AW #011 – 5 Simple Woodworking Dust Control Tips


The Avid Woodworker – AW Episode # 11 – 5 Simple Woodworking Dust Control Tips

In this episode, I talk about a 5 Simple Tips you can do to control dust in your shop as well as keep it out of your lungs, and your house.  Before I get started with the tips, I briefly discuss why this should be taken very seriously.


For years, most woodworkers (myself included) have considered wood dust to be a nuisance.  But, with the sinus problems I started to develop in 2005, I started to realize that wood dust is harmful and should be taken seriously.   Frankly, the more research I performed, the more concerned I became and began to make changes in how I woodwork as it related to wood dust.  Here is some of the information I have found:

Before 1985, OSHA regulated wood dust under its nuisance dust standard of 15 mg/m3 (29 CFR 1910.1000, Table Z-3).  Today, it is considered a carcinogen.  The Report on Carcinogens (RoC), US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and National Toxicology Program (NTP) identify and discuss agents, substances, mixtures, or exposure circumstances that may pose a health hazard due to their carcinogenicity. The listing of substances in the RoC only indicates a potential hazard and does not establish the exposure conditions that would pose cancer risks to individuals.  Under NTP, Wood Dust [132 KB PDF, 3 pages] is classified as a  known  human carcinogen.

In addition, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks for Humans [37 KB PDF, 8 pages] lists wood dust as a carcinogen. Lastly, Toxic Woods [99 KB PDF, 4 pages] from Health and Safety Executive (HSE), (1997, October) identifies health effects of wood exposures and precautions, and includes a table of woods and their effects.

I could go on more, but I hopefully made my point.

5 Simple Woodworking Dust Control Tips

The first four tips are listed from least expensive to most expensive.  I also have some tips on how to make your common dust collection methods more effective and arguably less expensive.

1)  Dust Mask –  A simple, inexpensive mask will keep dust out of your lungs and sinuses and protect you from a health standpoint.  But, will not keep your area clean.  If you work outside it does not matter.  You can use disposable ones – I use the 3M tekk  N95 approved sanding valved respirators.  Here is an affiliant link in case you are interested.  3M 8511 Particulate Sanding N95 Respirator with Valve, 10-Pack  I went to buy a Cloth dust mask  the other day at the woodcraft store, but they were sold out.   The advantage to the cloth ones is that you can wash and reuse them.

I also discussed the advantages to using a sinus rinse to help control dust that might collect in your sinuses. NeilMed Sinus Rinse, Premixed 50 Sachets

2)     Ceiling mounted air cleaner.  You do not have to spend a ton of money to clean the dust particles out of the ambient air.  You can use an old box fan (or a new one) and attach a re-usable air filter to it.  Here are some pictures to show what is hanging from our ceiling.

This is the back of the box fan – Time to clean the filter again.

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Picture of the side of the fan

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I hung the fan upside down so I could turn it on.

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As I mention in the podcast, the fan is old, at least 20 years old, probably older.  But, since it hand from the ceiling, I do not have to worry about kids putting their fingers into the blades.

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3)     Shop vac with dust collection cyclone.

If you can’t afford a dust cyclone yet, pick up some pantyhose and put them over your filter.  I use a permanent air filter.  When it is time to clean the filter, you just pull the pantyhose off and most of the dust falls off.  It really extends the time you have before you have to clean the filter again.  It is also work buying a decent extension hose and floor sweeper to pick the dust up off the ground and lying around your shop.  I was lucky that my parents, who are avid garage sale shoppers, picked up a whole bunch of extra hose that I just bought connectors for.

Here are a couple examples of dust collection cyclones to improve your shop vac performance.
The Dust Deputy

Woodriver Small Dust Collection Cyclone

There are many more.

4)     Fixed dust collector with varying levels.  I have a Delta 50-850. Here is what it looks like:

There are many great options out there on the market.  To get the most use out of it, you have to set things up so that it is easy to use.  If it is a pain, you are less likely to use it.  I set up mine up with a combination of flexible hosing and PVC Pipes.

