Shop Notes




Shop Notes
Dust Management

This Shop Note is devoted to dust "management."  No, that's not a typo: dust management better describes the activity than does dust "control."  Dust is one of two on-going concerns I have about woodturning.  The other is wood spinning off the lathe and thrashing around my studio, the effects of which are experienced immediately--damaged equipment and/or body parts.  (Fortunately, this has never been a serious problem in my studio...thankfully.)  

The effects of dust are not so immediate, other than a good sneeze.   But the long term effect of dust can be insidious and I go to great length to manage it.

MSA Dust Mask.JPG (160384 bytes)
MSA Dust Respirator 
(Click images for a larger view)

My first line of defense is a dust mask.  I wear one almost all the time when I'm working in my studio--whether I'm turning, or not.  I've tried several different types and have settled on MSA Safety Works Dust Respirator with an exhalation valve.  They're available at Home Depot for about $7.00 each, plus tax.  They're a bit pricey, but they last a long time.     

Shopsmith Dust Nozzle.JPG (156186 bytes)
Shopsmith Dust Collection

My second line of defense against dust is my Shopsmith Dust Collector.  When I'm sanding, I position an intake nozzle to catch as much dust as possible.   It's effective,  but some dust still drifts  about the studio.  To combat these rouge particles, I have two additional lines of defense.  One has been in place for some time and the other was just added.  

When I rebuilt my detached garage to accommodate my studio seven years ago, I added a HVAC system that provides heat in the Winter and air conditioning in the Summer.  The filter on the air return of this half-ton system provides the third line of defense  against dust.   I use filters designed to stop dust and airborne allergens.   They work well, but extensive sanding can quickly overwhelm them.  Typically, I'll remove them, take them outside and blow them out with compressed air.  This works once, sometimes twice, then I have to replace the filter.  The filters are expensive and as a result, I don't use the HVAC system for dust management as much as I should (shame on me).

However, my latest addition against dust gives me a new tool.  My house has two HVAC systems (not counting the studio's unit): a large  system for the ground floor and a smaller system for the upstairs (this is typical of two story houses in this part of the Gulf Coast).  I recently replaced my upstairs furnace and relocated the unit's 1/3 horsepower, three speed squirrel cage fan into my studio to improve ventilation and manage dust.   

SquirrelCageWide.JPG (189290 bytes)
Squirrel Cage Fan 1 

SquirrelCageTight.JPG (164912 bytes)
Squirrel Cage Fan 2 

Here are a couple of pictures of the fan now installed in my studio.  It's vented to the outside and by opening the door to my studio I can move air from one end to the other.  On days when the outside air temperature and/or humidity are moderate, I'll use this unit to remove those rouge dust particles from the air.  On other days, I'll resort to using the studio's HVAC system.

The "bottom line" on dust: don't be foolish and think you're immune to the long-term, cumulative effects of dust exposure.  You're not.  Breathing dust makes about as much sense as does smoking.