Woodworking is an expensive hobby, and an even more expensive business… it’s no wonder that there are so many woodworking cheapskates out there ;) Dust collection is NOT something you want to skimp on though. That said, it’s unreasonable to expect newbie hobbyists to jump right in with a cyclone for their garage workshop.

I want to go on the record though saying that protecting yourself from saw dust using a dust collection system AND a respirator is vital for those woodworkers who wish to continue using their lungs at current capacities.

This post instigated by the SawmillCreek thread: Dust Collection on a Budget.

Get the Dust Out with Your Shop Vac
If you’re just getting serious about dust collection then your first step should be getting the most out of your shop vac. More and more tool manufacturers design for connections to dust collection systems. There are collection systems made so that you can wheel your vac/collector from tool to tool in your shop and attach it as you use each tool. Also there are collection systems like this one from Lee Valley for those whose tools are stationary.

Family Handyman via Readers Digest has a solid write up on using your shop vac for dust collection.

If your tools are old you may have to rig up your own dust collection port and close up the areas where dust escapes. This write up: Shop vac dust collection provides excellent detail with those who have more time + DIYness available than cash (this guy goes pretty McGyver on his dust collection – it’s worth a read).

Consider making and adding a separator to your shop vac, though that will be one more thing you have to move around from tool to tool.

And you DIYers out there should know how to make blast gates too.

Windows Open + Box Fans with Filters
Another “bare minimum” way to handle dust is to open your shop windows and give yourself a cross breeze with 2 open windows and a box fan. Add a furnace/AC filter to the backside of the fan and you’ll scrub a bit of the dust from the air. This approach isn’t going to make your buddies from OSHA happy, but it will do something. I unequivocally recommend using a respirator if this is the only method you’re using for cleaning the air. Also, open windows and box fans could make your winter woodworking projects a bit uncomfortable.

To add a box fan to your permanent dust collection efforts, here’s an idea I found from Woodworking Tips:
“When it’s turned on, the fan pulls the dusty air up and through the filter. The filtered air is then expelled into the cavity between the joists, where it can return to the shop”

Also, here is a forum thread trouble shooting issues with filters + box fans for dust reduction.

Respirators are a Must
I’ve only recently become a convert to the church of dust collection. In part this is because of the forum reading I did for “5 Top Air Respirators for Woodworking.” Here’s an excerpt: “After working on a project for about six hours last spring, I began to have some wheezing and shortness of breath. I took a break and walked out side and felt better. This had happened once before after several hours in the shop and resolved itself within a few minutes of stopping work. A few of days later I went back in the shop. The symptoms reappeared in about an hour and were worse this time. They barely got better when I stopped working.My wife (who is a physician) came home for dinner took one look at me and said ‘we are going to the emergency room.'” Folks, even if you’re running a cyclone you still need to wear a respirator when you’re making sawdust.

Small-ish Dust Collection Units
Without going hog wild and overwhelming you with options (I will do that in a later article ;) here are a few $400ish and under dust collectors that I heard good things about in forums. Not exactly budget, I know…

Delta 50-760

JET 708635RC DC-1200RC

JET 708640 DC-650

Believe it or not, I’ve read good things about a 1.5 HP Harbor Freight dust collection unit. I wasn’t able to find it with a site search at HF so you will have to take your chances with what’s readily available.

Dust Collection Resources:
Workshop Dust Collection Accessories (plans and stuff)
Equip Your Shop With An Air Filtration System (filtration is NOT dust collection btw…)
Using a Shop Vacuum for Dust Collection
Boat Shed Dust Collection
Keeping Dust Under Control
Shop vac dust collection
Shop Vacs vs. Dust Collectors
Small Dust Collection Units
Dust Collection on a Budget (SMC)
Shop vac. vs. Dust Collector question (newbie) (SMC)
Q: Dust Collection System in a Small Shop (SMC)
Shop vac as dust collection system for small tools (WoodNet)
Budget Dust Collector (WWO)
Woodshop Dust Control Good book.

More ToolCrib Resources:
Cyclone Dust Collectors: Gorilla vs. Clear Vue vs. Grizzly
5 Top Air Respirators for Woodworking
28 Ways to Recycle and Reuse Sawdust and Woodchips