Dust Collection in a Hand Tool Shop

Hand Tool Shop DustAs I take stock of tools I don’t use/need as part of my shop remodel, dust collection comes to mind.  Hand tool shops produce a lot of chips and shavings certainly, but they also do produce dust from sawing and occasional sanding.  It is a heavier form of dust (other than the sanding stuff) and quickly falls to the ground in piles. Tuesday night I planed some panels, raised them for drawer bottoms, then did a sawing demonstration for the Hand Tool School creating a fair amount of sawdust.  I swept it all up into a pile and this represents what is typical for a few hours work in a hand tool shop once initial milling is done.

Really all of this can be swept up easily and traditionally this would be the apprentice’s job.  My shop isn’t the pure galoot shop however.  I still have apprentices in the form of a bandsaw and thickness planer.  They are very effective but they actually produce dust and chips instead of cleaning them up.  So in looking at the “modern” galoot shop.  What is the best method of dust collection for this work?

Currently I have three dust collectors.  A Steel City 1.5 HP single stage collector with a 1 micron filter bag, a Rockler wall mounted .75 HP single stage also with a 1 micron bag, and a Festool roll around dust extractor with HEPA filter.  All are top notch and do their jobs well, but are they all needed for the space they take up?

My big, 1.5 HP collector was used to collect dust from the big machines like the table saw, jointer, and planer.  Now I only have the planer left but this machine produces the greatest volume of chips.  My DeWalt lunchbox planer has fan assisted dust ejection so I don’t really need a powerful collector with high CFM.  Really taming the dust from the planer is all about capacity.  In this sense, the large, clear bags are great so I can see how full it is and doesn’t need to be emptied constantly.  On the converse, the collector dominates an entire corner of my shop.  Additionally, this collector will suck up all sizes of shavings and chips with no problem.  Shavings take up a lot of bag space but again with the large capacity it will be hard to part with the big collector.

The Rockler collector is really my glorified shop vac.  I bought it to replace the wheel around home center Rigid model for cleaning the floor and light duty collection from hand power tools.  I also added the Rockler Dust Right hose that extends from one end of my shop to the other then retracts compactly away.  I am able to stretch it across the room to collect from my bandsaw or use it to clean off my workbench top or the lower bench shelf.  It does not handle big shavings from hand planes very well due to interior grid structures designed to protect the fan and will clog.  It has a very small footprint (none since it mounts on the wall) and the power of the motor is more than enough for the existing power tools I have.  The small bag is a drawback and the inability to deal with shavings.  Then again a broom and dust pan is very effective here and the shavings make great fire starters in the fireplace during the winter.

My Festool extractor is a thing of beauty when paired with a Festool sander.  I have kept one sander in the shop for really difficult woods as well as around the house projects.  I plane to augment my DIY kit with a track saw for occasional sheet goods work around the house too so the extractor will be invaluable there.  It is the largest capacity extractor Festool makes and is only used for really fine dust so it goes a long time before changing bags.  Really, it serves practically no purpose in my hand tool shop and while I will keep it for the above reasons, I think it will be moved out of the shop and into another storage space inside my house.

I’m left with two collectors and I just don’t feel I need both of them taking up space.  I would love to get rid of the big collector since it takes up so much room and doesn’t match my vision of the tranquil hand tool shop, but it is hard to deny how effective it is nor the fact that I still want the capacity for my planer.  Add to this the ultimate chip thrower: the lathe.  My mini lathe isn’t used that much right now, but I have a full size treadle lathe on the drawing board that should be considered too.

In the end, I’m toying with the idea of putting the extensible Dust Right hose on my big collector so I can reach and collect from my bandsaw as well as use the floor attachment to “sweep” up.  I can see moving the collector to the front of the shop right by the garage door so the emptying process won’t fill the shop with dust.  I think I will try this for a while and see how I function without my Rocker wall hung unit and maybe repeat the experiment using only the wall unit to see what happens.

Any hand tool shops out there who have struck a balance on space saving and collection for the myriad of shavings, chips, and dust produce by our work?

6 Responses to “Dust Collection in a Hand Tool Shop”

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  1. Tony says:

    I’ve been considering the same quandary, but I am planning future purchases (instead of the downsizing question). I have a Festool vac which I use for everything. However, it can’t handle the shavings from the planes. And large, non-cyclone units can’t handle them either. The question is whether I can add a large Oneida portable cyclone and allow it to handle chips AND power tool use (jointer/planer combo). Or if the broom really is the best way to handle chips…

    My opinion is that we should be able to use two collectors – a large one for larger jobs and a small portable one for sander use. I just wish those scrub plane chips wouldn’t kill the impellers…

  2. Have you thought of using an adjacent out building? A small shed and a hole in the wall get’s rid of the tool from your shop along with noise and dust (though with the 1micron, you probably don’t get much from the machine). I have this set up and the outbuilding is also big enough for some saw horses that I use when I cut sheet goods with my festool track saw. You do have to open a window or door to match airflow depending on how well you insulate/seal the hole to the out building but it’s a great solution and allows you to keep the full size dust collector.

    I also have a festool extractor which I use with a festool sander for those tough jobs . I think it allows flexibility for my setup cause I can haul it outside when I’m cutting sheet goods too.

    I still have a ceiling mounted air filter I should probably get rid of given the predominate use of hand tools (I also have “apprentices”).

    • Shannon says:

      That would be great, but impossible in my current house and neighborhood. In my far off dreams when I can have a stand alone building for a shop this will be my solution.

  3. I would keep the capacity for the bandsaw and planer. Even though the planet makes chips, it still throws out a lot of dust that without a dust collector will settle on cabinets and everything else out of eyesight. This I have found is a bit of a pain as it doesn’t take much to stir it up when going into finishing mode (especially using hvlp).

    On a side note … One of the weird things if you’re a pro is (at least where I am) that commercial insurance has required that I have dust collection to be eligible for insurance.

  4. Curt Putnam says:

    I use dust dispersal when necessary rather than collection. Does double duty as a leaf blower.

  5. john says:

    I am like Glenn above except I just parked my extractor outside in the weather. Perhaps I will make a cover for it. But with a remote switch it controls my equipment (small) and sucks up my shavings (larger) with aplomb. And with it outside I can still hear the radio.

    So, if I were you I would save the big one, put it outside, and adapt the hose for vacuuming work when wanted.

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