SW09 – More on Dust

I was just flicking through some of the other articles written for safety week, and I came across a little gem on John Brien’s site.

The concept is incredibly simple. Your dust extractor is useful for more than just pulling generated shavings and dust from the machine in use. Even if you are not actively generating dust with a machine, it is still beneficial to have the dust extractor running.

My air filter processes 650 cfm, which works well.  If I also leave the dust extractor running, with a capacity of 1200 cfm, I have effectively tripled my shop’s air filtration.  Especially in my case, as my actual dust extractor is in a secondary shed, so the air removed does not immediately end up in circulation in the main shed (and in any case, it passes through a 1 micron filter).

As the 1200 cfm of air is removed from the shop, clean outside air enters. Hopefully it isn’t too cold outside!!

SW09 – Dust in the Workshop

Following on from an earlier article of mine on respiratory safety, I thought it appropriate to discuss some of the fixed systems I use in my shop, which helps negate some of the respiratory threats in the workshop.  I say helps negate, because at the end of the day no system is infallible and it is unlikely (in the extreme) that any typical workshop has dust extraction and air exchange systems strong enough to completely eliminate the dust that is generated.

Before I really get into the topic, I will clarify what sort of sawdust I care about.  Neatness in the workshop is well and fine, but I don’t mind having sawdust (as in shavings) around the place – looks like I do some work occasionally.  That sort of sawdust is not posing a direct risk (ok, there is the fire load risk, but that is for another article) (unless you feel like ingesting some!).  What I really care about is airborne dust – the stuff you can breathe.  This comes in all sorts of sizes, and ability to remain airborne, but I’m sure it is safe to say, the smaller particles pose real risk.  They can remain airborne for ages (hours), and many filter units just don’t filter out the small stuff (sub 5 microns).  (A complete aside – a 5 micron particle is 2 1/2 times larger than the granite block I bought last week is flat! – That is accuracy!)

So, PPE (personal protective equipment) can’t necessarily be eliminated, but you can significantly decrease how much it is needed to protect you from the environment you are creating.

Dust extracting equipment is rarely (if ever) the first thing that gets bought when setting up a workshop – PPE tends to be the starting point, and as it becomes frustrating / forgotten / avoided, the need for fixed systems becomes increasingly apparent.

The next item that gets added is a sawdust collector – a vacuum, or a small HP extractor.  These are used pretty locally to the machine, and moved from one to the next as needed.  Or not.  Unfortunately still, often the extractor is forgotten / ignored when there is a quick job required, and it is too much hassle dealing with all that extra stuff, when you just need a quick cut.

So now onto the more serious stuff.

Whether you go for a larger dust extractor (2HP +) and a fixed ducting system (with blast gates for each machine), or a smaller one that you have to move between machines, that is up to you (and your budget).  What is important (from a safety point of view) is what happens to the air that exits the extractor.  This air is fine dust laden, and poses real risk.

In my shop, I place the dust extractor out of the main shed in a small secondary one, and to me this is a really good option.  It then doesn’t matter how clean the air is then – it isn’t in my breathing space. (As it happens, I still happen to have a pleated filter, but that is another story!)  If you do have the extractor in your shop, then you really want a filter that can take out at least 85% of 1 micron dust, and 99%+ of 5 micron dust.

TruPro 2HP Dust Extractor w Pleated Filter

TruPro 2HP Dust Extractor w Pleated Filter

These machines are primarily for removing shavings, but they do pull a lot of air, and therefore will carry the fine particles away from where they are generated.  It is worth mentioning that a vacuum is a high velocity, low volume system – not great for removing large quantities of shavings, but good (in a localised area) for dust and shaving removal.  A 4″ system is a low pressure/velocity, high volume system.  Great for quantity removal, and although isn’t designed for fine particles, that large amount of low velocity air is well suited for drawing fine airborne particles away.

So that is collection at the source of dust creation.  Where it comes to hand-power tools, decent machines normally have the ability to connect a dust extractor directly to the tool (high velocity, low volume).  No point trying to get a 4″ hose connected to one of those!  Actually, a good time to make another point.  It seems to defy logic, but taking a 4″ pipe and reducing it to 1″ does not dramatically increase the airflow and provide incredible suction.  You actually end up with basically nothing.  Just thought you should know.

There are a number of different machines in the shop, all quite capable of producing fine dust, but the obvious one is of course the sander.  To collect dust from this application, the absolute best solution (in addition to onboard dust collection), is a downdraft table.  What dust escapes the first collection is then drawn down, away from you.  And no, I don’t have one (yet).  Oh, and of course different materials produce different amounts of the various sizes of dust. MDF for example produces huge amounts of airborne dust, and because of the binder (glue) used, it is also very toxic.

