhere in your living area especially not in your dining room & make sure your workshop is well separated from your living area & well ventilated and the dust can’t get back into your
living area).

The health of your son & you are most important and should be considered first. Your alregic reactions are an indicator – dust is unhealthy for everyone & will have serious consequences to ones long term health if not addressed in the proper way. For your case, you need to take even more stringent steps
to ensure that you don’t inhale dust.

If you keep all your work manual, you could limit the amount of dust created, but there will be some dust
created anyway. You could cut with hand saws, use hand planes & scrapers (instead of sanding), but you
may not have the time or the inclination to do everything manually.

Irrespective of whether you go the manual route or use power tools or a combination of both,
the cheapest solution for combating dust is to buy some good dustmasks with builtin valves for yourself + anyone who will be working in your workshop, a ventilator & have the workshop open. The dustmasks need to be formed properly over the face to ensure no dust will be inhaled (wear them all the time & change
as needed). It’s a good idea to keep the workshop ventilated as much as possible.

That will solve keeping the air you inhale clean but the dust created by the machines will be all over the place if not picked up at the source. If you don’t have the possibility for more purchases, you can stop there and
blow out the workshop (need a compressor) and vacuum after each use – but always wear the mask.

More comprehensive/effective protection requires a dust mask or powered dust mask, dust collection at each machine and air filtration (if the dust collection & filtration is good enough you may not need a dust mask – but it’s best to wear the mask all the time).

For effective dust collection at the machines, you need an effective dust collector and in a lot of cases
modification of the dust collection on the machines (see Bill Pentz web page for a lot of information : Connecting your machines as they are with a dust collector may not collect all dust at the machine & will allow some dust to escape from dust collector
(amount depends on quality/price of machines & filtration ;) )

If you are on a budget, I would buy the masks and cut/sand outside and use hand tools (hand planes/scrapers) inside (cleaning after working will still be necessary) Wear masks all the time & take
care masks are looked after (storage etc.).

-- Vjeko Balas - Croatia

View TechTeacher04's profile


383 posts in 1530 days

#2 posted 03-20-2014 11:17 AM

Vjeko made some great points. As long as you can touch the wood without a topical reaction, plane will be fine. Just be aware that lower cutting angles for better on softwoods. You can use power sanders if you attach a shop vac to the sander, but in you case until you learn your threshold you might want to wear a mask and invest in a hepa filter for your shop vac. Hepa filters filter must smaller particles than the standard ones. Using a bag in the vac also helps extend the life of the filter. I personally use a dust extractor for sanding so i can vary the amount of suction. I also use an air filter to catch anything the vac misses. Additionally, you will want to vacuum the surface of the wood after sand ing as opposed to brushing off any debris , this will prevent those particles left behind from getting in the air.

View Whiskers's profile


389 posts in 2025 days

#3 posted 03-20-2014 03:23 PM

Another not so obvious alternative in addition to wearing a mask is do what I do when i have to break out the sanders, take it outside and stand upwind. My neighbors joke about my “workbench”, a 5×10 utility trailer from tractor supply.

View DustyCellist's profile


71 posts in 1527 days

#4 posted 03-20-2014 04:01 PM

Thanks for the suggestions, keep them coming!

For the record, I never intended to use power tools in living spaces, I was asking how well dust collection ports work. Like – do they work well enough that YOU would risk using it in a place your wife would be upset if dust was everywhere?

Anyway, I do have a hepa filter in my shop vac and I clean probably every 20 minutes while I’m working. I did NOT think of the micro-particles in the air from hand sawing… Of course, that’s probably why a shop smells like wood… maybe I will get or make an air cleaner (box fan with charcoal filter behind it pointing away from the work space? It’s a big open basement with a bench near one end). Also I will start taking showers right when I am done in the shop. I’m sure it’s in my hair and I don’t realize it!

I didn’t realize that the dust collection ports on power tools needed modification to work “properly” so I’ll think harder about the compound mitre saw I was going to pick up today when I get my drill press… I will definitely pick up some masks though!

By the way, cutting doesn’t usually bother me (well it does, but not enough to make me leave the shop) but hand sanding is awful – but of course the whole result of hand sanding is to make dust and throw it every which way…

View MrFid's profile


874 posts in 1902 days

#5 posted 03-20-2014 04:07 PM

Make a Thein style separator (search for it on here or on Google if you don’t know what that is), or get a dust deputy. My dust deputy has made it so that I clean out the HEPA filter in my shop vac every three months as opposed to every 20 minutes. This job is especially messy, and I’d rather not have to do it so often. I have a feeling you feel the same way. Good luck!

-- Bailey F - Eastern Mass.

View DustyCellist's profile


71 posts in 1527 days

#6 posted 03-20-2014 04:31 PM

I vacuum my workspace every 20 minutes, not clean the filter! (I do that every few months)

View brtech's profile


1029 posts in 2921 days

#7 posted 03-20-2014 07:13 PM

If you can afford it, the Festool Random Orbit Sanders and their Dust Extractors do a MUCH better job of catching dust than any other sander I’ve seen or worked with. VERY pricey, more than nearly all of us can afford, but it might be worth it to you. A Festool ROS and matched DE really does get nearly all of the dust.

