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Woodworking Dust Collectors

There are two main concerns I have while working in my `small shop. One is my health and the other one is safety. By investing in the right woodworking dust collector these concerns can almost be eliminated. Important for  wood working beginners to read this. (All beginners should know what woodworking tools they should have in their shop.)

If you are working in any environment that produces a lot of dust, especially when using machines, then you ought to consider installing a dust collector. It doesn’t matter if you feel that you protect your eyes and nose with a goggle or a mask, dust can easily penetrate some masks, and lingers long in the air after your machines are switched off. For maximum protection against dust, you should use the right machine.

You have to keep in mind that dust can cause a lot of harm to your body – and the longer you are exposed to dust particles, the higher the chances of harm. See the guide by Occupational Safety and health Administration here.

There are many different high-quality woodworking dust collectors at different price levels. You have to make sure you choose the right one for your particular shop or woodworking area. This choice can be very difficult with so many different woodworking dust collector manufactures that provide many different capabilities. Hopefully by reading this article you will be able to buy the right woodworking dust collector for your wood shop.

These woodworking dust collectors were tested in a shop and rated on how well they performed on common shop tasks like collecting chips from a planer. I have provided some helpful tips on what type of dust collector is best for your particular shop.

Key units of measure for rating dust collectors

It isn’t rocket science, but it is science. You should really get to know the common terminology used when comparing and rating dust collectors. Below we have given you a very quick reference:

CFM: Simply refers to the Cubic Feet Per Minute which is the manufacturer specified movement of air-volume. It’s a good general guide, but won’t take into account any static pressure resistance.

FPM: An abbreviation for Feet Per Minute, and usually refers to the speed of air (velocity)that transverses the ducts when your dust collector is in work mode. Wood magazine suggests that you should aim for 4000 FPM in drops and 3500 in the main ducts.

Microns: Is a well-used standard of unit which is also applicable to dust particles.

Difference between a Dust collector and a Shop Vac

Unfortunately a lot of woodworkers seem to think that shop vacs are good enough to pick up dust that would be otherwise harmful to them. The truth is that most shop vacuums are actually built for low air flow, but high suction.

A dust collector on the other hand operates a much higher volume of air at a much larger velocity, which is what you need to keep dangerous particles moving out. For example, a shop vac would be useless if you are using power saws – you really need the ideal dust collection system in place to be safe.

 Best Dust Collector For Small Shops

Clear Vue Cyclones CV1800LH


Wood dust almost took my life and inspired me to invent much more effective small shop dust collection technology. My respiratory doctor convinced me to share my solutions. This turned into more than a full time volunteer job with almost all of my work since 1999 centered on my Cyclone and Dust Collection Research

The above is a note from Bill Pentz who dedicated his life to creating the best cyclone dust collector for small wood shops. His plans resulted in ClearVue creating this cyclone that got his stamp of approval. You can see it here.

Note: Bill Pentz is an engineering professor and a woodworking hobbyist.

ClearVue Cyclones on Amazon

Picking The Dust Collector  System That Is Right For You

To reduce making the wrong purchase, you ought to really lay some groundwork on which type of dust collector is best suited to your needs. Below, we have highlighted some thoughts:

The Size of Your Shop

Seems obvious, but it is always worth highlighting. You should make sure that the dust collection system you have in place sufficiently covers the area that makes up your working space. The larger the space, the better the system should be. If you have a small shop, then you should focus on systems made for purpose.

Volume of Dust to Be Collected

Again, a very obvious point, but most dust collectors have limitations to the volume of dust they can store and work with. High volume areas may need something more industrial than a portable collector, while low volume areas may do OK with smaller, more portable dust collectors. It isn’t as straightforward as picking a small dust collector for a small shop.


The larger the facility, the higher the chances it needs a fixed, permanent solution in place. These are usually complete installs. However, small work spaces and woodshops could benefit from portable dust collectors, especially if they keep moving their primary work area.

Woodworking Dust Collectors – What size should you purchase?

The first thing to consider is the size of the woodworking dust collector. If you have a small shop with limited floor space you will probably want to go with a smaller size dust collector that won’t take up so much floor space. But if you have a large shop with several stationary tools you will probably want to go with a large dust collector in order to do the job of collecting all the chips and dust.

There are also two other important things to consider:

  • The horsepower (hp) of the motor
  • The cubic feet per minute (CFM) of airflow the unit is capable of generating

You probably already know this but there are plenty of manufactures that provide just about any size dust collector for any size shop. I will provide some basic information on a few of your choices.

Portable Woodworking Dust Collector

small dust collectorIf you have a small shop with limited space you will probably won’t to go with a portable unit with a ¾ hp motor and 650 CFM.

Advantages Small Dust Collectors:

  • A portable dust collector can be mounted on the wall and not waste floor space.
  • By using a 10 ft section of hose you can do a very good job of collecting chips and dust and not have to buy any more hoses.
  • The cost for a portable dust collector is less than $200. You want have to worry about dragging a shop vacuum around your shop.

Disadvantages of Small Dust Collectors:

  • The filter bag acts as a dust collection bag which means the air has to flow back into the shop and the 30-micron dust bag will not filter out a lot of the dust particles.
  • Some portable dust collector manufactures provide a solution by offering an optional 5-micron replacement bag.
  • You will need to empty the dust bag more often.

Woodworking Dust Collectors – Medium Size Dust Collector

The next step up would be for a shop that has only a few stationary power tools.

For this size shop you would want to go with a dust collector that has a 1-hp motor and rated to generate around 700 CFM.

Advantages of Medium Dust Collectors:

  • It has a disposable collection bag for the chips and dust.
  • Uses two bags one for the larger chips and one for dust.
  • Works well with a larger length of hose.
  • The cost for a medium size dust collector is around $300.

Disadvantages of Medium Dust Collectors:

  • Usually a medium size dust collector only has one inlet, so it can only be attached to one power tool at a time.
  • Cannot handle a duct system.

Large Size Woodworking Dust Collector

If you have a large shop and would like to add a duct system connecting to multiple tools, the 1-½ hp, 1100-1200 CFM model will serve your needs. If you go any larger you will need to add 220-volt service to your shop.

Advantages of Large Dust Collectors:

  • Provides pleated filters, which captures dust particles down to 1 micron and the pleated filter provides and extremely large surface area to improve filtration.
  • A few manufactures have also provided a sweeper to help remove the dust inside the canister.

Disadvantages of Large Dust Collectors:

  • The average cost on a large size dust collector is around $500 to $700
  • Expensive to maintain long term

Dust Collection Accessories

The first thing you want to do when purchase your dust collector is to hook it up and get started collecting dust. Well, there are a few manufactures that don’t provide everything you need to get started. It’s like Christmas morning finding out you need batteries for the kid’s toys and Santa didn’t provide batteries!

To keep this from happening to you I’ve provided a few suggestions own what dust collection accessories you might need.

  • 10 ft or 20 ft dust collection hose
  • 4″ to 2 1/2″ reducer (note: make sure to measure the inlet of the power tool that you will attaching the dust collector too and what type of adapter you will need male or female)
  • 4″ wire hose clamps
  • Extra dust bags

I hope you have found the information provided in this article helpful. I’ve found out, through experience, that having the right tool makes woodworking much more enjoyable and a whole lot safer.

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