Now the other aspect of shop-centric dust collection is the overall air quality.  There are a number of solutions to dynamically improving the air quality.  You can use a fan, blowing past you and towards an open door. You can use an extraction fan (but if you wall mount it, make sure that it is one designed to work mounted vertically – a roof extraction fan (which are MUCH much cheaper) ‘s bearings will not cope well with being used vertically.  Also, you might think of using it to blow fresh air into the shop (diluting down the contaminated air) but of course sucking the contaminated air out of the shop, allowing clean air to be pulled in through all the various openings around the shed is the better option.

Depending on the weather though, it may not be desirable to exchange shop air with the outside world.  (Also, dust laden air might not be so popular with your neighbours…..or their washing!)  Instead, an air filter scrubs the air in the shop.  You need an air filter unit capable of filtering all the air in your shop at least 6 times per hour.

Carbatec Air Filter

Carbatec Air Filter

I have found that it is worth starting the air filter as soon as you get into the shop, as it seems to set up a bit of a revolving current that becomes more effective at clearing the air after about 15 minutes or so of operation.  Given how often it filters the shop air, if I create a real dust cloud, leaving the shed for 10 minutes or so means that a good portion of the shed air will be scrubbed before I get back (at least the stuff around my head!).  These units typically have a timing circuit, so they can be left running for an hour or two after you finish for the day, to ensure any remaining dust is removed, and so it doesn’t settle to be stirred up next time you are in there.  If your shed is anything like mine, this is not an issue! (Or rather it is, but a little amount of airborne dust settling is nothing compared to the dust over the rest of the shop!)

Having one of these units has really improved my workshop’s environment (when I remember to turn it on).  Took me many years to get around to justifying getting one.  But I’m glad I have – it does make a real difference.

Minor Reorganisation

Still working on the shed layout, and there is still more to go.  It takes some time to optimise just how everything is going to work together, and my plans are still changing on a daily basis – each change suggests another.

Ages back, I spoke of the current iteration approaching Shed 2.0, but in fact it is actually 3.0 – I forgot to mention that I started out in a 3m x 3m shed, and in there I had a lathe, Triton WC2000 and Triton router table all set up!  No idea how I did it – I must have been a Tetris Master! (and a contortionist).

So that brings me back to the current Tetris game.  The space is so much bigger than the 3×3, but the problems have compounded at the same rate.  Now, I’m not starting down this line to say I need more – we all need more, but I do want to get the space working as well as I can.  So……

Tool Section

Tool Section

Looks messy, and it is to a certain extent with moving stuff around.

Most notable changes here – the ‘workbench’ in the right hand side is gone, and the sanders that were there have been moved into the left-hand corner.  The jointer/planer has now shuffled along to take up that space, and the drill press has crept out of its corner and back into a more central location.  If I want to use the jointer for longer boards, I can simply drop the drill press table down below the height of the jointer, and then will have a reasonable infeed and outfeed area.

Last night, this view changed again (temporarily) with an unexpected new arrival:

TruPro Dust Extractor

TruPro Dust Extractor

From Woodworking Warehouse

Very cool, 2HP, 60kg, 1 micron filtering through the catridge filter.  If you look in the background of the photos, you can see that it is SO needed.  The 1HP GMC I had for the fixed dust system was not cutting the mustard (as I expected), but I’ve been struggling with what to upgrade to, and that is now academic. WHEW.  Time to suck dust again 🙂

I was thinking of leaving it in this corner (looks good with the cartridge filter), and one of my reasons for moving the previous collector into the other shed was the microfine dust (and the reason I bought that air cleaner, which I cleaned the other day – has been doing a good job by the look of the filter!)  However, the other reason was the noise, and when I fired this puppy up last night, I immediately planned its relocation!  Not that it runs particularly noiser than any other dust extractor, but simply having a motor that is twice the size of the old one, and the significantly increased airflow means I’d rather it in a separate room (and my shed’s piping already is set up for that anyway).  Just have to work out a remote start for it, and I’ll be laughing. (Oh, after I solve my ongoing shed power issues that is: I know this motor is rated as 2HP, but it pulled enough current to trip my shed’s circuit breaker (and the shed is rather dark at midnight!!) Damn it! 🙂 )

Back to the shed re-sort.

Storage End

Storage End

This is the current view in the other direction, but it will be changing again real soon.

