The best dust collectors for small woodworking shops come down to the number of tools, your shop size and ultimately your budget.
After decades experience in small cabinet shops and home garages, I’ve found dust collection is a four-part collection of tools:
- Large CFM machines for planers and table saws.
- Dust extractors for hand tools
- Dust filters suspended from the ceiling to capture the 2-micron and smaller particles that hang in the air
- And tool shrouds to collect dust at the source and channel to the hose
While most woodworkers start with the largest dust producers and invest from their, no shop will be clean without all four categories.
Lastly, one of the biggest dust creators in my shop is the miter saw. Be sure to check out the Rousseau hood in this guide as a must-have to channel the miter saw dust to a dust collector. This hood is proof that dust collection accessories can be as important as the collector itself.
Top Dust Collection Solutions
Best small shop multi-tool:
› JET DC1100X Vortex at Amazon ($999.99)
Portable floor pick:
› Buck Tools DC-30A at Amazon ($279.99)
Budget upright choice:
› Shop Fox W1727 at Amazon ($360.00)
Best for hand tools:
› Festool Dust Extractor at Amazon ($399.00)
Best shop vac upgrade:
› Dust Deputy DIY Cyclone at Amazon ($51.98)
Miter saw dust solution:
› Rousseau Miter Saw Hood at Amazon ($159.00)
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While dust collection may seem simple, the art of collecting all of the dust down to that last micron requires knowing:
- Dust collectors must move a significant volume of air and are measured using cubic feet per minute (CFM)
- Dust filters are either cloth or canister and a canister filter will collect more fine dust
- Higher horsepower generally equates to more CFM
- Longer lengths of dust collection hosing degrades performance
- Cyclonic filters are best as they separate large dust particles
As you probably know, every tool produces a different type of dust or wood chip. Which means the best dust collector for each tool may vary:
- Table saws do best with high CFM machines as the open space of the saw requires more air volume
- Planer dust collectors have a concentrated suction, but require a large dust collector with cyclonic action preferred to separate wood chips
- Drum sanders matched with a canister-style filter work best as the fine dust they produce must be captured
- Hand tools will perform better with a dust extractor as they are designed for random orbit sanders, joinery machines and similar
- Miter saws require a miter saw hood and high CFM to pull suspended dust
Top Dust Collectors by Type
In dust collection the name of the game is maximum cubic feet per minute (CFM) and ability to control the smallest possible micron dust.
And, after using older models of this dust collector in my shop for close to twenty years, this is exactly what this top-brand JET does.
Key features to like:
- Vortex action separates fine dust from large wood chips
- Canister for capturing 98% of 2-micron particles (versus 96% of 30-micron for a bag)
- Portable dust collector with casters to move around the shop as needed
With easy to change bags, paddle-cleaned canister and two machine connections this dust collector is built for ease of use.
If your table saw is twenty feet from your planer and you need to retain CFM then one common solution is having two (smaller) dust collectors closer to each machine.
And, fortunately, there are many reasonably priced floor or wall mounted dust collectors.
This Buck Tool machine is backed by a 2-year warranty and is a portable floor or wall-mounted collector. And, while featuring only 550-cfm of air flow, this machine cuts the distance and length of hose.
It’s rare that the industry leading brand Festool is less expensive than the competition. But for dust extractors, their entry level model lets you hook up your random orbit, Festool DOMINO, miter saw or anything else with a dust port.
The results? Less dust at the point of the source and in places you typically wouldn’t connect a dust collector.
While the 574831 is an entry level model, I use the upgraded 574837 with HEP Filter (~$300 more) and found this portable dust extraction unit to be invaluable. With auto-on power when used as the electrical source the collector is on only when you need it.
Capturing up to 85% of 1-micron dust, the top-branded JET line of tools offers this dust filter that hangs from your ceiling.
So, no excuses you don’t have floor space in order to install this quiet, unobtrusive machine in your shop. At just 20-inches high this unit won’t obstruction headspace either in most 9-foot or higher workshops.
- Two filters (5-micron, 1-micron)
- Remote control
- Ceiling or workbench mountable
- 2/4/8 hour timer
Dust Collectors By Shop Size
Not all woodworkers will need a 1100 CFM dust collector.
In fact, quite a few small woodworking shops can get by with a 500 CFM solution and a flexible hose that can move from machine to machine.
But from varying brands, horsepower, ducting, vortex options and decisions on canisters vs. bags there many decisions before choosing what is best for your shop.
Dust Collection For Small Shops
For small shops dust collection can come in four different shapes and sizes:
- Shop vac dust collection
- Wall mounted
- Portable floor units
While physics comes into play with hose size, corners and distance the simple math is locate the dust collection as close as possible to the machines. A higher CFM machine can perform worse than a lower CFM if not properly placed.
Small Shop Vacuum Dust Collection
Shop vacuum dust collectors utilize a shop vacuum and hoses connected directly to your machinery. While inexpensive, these portable dust collection systems are designed for smaller tools and require moving the hoses and vacuum when you switch tools.
