How to set up a dust collection system for wood

Written by james paine
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How to set up a dust collection system for wood
Dust collection systems can reduce health and safety issues caused by dust from power woodworking tools such as table saws. (table de découpe image by photlook from Fotolia.com)

If you have a home woodworking shop you know how much dust can be generated by tools and machinery when working on a project. Dust-filled air can lead to serious breathing problems and the build-up of dust makes for a cluttered and unsafe work area that could cause a fire. Dust collection systems allow you to breathe easier, reduce the risk of fire and minimise the time you spend cleaning up.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Portable shop vacuum or dedicated vacuum system
  • PVC pipe or flex hose
  • 90-degree elbows
  • Connector joints
  • T-connectors
  • Screwdriver
  • Screws
  • Copper wire

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Dust collection systems range in sophistication and price, depending on your needs. For light duty or occasional use, you could use your shop vacuum as your dust collection system. You can buy kits with all the necessary attachments from suppliers like Lee Valley at www.leevalley.com or Rockler at www.rockler.com and search on "dust collection" to turn your shop vacuum into a central vacuum system. For best results, be sure you use the large shop vacuum with at least 180 C.F.M. (cubic feet per minute). For heavy-duty use, though, single-stage or cyclone dust collection systems are more suitable and are available at stores that sell shop equipment.

  2. 2

    First, determine where you want to situate the dust collection canister. If you have the room an empty corner of your shop is ideal, which gives you easy access when the canister needs to be emptied. If space is limited you can put the canister under your workbench or a piece of machinery as long as you can get at it easily to empty it when it is full.

  3. 3

    Next, run 2 ¼" PVC pipe or flexible hose around your workshop to the dust collection canister. Any colour pipe or hose is fine, but the clear pipe or hose allows you to see where a clog occurs. The larger dust collection systems use a 4-, 5-, or 6-inch pipe or hose, which allows larger wood chips or shavings to be easily sucked up. Use the appropriate strapping to secure the hose or pipe to the wall of your shop.

  4. 4

    At the joints, fasten the PVC pipe with a screw or flex hose with hose clamps so you can take it apart easily to clear any clogs. For the corners, use 90-degree elbows. To collect dust at the source, make a joint at each piece of machinery you want to hook up to the dust collection system. Use a T connection on these joints and run a flex hose from the T connection to the vacuum attachment on the machine. If your machine does not have a vacuum attachment, you can buy them from Lee Valley or Rockler. To maintain a maximum flow of air through the line to the dust collection canister, buy T connections that have a shut-off valve that can be closed when a machine is not being used.

  5. 5

    If you use PVC pipe, airflow and the movement of dust and wood through the pipe can create static electricity. To avoid this problem run an 18- or 20-gauge copper wire along or around the outside of the pipe and run a ground wire from each machine and connect to the copper wire. Ground the copper wire to the system's metal canister. The use of flexible hose rather than PVC pipe eliminates the static electricity problem because flexible hose has a wire running through it.

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