I’ve moved the large wooden cabinet (from an old issue of the (now ex) Triton Times) (Check out the 2002 issue for the plans)  This moved it out of the way of the thicknesser/planer infeed, and I’ll use that space for a small sharpening station.

The large rolling cabinet has had some additions onto its side, but I had a brainwave this morning, so this is also temporary.

Woodpecker Layout Tools

Woodpecker Layout Tools

This was a nice display of the Woodpeckers Layout tools (from Professional Woodworkers Supplies), but I’ve gone and come up with an alternate use of that now, so I’m going to have to move this display/storage.

As you can see from the earlier image, this large cabinet juts out into the shed a lot, and to be able to access both sides of the cabinet, I’ve had to have it side on to the wall, so I then end up loosing more wall space to allow for the door openings.  I kept thinking I should have it turned 90 degrees, and put stuff that can be stored long term in the back, which would mean rolling the cabinet out to access them.  Neither is a good option.

Enter the tablesaw.  My idea is – if I rip the cabinet in half, then it could become 2 side-by-side cupboards, and all my issues with it would be solved!  I love it when a plan comes together.

Why does everything I have to move weigh over 60kg?

The Great Cleanup

I’m sure somewhere I’ve already written about a great shed cleanup, so this may be take two. Oh well – if it wasn’t being used, it wouldn’t get messy.

It is a funny thing about this site – the busier I get in the shed, the more there is to write, the less time to do so. Guess that is my excuse for the lack of posting (and videos!)

Reorganising all the main tool locations caused quite a bit of chaos out there, although I have a feeling that I am infected with some kind of entropy bug. Got the dust system (pretty much) finished, so got to work getting tools uncovered, and accessible.

Ok, so it still looks a bit messy, but it’s actually pretty good (the photo doesn’t do it justice). This is the table saw guard extraction, using a combination of plumbing (down) pipe, stormwater pipe connectors, and traditional flexible dust tube. Down at floor level to the right (out of frame) there is the blast gate to separately control the tablesaw cabinet and the guard collection systems.

This is the back of the tablesaw cabinet. The blue-covered outlet is one of two general access points I’ve built into the system, both for cleaning out blockages, and primarily so I can connect up some flexible tube to vacuum the floor etc.

Dropped into Bunnies and got some fittings to add to the dust lid – these are the inlet and outlet for the top and……

this is what I came up with for underneath. Once I have a chance to test it, I might have to do some other mods – the idea is the dust is caused to swirl (typical cyclone-type approach), and then the air reverses direction to exit via the blue tube. It won’t catch everything, but if it just takes out 60% of the main waste I’ll be happy. I’ve directed it like this so the dust impacts on the wall of the bin, so friction encourages the dust to leave the air stream and drop into the bottom of the bin.

This is the temporary tubing to the thicknesser. Given that it passes across the entrance, it is easily unplugged when the machine is not in use. Again, it will be one of those suck and see things if it actually can perform as desired. The thicknesser has an active extractor on it, which may help. However, I am considering if I might need to add an extra inlet to increase the overall tube airflow. The dust extractor itself will probably need to be upgraded to a 2HP (or bigger – but I can’t afford it, or the power supply requirement).

And finally, this is the router bit storage finally mounted.

Dust Dust and more Dust

I was really hoping to be able to report (and show) a completed dust system in this post. As you can gather, I didn’t get there. Got damned close, but no Cuban. It is really close, and in fact, it is only a few niceties that I’ve decided to do that is holding up the final report. It is just that I’ve kept promising myself that each aspect of this upgraded shed I will endeavour to do things properly, and getting a balance between ‘ideal’, ‘gold plated’ and ‘properly’ is a fine line to tread.

Even though I am not going for a gold plated solution, and are making constant choices to get the best solution without throwing money away, it is disconcerting how a few odds and ends always adds up to a dollar figure much higher than you’d expect.

I am going to shoot a short video documenting the system tonight, and its commissioning, but I decided that despite it being a long time between drinks (and videos), I’d finish it properly before committing it to tape. Sorry that it is so long between videos, but this shed upgrade takes a lot of time that would otherwise be used for projects, such as video episodes.

As a small aside, it didn’t help any when I decided to use my hand as a knife block for the Stanley knife. No significant damage, but it was a very short distance between what did happen, and what could have been a slashed wrist, or some seriously damaged ligaments. Stupid. I could say it was rushing, but it really boiled down to one thing – tiredness. Every other time I have been very conscious of the direction of cutting, but I was in an unusual orientation working my way around some mess, cutting some of the flexible tubing (which takes a bit of force to get through the hard plastic spring portion) and I cut in the wrong direction. Did I learn anything? Not really – it is a lesson I have learned before – I didn’t need the extra incentive.

