Dust Collection - "system" or "separates"?

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Forum topic by JeffP posted 01-27-2015 01:48 PM 962 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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573 posts in 1421 days

01-27-2015 01:48 PM

Topic tags/keywords: shop question

...warning…this got WAY longer than I thought it would.

As a life-long “tinkerer”, I have been on the deep fringe of woodworking for half a century. Only in the past year or so have I made any concerted effort to learn more about it as a world of its own.

Having read tons of forum postings and watched hundreds of videos by now, I think the thing that caught me the most by surprise about this area of endeavor is the huge interest in dust collection. The interest in this area is easily 10 times what I would have guessed.

I guess it must be a big problem for folks. Maybe it is a sort of “bar” for a woodshop. A “coming of age” where-in it ceases to be just a garage full of tools and becomes a WOODSHOP. So far I have used the duffer method of “open up the big garage door when using the router, and go outside and cough every now and then.

Maybe it is time to get “serious” about dust collection.

To that end, I am wondering if (please forgive my newbie hubris here) you guys are all doing it wrong. I see posting here about bigger and grander dust collection “systems”...4 inches (which seems big to me), 6 inches, 8 inches…where does the megapixel war on dust collection end?

My current shop building is a temporary “learning experience”, so I’m not ready to spend scads of money on a big system. My thoughts are that part of the “dust arms race” I see here comes from folks just pulling out a bigger hammer instead of looking at each shop tool as a separate “waste disposal” problem to solve.

When comparing different kinds of tools, it seems to me that the “bigger is always better” idea tends to fall apart. I can see how something that makes mostly “chips” or “shavings” instead of “dust” would benefit from a large diameter hose and a different kind of separator for the “stuff”. A planer or jointer simply does not make “saw dust”. It seems rather pointless to have a 6” (or bigger) hose from such a device snaking around the shop over to a big 1 micron dust filter. Seems like it would be more expedient to have a very short large-diameter hose between this tool and a cyclone or gravity separator, and probably a shop vac sitting right there next to it.

Then something like a router that makes actual “dust”, should work well with a much smaller hose going to a multi-stage separator and eventually to a 1 micron filter. Again, maybe powered by a healthy shop vac located close by.

I guess my point is that I would like for those who have already fought this battle to educate me on why a “large system” approach makes sense over compartmentalizing it into 2 or three much smaller and less expensive “mini-systems” that are each designed to handle a particular type of effluent.

-- Last week I finally got my $*i# together. Unfortunately, it was in my shop, so I will probably never find it again.

7 replies so far

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5002 posts in 2522 days

#1 posted 01-27-2015 02:05 PM

Capturing the finest particles is the work of a DC, catching the larger chips isn’t really that hard. To catch the finest particles you need air flow, lots of it. That takes an adequate blower, and adequate ductwork to allow that massive airflow. If whatever you put together accomplishes that (or alternatively, if you’re happy with they way it works) you’re good to go. Also remember, some tools (like larger planers) generate a lot of chips, that often also requires a good air flow just due to quantity. But it seems like you have another plan, and I wish you the best. You might, though, find it interesting reading at the Pentz site, start (if you haven’t been there yet) with the FAQ section.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View mnguy's profile


193 posts in 3427 days

#2 posted 01-27-2015 02:21 PM

To build on what Fred said, the purpose of the large amount of air flow generated by larger dust collectors is entraining / capturing the fine particles of dust as well as the larger chips. The stuff you can see is a nuisance, the stuff you can’t see is a potential health hazard. Shop vacs generally won’t generate the CFM needed to capture a large amount of those fine particles off larger machines. It does depend on how the machine is set up; a shrouded blade on a table saw will probably do better with a shop vac set up than a traditional non-shrouded blade would. For sanders and hand held power tools, the shop vac is the way to go, as CFM are not as critical.

Regardless of your point collection method, a whole-shop air filter with a sub micron filters is, IMHO, even more important. And, when in doubt, put on a N95 dust mask.

View JeffP's profile


573 posts in 1421 days

#3 posted 01-27-2015 03:33 PM

I just love it when I learn something. Guys, thanks for the education. The Pentz site was very eye-opening reading.

I think the primary thing that gets missed (by me and probably others) is that “dust collection” is not so much about the stuff you can see…it is mostly about the stuff you can’t see.

In reality, the stuff you CAN see mostly just gets in the way and makes it more difficult to deal with the tiny particles that are actually more relevant.