The run of the mill ROS can be hooked to a shop vac with the appropriate hose and adapter. They don’t catch nearly as much of the dust as the Festool, but its a lot better than the bag that comes with them.

If you develop your techniques, you can use a plane and a card scraper instead of sanding for most projects.

View HarveyM's profile


106 posts in 2021 days

#8 posted 03-20-2014 09:05 PM

You want an N95 mask. They’re not that expensive ($15 for a 10 or 20 pack on amazon) and treated carefully you can re use them for a couple days. Different models fit different faces better or worse, but the 3M 8210 is a good start.
When you remove them don’t drag them over the top of your head. You grab the front of the mask with one hand, and use the other to pull the elastic bands over the top of your head. Then pull the mask straight out in front. I’d also suggest buying overalls for your woodworking and leave them in the shop (don’t forget to launder them) . My experience comes from working in a immunology research lab, but the tip about removing the masks came from when I was a Health and Safety committee chair person in a hospital during the SARS outbreak (in Ontario).


-- Just a Duffer

View Tim's profile


3807 posts in 1960 days

#9 posted 03-20-2014 11:59 PM

If you wanted to you could almost or completely eliminate sanding by using planes and scrapers. It won’t entirely stop the production of dust but will reduce it drastically. Basically you still get small amounts of dust depending on what you’re doing, but it’s not spread out in the air as much and you could vacuum what there is if you really wanted too. You can get a very very nice surface with hand tools, so smooth in fact that it is better to sand it a little so it takes a finish coat better. You might want to try skipping that last sanding step too.

Most people say compound mitre saws are about the worst for spewing dust. A hand saw creates less fine particles and more coarse ones, but still obviously creates the same total amount per cut. The hand saw doesn’t spread them as much in the air though.

Besides avoiding sanding, some very good suggestions above like getting a properly fitting N95 mask and working upwind and/or getting a shop air cleaner.

View DustyCellist's profile


71 posts in 1527 days

#10 posted 03-21-2014 12:05 AM

I’m embarrassed that it seems you all are taking my health more seriously than I am… (and never mind this school project, I planned to learn woodworking this year properly and build toys to sell…)

So I went to Home Depot to get a drill press and decided to get some eyes and ears while there, and found an MSA respirator for $30 that’s rated N95 listed for sanding… I’m hoping it works better than the N95 paper masks I’ve used in the past! (the N100 was like $40).

Since I got eyes and ears and air, I figured I could try a saw to save time (limit my exposure by working more quickly then cleaning and showering), and ended up with a 10” compound mitre (Ryobi). I haven’t opened it yet, but I’m thinking I might be better off with a table saw (seems the dust collection works better). The only thing is I could use the compound mitre outside, while the table saw would stay in my basement because the staircase is too narrow to move it back and forth.

If I only have $100-150 for a saw to put next to my drill press, should it be a table saw or compound mitre? (I do need some mitre cuts, but I don’t think I need compound cuts).

EDIT: So I guess I should take back that compound mitre! Not sure how to consistently cut angles in pine… mitre saw doesn’t really do 2×4s!

View LiveEdge's profile


584 posts in 1618 days

#11 posted 03-21-2014 12:26 AM

When you say you have allergic asthma and are allergic to pine, what do you mean exactly? You have worked with the wood before and had reactions to the dust? Or you are under the impression you are allergic to pine pollen?

View DustyCellist's profile


71 posts in 1527 days

#12 posted 03-21-2014 12:39 AM

I have been diagnosed with asthma (I have inhalers and a nebulizer) and one of the things that triggers my asthma reactions is allergens (pollen, dander, etc). I happen to be allergic to pine. I don’t know if they have pollen, but I get itchy when I come in contact with sap especially, as well as needles and cones. Living pine is bad for me, and I live near lots of pine (in Pennsylvania) and use my medication daily.

This means I know my own limitations and know when to walk away and get fresh air and medicate. I am not concerned, if I go to the hospital they would only give me what I have at home anyway. I’ve done 6 pinewood derby cars (including my own) and I survived the sanding. If it was once a year I wouldn’t bother you all with this, but I would like to make a hobby (or side-job) out of woodworking so this should be addressed before I am out of my depth and invested in the tools I can’t use.

View LiveEdge's profile


584 posts in 1618 days

#13 posted 03-21-2014 04:20 AM

Ok. That makes perfect sense to me and I would definitely take it seriously if you were looking to get into it in the long term.

View DustyCellist's profile


71 posts in 1527 days

#14 posted 03-22-2014 04:13 PM

I played with my first set of chisels last night and chopped half way through some 4” white pine, and with all the bits flying all over, I could breathe just fine! I think I found my solution. Planes and chisels.

So I wanted to show off my smooth piece of scrap, so I cross cut the board in the vice and had a mild asthma attack.

Woe is me.

Thanks for the tips everyone!


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