Another reason I didn’t want to shoot the video yet is the mess. The shed got (almost literally) turned upside down when I relocated almost every tool to its final location, and I haven’t taken the time to do a full cleanup. That’s the next job once I put the dust system to bed.

So where did I get to tonight? The drill press had the small 1″ diameter tubes run to either side. There are no clamps yet – that is a job for a different day (and I’m not counting it as part of the dust extraction project).

The thicknesser has had its outlet (which is square from the powered dust extraction system it has built in) adapted to the point that it fits the 4″ system with a blast gate

and is easily removed and replaced (given that the thicknesser’s location means the dust system passes across the door. I don’t have a problem with that – the thicknesser isn’t used every day of the week, so when I want to use it, it’d take 5 seconds to plug the system in.

Lathe is done, and bandsaw, and the 4″ portion has been run to the base of the tablesaw. Near the back of the tablesaw, I have added a Y section with additional blast gates. One end has been left open, so I can plug in some flexible 4′ tube I have to do a bit of general cleaning around the place. I am going to add a second one somewhere near the router table, again to aid general cleanup.

I have finally gotten the extraction to the dust port on the blade guard. Took a bit of figuring out, partly because of my original concept needed modifying because parts I was expecting don’t exist. However, I am happy with the solution I have come up with. I hope. (If I need to move the tablesaw, it probably all goes out the window).

Was in getting the last few fittings I needed from Bunnings today – needed a little more 4″ pipe. The stuff I have been using so far is downpipe (which is pretty thin – doesn’t have to withstand internal pressures like stormwater (for example). It is also cheapest. However, went to buy a little more today, and was informed that it didn’t exist. There are other sizes, but apparently what I have been using so far doesn’t actually exist. I must be using stormwater pipe (I’m not), or it is 90mm and not 100mm (even though I have been using 100mm stormwater fittings). Never understood that. I may not be a plumber, but I’m not completely stupid either – think I know when I am using 100mm pipe.

So what is left to do? Other than the cleanup, I just want to add that Y section and blast gate near the router table, and I bought a Dust Separator Lid from Carbatec

to place near the actual dust extractor. It isn’t a cyclonic system, or as sophisticated as some on the market, but with a few minor additions it should make an adequate first stage separator. I’m not fussed if it only catches the heavier stuff – the more it collects, the less often I will need to empty the dust extractor collection bag. I still need to find a bin that the lid fits – always another obstacle.

So there we are (almost). Hope to be able to try the system out in anger shortly, and document it here of course!

New Shed Dust System

I finally, after I can’t remember how long, started to rebuild the shed’s dust extraction system. It was decommissioned so long ago, I don’t even remember at what point it became non-functional. It is pretty academic these days given the whole shed upgrade. ‘Back then’ I bought a number of lengths of 100mm downpipe, being significantly cheaper than the actual flexible dust extraction tubing. So I finally got to start cutting into it, and putting it in place.

The first step though, was finalising (as best I can) the machine positions. Once that was decided (taking into account where possible, the dust extraction needs of each machine), the next step was planning the pipe run(s).

It was a bit of a debate, but I have finally decided to run the tubing at ground level. It means the extractor doesn’t have to work so hard, lifting the dust and shavings the 2.5 meters off the floor, in addition to overcoming the friction from the walls. Given the tool layout, it won’t cause me any undue grievance loosing that small amount of floorspace behind each tool against the wall.

I haven’t gotten very far – balancing shed time with work time and family time (especially when everyone is sick). But at least it feels like a good start.

Here’s a pic of about as far as I’ve gotten (I said I didn’t get far).

What is shown here is the right side of the machinery area (against the front wall). Each machine is connected in via flexible tubing, and a blast gate. The blast gate on each machine is obviously so I can shut off all the other machines to maximise the flowrate from the one currently being operated. The modified T section has 2 advantages. Firstly, it isn’t a straight T section – it is angled to minimise the losses from forcing the dust through a tight 90 degree corner. Secondly, it provides an inlet so any blockages can be cleared relatively easily.

I am planning to add an extra length of flex into that end so I can make a temporary run to the thicknesser when required.

The second one is not ideal, but is only to draw a (relatively) small amount of generated light dust from two sanders (the belt & disk and the spindle sander). The belt & disk also does its own active dust extraction, feeding into the tube, so it ‘should’ help.

Next job – the router table.

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