Dealing With Wood Dust
Finding a suitable dust extractor for a small workshop is not an easy job. On the one hand, you may not want to spend a lot of money, yet on the other hand, what is the price of your health?
In the UK the H.S.E. website has lots of great information on controlling dust in a factory environment and with a little care and attention you can bring the same standard of dust control to the small workshop.
Wood dust you can see from Routers, planers and sanders is a nuisance and you can mostly protect yourself from this with a simple well fitted face mask.
The dangerous wood dust particles are the one’s you can’t see. These can get passed your body’s natural defences and embed themselves deep in the lungs. The long-term irritation can cause anything from minor coughs to tumours. This is where proper dust control is needed.
It is accepted in the woodworking business that Class M dust control for hardwoods is the required standard. A Class M dust vacuum cleaner means that <1mg /m3 of air is emitted. Workplace exposure limits for wood dust is 5 mg/m3 . These are limits placed on the amount of dust in the air, averaged over an eight-hour working day.
Having a properly rated vacuum dust collector is one part of the story. The second is the placement and design of collection hoods to draw ALL the dust particles produced by a machine or operation.
The HSE has published some great short videos to illustrate how air flows around a vacuum extraction point and how to design and test appropriate “hoods” for your tools and sanding benches.
When I attended the European Guitar Builder’s conference in June 2017, one of the keynote presentations was about controlling dust. When hand-sanding, for instance, our top guitar builders use both a downdraft sanding bench and a P3 dust mask. The downdraft benches were simple, shop made items powered by small M Class vacuums. The P3 dust masks were half face masks with P3 filters to prevent even the smallest dust particles getting through.
The presenter, Jacco Stuitje, asked the question, “What is the most dangerous piece of workshop equipment”? He then showed a photo of a sweeping brush. The recommendation is, NEVER use a brush to sweep away wood dust. This simply throws the most dangerous particles into the air where they remain for days.
Investing in wood dust control is both an investment in your health, and in the comfort and enjoyment when working in your workshop.
Tonetech has sourced a good quality M class vacuum dust collector and a quality Moldex P3 half face dust mask. With these you can manage most of the dust hazard in your workshop. You can add to this with a fine particle filter to remove the smallest of airborne particles. These units are typically suspended from the ceiling.