Canadian Woodworking

Top 10 dust collection tips

Unless you’re using only hand tools, and don’t sand any of your surfaces, you’re creating dust in your workshop. Dust is a carcinogen when it’s inside your lungs. The smaller the particle, the deeper it can go in your lungs, and the more damage it can do in the long run. Don’t take a chance with your health. Follow these tips to ensure your dust collection is up to this important, and often overlooked, task.

1. How much suction?

Size your dust collector’s CFM (cubic feet per minute) rating for existing and future machinery. If two machines will be used at the same time you should
 add the two CFM requirements together to determine your overall requirements. Also keep in mind that manufacturer’s numbers are intended for perfect scientific conditions, which woodworkers don’t work in. Err on the side of too much CFM.

2. Shorter is better

Try to reduce the overall length of ducts by placing the collector nearest to the center of the area. The longer the ducts, the more friction and turbulence is caused, reducing the effectiveness of your collector.

3. Wider hoses and ducts are best

Avoid narrow collection hoses/ducts; less than 4″ isn’t going to provide much suction at all. Narrow ducts cause friction and reduce suction at the source of the dust.

4. Use blast gates

In order to close off areas or
 machines not in use, the blast gate can be closed. This allows you to have multiple arms of dust collection ducts and direct the suction to where it’s needed.

5. Protect against static electricity

Grounded wires wrapped around the ducts will reduce the chance of shock and combustion.

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6. Clean machines

Check machines periodically to ensure larger pieces of wood are not blocking airflow, and reducing the suction near the dust source. Table saws commonly have strips of wood fall into the dust storage area, but some other machines may also have this problem.

7. Clean clogs

Ensure no ducts/hoses are clogged, as any obstruction will affect the airflow in the ducts, and reduce suction. Corners are especially vulnerable to this type of blockage.

8. Maybe use more, smaller collectors

Consider smaller dust collection units dedicated to distant machines. If your space is large, having two dust collectors may help to increase suction, compared to using a long run of ducting.

9. Use auto on/off devices

By using a remote/automatic device that automatically turns on the dust collector every time you turn on a machine you will never be without dust collection.

10. Use a dust mask

Don’t be afraid to use a dust mask, especially when you’re creating lots of fine dust; i.e., sanding.


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Rob Brown - [email protected]

Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement. Instagram at @RobBrownTeaches

Any thoughts, tips or questions you can share?

Leave a comment in the section below.


  1. It’s the finest dust that is the most dangerous. Ideally use a HEPA filter with a cyclone, or at least a pleated filter. Bag filters don’t stop the finest stuff, all they do is get it circulating into the air. Dust mask should be an N99 or better.

  2. I wish people would stop insisting that grounding is required for dust collectors to stop combustion. There have been NO incidents of combustion in dust collecting systems that were caused by static charges. By all means ground your system if you don’t like the occasional shock when you touch the ducting, but that is the the only reason you might waste your time grounding the whole thing.

  3. Dust collection is an often neglected health issue. Fortunately, more and more woodworkers are becoming aware of the seriousness of the issue thanks to articles like your. IMO -A combination of dust collection and a dust mask work best as it is difficult to always collect all the dust with a collector.

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