My current shop is a small non-attached garage building (unheated). My new plan for this temporary shop is to separate my approach to “chip collection” and air-borne fine dust handling. I’m planning to use my 7 acres of woods to filter the air-borne stuff, focusing on sending it outside rather than trying to run the shop air through filters and back into the shop.

I think I will continue to look at “chip handling” via shop vac’s with simple and inexpensive separation, but with their exhaust ports going outside rather than into the shop. Also will look into mounting a large-CFM fan in the back wall to exchange large volumes of shop air with mother nature.

My next building will be larger and also heated/air-conditioned, so I will have to take a filtered approach with that one when the time comes (5 years out). Probably also makes sense to look at a heat-exchanging air exchanger for that building so I can continue to replace the shop air at a reasonable rate.

-- Last week I finally got my $*i# together. Unfortunately, it was in my shop, so I will probably never find it again.

View JAAune's profile


1802 posts in 2346 days

#4 posted 01-28-2015 01:37 AM

If you exhaust outside, efficient dust collection is much easier. It’s the filtration system that raises cost more than anything else. To capture fine dust requires fine filters which means bigger blowers to overcome the resistance.

-- See my work at and

View Holbs's profile


1882 posts in 2058 days

#5 posted 01-28-2015 02:11 AM

As a recently new researcher into the world of woodshop dust collection for the home wood worker, I’d have to say the increased “concern” about dust collection is because it is more popular than ever before with the introduction of DIY attitudes of abundant home owners especially since 1980, the affordable price tags of machines and tools that used to be only reserved for carpenters or a specialized trade, and the science of all things healthy (example: pure butter or cigarettes are aok at your dining room table back in the day, but not now).

In regards to what TYPE of dust collection someone getting into woodworking (with power tools) should aim for? At the minimum, a single bag 1HP dust collector and a 4” diameter by 10’ long hose. That should be the starting bar. For my personal path, I came across a 3HP dual bag Grizzly for $250 on craigslist, while there was a 1.5HP single bag for $150). I have built my ducting based on what is ideal for this horsepower and CFM machine, hence working with 6” ducts instead of 4”. If I had picked up the 1.5HP one, 4” would of been ideal. From my research, with the amount of woodworking that I shall be doing (non-industrial at home hobby / business atmosphere), this is my own personal bar setting: work with what you have and make it efficient.
It would have been overkill for me to go for a $1000+ cyclone machine. But to other’s here, the amount of dust they create… the cyclone would fit their own personal bar setting.

As to why a 4” or 6” or 8” diameter ducting, of why a 45degree branch is better than 90degree, why CFM and impeller size … is the science that has only been around for a small number of years. It did not make any sense at all to me in the beginning. Just like I never seen/heard/realized the possibility of a table saw kick back. But the research of forums posts here, Bill Pentz, JP Thein, videos etc…. it all makes sense.

-- The Carpenter Bee is derived from the Ancient Greek word wood-cutter

View SawdustTX's profile


265 posts in 2353 days

#6 posted 01-28-2015 05:17 AM

Jeff – I agree with your approach. I spent months researching and finally landed on five relatively inexpensive point systems. Yes I would still love a massive whole-shop cyclone system, but it became clear that would hit me for upwards of $3000, and required more vertical height than I had available. And in the end, ANY dust collection system is better than what I had – nothing. I spent less than $1000, all bought used:
1. Delta 2hp single stage DC with a Wynn filter. Has two 4” hoses with blast gates that I move as needed to my table saw, band saw, planer, and jointer.
2. Penn State 1hp single stage DC with a canister filter which I use for smaller tools like my scrollsaw, stationary sanders, etc.
3. A quality high performance Shop Vac, which services small tools. It’s loud, so I prefer the Penn State.
4. Ceiling hung ambient air cleaner that I run whenever I’m generating fine dust. I hate how loud it is, so if weather permits I just open the doors and windows and leave it off.
5. A quality comfortable dust mask, I really like the Elipse P100.

View OSU55's profile


1705 posts in 2019 days

#7 posted 01-28-2015 05:19 AM

As others said, it’s what you can’t see that is the danger, and there is plenty of what you don’t see coming out of a planer, jointer, table saw, or router. It takes a large DC (hi velocity and volume) and well designed hoods to capture everything, well beyond the scope of most home shops. Best to get a good respirator and a cheap “chip collector” to keep the shop cleaner. Has anyone that thinks they have clean air actually had it tested? While equipment is running? Please post your test method and results.

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