Collecting Dust From Sanders

Article - January 13, 2015

Collecting dust from sanders should be a priority.  Sanders do their job incredibly well which means they generate large clouds of dangerous fine dust particles in a hurry. If you aren’t collecting that dust at the tool, you’re risking your health.

Douglas wrote in with a good question about collecting dust from his sander.

I have a Delta 2hp dust collector with the HEPA bag and it works great, but (you knew there was a but), sanding is an issue. I generally hook up my shop vac to the portable sanders. They clog up quickly and then leave dust all over. I have yet to find a way to hook these smaller tools up to the big delta. Any thoughts?

big-hose-small-portIt’s only logical that someone would want to use a big dust collector to pull dust from smaller tools, right? They are powerful and have a lot of capacity. If they work well on tablesaws, jointers, and planers, they should probably work just as well on sanders. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Although the suction seems pretty strong in 4″ piece of flex hose, performance take a huge dump when the pipe is reduced to the size of a typical sander’s dust port.

The big dust collectors are meant to move large volumes of air. If you restrict the 4″ hose of a dust collector down to the size of a sander dust port, you’ll very likely restrict the airflow so much that dust collection is ineffective. Furthermore, you could wind up starving your collector of air which puts extra wear and tear on the motor. A portable dust extractor, or a shop vac, moves small volumes of air but does so in a way that is still quite effective when using small hoses. The biggest shop vac hose I know of is only 2.5″ so you don’t have much further to go when reducing down to a dust port size.
The key to getting the shop vac to work better for Douglas lies in filter bags. Most shop vacs have filter bags that you can install in addition to the primary pleated filter. In my opinion, these bags are a REQUIREMENT for woodworkers. If you don’t use a bag, your filter will clog up in a hurry. Not only will it kill the air flow but you’ll shorten the life of your shop vac due to excess dust finding its way into the motor. I went through two shop vacs before I came to this realization. The bags aren’t cheap, but it’s better than replacing an entire shop vac. You’ll get better performance from your tools and your lungs will thank you!

There is one additional thing you can do to make your shop vac more effective at collecting dust and that’s to use a cyclone separator. But that’s a whole other ball of wax! If you’re interested in learning more about cyclone separators, check out this review on some of the common brands on the market.


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