Simple, Low-Cost Dust Collection Setups

Pros suggest ideas for an entry-level dust collection system for a garage shop. April 18, 2006

I am working in a small garage shop and will have a shop vac hooked up to my table saw, etc. However, there seems to be a lot of very fine dust floating and I am wondering if installing a 2' x 2' exhaust fan in the wall closest to the table saw will help draw out the floating dust. I am not cutting enough to warrant a full blown, high dollar solution.

Forum Responses
(Dust Collection, Safety and Plant Operation Forum)
From contributor R:
A couple of hundred bucks is hardly a high priced solution. That amount will get you a small dust collector and save you buying a new shop vac and probably your lungs as well. As far as the fan, use it until you get a collector, and leave a window or door open for make up air. Those box fans move tremendous amounts of air.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the advice. Any specific DC solution you'd suggest? My garage shop is about 25 x 25 and the ceiling is pitched, ranging from 8' to 12'.

From contributor K:
Just remember that even a DC for a couple hundred is the initial cost only. By the time you get fittings, pipe, blast gates, hose clamps, etc., you'll find that you've spent a couple hundred more depending on how many machines you might hook up.

From contributor R:
If you're tight for money, just get a hose that will reach all the machines for now and hook up the machines as you use them. Your shop is small and chances are you're only using one machine at a time. A 2hp - 2 bag machine will handle a 10 - 12 ft 4" hose. I wouldn't recommend ducting unless you have at least a 5 hp machine.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. I bought a Delta 50-875 Remote Air Purifier and will look into a 2 bag machine.

From contributor B:
I second contributor R. A small DC would be your best bet. Getting the dust at source is the way to go. Ambient Air Cleaners (AAC's) will eventually clear the air, if used properly (in pairs, diagonally opposed); however, you will be exposed to potentially harmful dust until the AAC has done its thing. A decent 2hp dc, with all 6" porting (inlet/outlet) and twin certified filter-bags, will capture most of that dust at source, before it gets a chance to saturate your shop air.

From contributor L:
I have virtually the same size shop as you describe (2 bays of a 3 car garage). I have a Delta canister DC that is ducted to each machine and a JDS air filter. This combination works very well in the shop. When using a zero clearance insert on the saw with some woods, I get quite a bit of dust being thrown into the air by the blade. I added an Excalibur overhead blade guard/DC arm to the saw and that problem went away. The arm can be removed from the saw in about 15 seconds when running very wide stock.

From contributor S:
I too work out of a small shop and also started with a shop vac for dust collection. I went shopping for a better solution and found a very affordable and easy to maintain system in the Delta 1/2 horse portable dust collector. It has a 5 micron bag 4" x 10' flexible hose and it has wheels so you can move it from location to location. I also got the 20' jet 4" dust collector hose. Now I have a section of hose on all my power tools including a homemade sanding table and the collector simply gets hooked up to the relevant tool and poof! No dust. The other good thing about this little system is that it is very low on ampere, so it will not trip a breaker if you run it along with a power tool on the same circuit.

Other low cost ideas to keep the air clean while you work include a 20" x20" box fan with bent bracket screwed onto it at the back end to hold a 20" x 20" ac filter. This way you can have the use of a fan that also cleans air. I checked the airflow of an air cleaner and the box fan is competitive, and only cost 9 dollars. I saw the Delta 1/2 horse dust collector selling for 129.00. Fittings and adaptors sell for about 5 dollars a piece. The Jet 20 x 4 hose sells for 36.00. Bigger is better, but in a small shop, there is often not sufficient power or space available to run a big system. Try the box fan idea too - you will be surprised at how well it works for so little money and the filters are cheap so maintenance = removing dirty filter and replacing with new. Filters sell at Home Depot for 3 dollars for 3 filters or something like that. The total cost of my dust collection system is well below 250, and my shop is dust free.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor A:
I read with interest the different responses as I too have a small shop and a limited budget. One thing overlooked is the quality of air filtration. Today it is known that anything less than 1 micron filtration will not protect the user well enough. The dust most harmful to our lungs is not seen and is under 3 microns - this is the fine dust film you would see on surfaces in your shop.

Contrary to what most believe it is the fine dust particles that are the most difficult to collect - not the larger sawdust or planer chips. One should also limit the use of the flexible pipe to as short as possible as the restriction is three times that of smooth walled ducting. A 3hp 1600 to 2000 cfm at 10" water (the ability for the collector to overcome the restrictions in the system such as the piping, the filters) may sound like a lot for a small home workshop, but the manufacturers ratings are usually listed with the collector not hooked to any ducts or flex pipe and a brand new bag filter. In use you should assume that the cfm output of most portable collectors is approximately half of what the collector is rated. So that 3hp 2000 cfm dust collector is actually providing only 1000 cfm in use under normal conditions.

Comment from contributor B:
A very effective, airborne dust collection system can be made from a window fan and one or more furnace filters. I built a wooden framework in a cubical shape (closed on the bottom) and stapled filters around the sides. On top of the cube, I put a window fan, blowing up and closed the gaps with duct tape. When the fan is blowing, it collects the dust from the air and blows out clean air, which circulates the airborne dust until it is gone. This works really well when doing construction inside a home, or using a paint sprayer inside.