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The picture above is of the switch that turns on the shop vac when you turn on your power tools.  Here is an affiliate link to it if you are interested in buying one yourself. i-socket 110m Tool and Vacuum Switch

5)     Miscelaneous tips to keep the dust out of your house

Use a piece of scrap carpet on your entry and exit to your shop so that the dust on the bottom of your shoes does not drag into the house.  Vacuum it often.  Keep a bench brush and broom handy at all times.  Use all the above steps to control the dust in your shop


A Few Updates from the previous episode

In episode #010, I talked about a Halloween Woodworking project which was arguably a little on the crafty side than on the purest woodworking side, but it continued to introduce my kids to certain woodworking principles such as how to plan your project (at a very simple level), how to take measurements, how to transfer those measurements to your project plans, how to transfer those measurements to your wood, and how to hand saw.

Well, I had planned on finishing up my wooden scarecrow and publishing the finished product as soon as I finished.  Unfortunately, after recording that podcast, one weekend was lost to a visit to the hospital (no worries, I am healthy now, just some bizarre infection that the doctors could not clearly identify).   Then, another weekend was spent working with the cubmobile  race that I was in charge of.  Fortunately, when I went down, I had a whole crew of other scout leaders to step up and help make sure we were prepare for the race.  I had to spend part of one weekend finishing up the cubmobile for my den.  Fortunately, both my sons helped finish the painting so it did not take too long.  The good news is that the cubmobile that we made (which looks like a hammerhead shark), wound up winning the overall race with one of the scouts in my den.

Here is a picture of the cubmobile.

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Until next time, I hope everyone can get into their shop and build useful works of art.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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8 thoughts on “AW #011 – 5 Simple Woodworking Dust Control Tips

  1. Leh,
    Thank you for the podcast. I especially enjoy your tips on how to maximize quality woodworking time.

    An alternative to the vacuum switch is to buy a remote Christmas light system. It’s cheaper than the vacuum switch and more versatile. I have my dust collector plugged into the switch and have hooked the remote fob to my shop apron. I can turn on the DC from anywhere in the shop. It only works for 110v and only if I remember to wear the apron. Not my own idea, but one worth sharing.

    Ps. Awesome cub mobile.

    • Thanks Simon! That is a good suggestion, depending on your dust collector. I will add that to the next podcast. I tried that once before, but after burning out two Christmas light remotes fairly quickly, I realized that my dust collector draws too much amperage for the remote to handle and it literally fried them. I checked it with my amp meter. The funny thing is, the only reason I had an amp meter is to monitor my Christmas lights to make sure I am not drawing too much current on any one circuit (I got tied of tripping the circuit breakers all the time). I put up a ton of lights at Christmas. I have some pictures at

  2. Thanks Leh,
    I retired 2years ago and most of my woodworking was fixing or rough carpentry.
    Now ,my wife has me using 3/4 8’x6″ birch tongue and groove paneling I bought from my chiropractor 5 years ago. The wood was milled 3 years before I got it , stored in the attic of his shop , very dry and very hard, I’ve installed the ceiling air cleaner and a dust deputy but , cutting this hard wood has clogged up filters, masks and shirts and jeans . Your tips are greatly appreciated . What would you recommend on a contractor table saw where I rip a tongue or backside of the grove . Regards, Jeff

  3. The best way to control dust is to collect as much as possible of it at the point it is made. That is why I use a Festool Track saw, Domino, Router and Sanders together with a Festool dust extractor.
    They aren’t cheap, but cheap is just cheap. They are good to top quality.

    Just a warning. Don’t try them because your bank balance will be seriously affected. 🙂

  4. I think that we can add to this the fact that for each one of us in his field it has some special item he can add to find more time in his routine, for instance in the case of wood workers they can get a festool dust extractor for example that can easily help them get rid of dust and gain time instead of sweeping them selves.