The drawbacks of this system are fast clogging and filling of your main collection tank. But, that is addressed through use of a shop vacuum dust vortex. More on that later.
Wall Mounted Dust Collectors
According to one of the popular benchtop planer manufacturers (Dewalt), you’ll need over 500 CFM to properly operate their planers. While a shop vacuum can limp along and work for small jobs, it won’t provide the sustained volume.
Which takes most woodworkers up to a traditional dust collector. But, as with most small workshops space is always a premium.
So, top manufacturers like Shop Fox, Grizzly and a few others converted a traditional stand-based collection unit into a simple-to-mount wall dust collector.
With these machines topping out at 1HP you’ll find most generate suction just above 500 CFM and are extremely easy to use with just a flexible 4″ hose.
Compact Portable Floor Dust Collectors
Shown: Buck Tool Portable (550 CFM)
As anyone who has worked a dust collection system before knows, the closer the vacuum is to the machine the better the CFM where it matters. And thus overall quality of the dust control.
Portable Benchtop Dust Collectors For Small Projects
Shown: PSI Woodworking (725 CFM)
For projects where dust collection hoses can’t connect to the machine a portable dust collector is a great option.
Have a benchtop disc or belt sander that spits out dust? Or, carve wood and need a way to keep the dust down? Then a portable dust collector that works much like a dust filter (but meant to be on the bench) is a great upgrade.
Dust Collection Systems for Large Shops
Space is always a luxury in a home woodworking shop. Whether its a dedicated 600sqf shop or a 1000sqf shop that has to be shared during the week with cars space allows for better, well, everything.
And, for dust collection systems, that means the ability to install a ducted solution that lets you keep machines permanently connected.
Lastly, you’ll find three types of these dust collectors:
- Budget friendly “bag styles” that start out under $400.
- Canister style uprights with higher CFM, more horsepower and better small micron filtering performance
- Two stage vortex filters that offer the best performance, but all-in-one units are $2000 or more.
Standard Upright Bag Dust Collector
Shown: Shop Fox W1727 (800CFM)
Upgrading from a wall or portable floor model to an upright dust collector is a significant boost.
Not only does these upright units start with about 40% more CFM, they hold more dust and are on mobile carts that can be moved easily around the shop.
Canister System Single Stage Dust Collectors
Canister dust collectors are distinct enough from a bag that separating them into their own type of dust collector is worth it.
While a bag system inflates and deflates, a cartridge system is static and it’s grooved fin design offers greater surface area for filtering dust. And, they are generally able to capture more 1 and 2-micron dust particles.
Lastly, it is common to spin the agitator paddle to remove any built-up dust on the inside of the canister to prevent suction loss.
Cyclonic Two Stage Dust Collectors
Cyclonic dust collectors are the king of dust collectors as they feature two-stage dust separation and the most cubic feet of air flow.
While you may have seen larger units parked on top of industrial buildings, these have been shrunk down to size to fit into most larger workshops.
Why a cyclone? Well, the air movement allows large particles to fall to the bottom and out into a large chip container. Meanwhile, smaller particles are suspended and pushed into a neighboring collection bin that collects the fine “cake dust” into a smaller bag.
Large Shop Dust Collectors
When it comes to large workshops that will run multiple tools with high CFM requirements then the game steps up to more power.
And while most small workshop dust collectors start at 1HP, these units start at 3HP and go to 6HP or more. Which means 30 to 50-amp breakers and specialized power to handle heavy workloads.
Of course, these systems are all meant to be ducted and the top brands like Laguna offer up HEPA filtration.
Dust Collection Solutions for All Shop Sizes
Both large and small woodworking shops all have tools that need dust control that a standard collector can’t provide.
For example, miter saws tend to blow dust out of the back of the saw no matter how hard you try to setup a hose. Or, lathes generate a pile of dust behind the chuck that needs a bit more suction.
Dust Extractors for All Size Shops
The solution? A dust extractor that can be paired with your hand tools. And, if properly paired with your tools will automatically turn on and off with your tools.
Dust Separators Improve Performance
Shown: Dust Deputy
Dust separators are in a class of their own as they are add-ons that make a dust collectino system work MUCH better.
While there are a variety of systems, including the extremely popular Dust Deputy, the basics of a separator is in it’s use of a cyclonic air movement that pulls heavy chips out and only passes finer dust upstream to your shop vacuum.
Seems optional, right? Not really, you’ll want to try one of these out to see why thousands of woodworkers rely on them.
Dust Collectors For Miter Saws
After spending a few months building an outdoor accessory building, re-doing my deck and even cutting aluminum hand railings my Makita miter saw was busy.
And, it generated a MASSIVE pile of dust. Since I was in the middle of upgrading my miter saw station I hadn’t yet installed a dust collection hood.
Dust Collection Hoods for Miter Saws
As you can see pictured above, a dust collection hood simply fits around the back of your saw like a hood. Since you likely know your miter saw dust can NEVER be caught by the (silly) dust collection bag, these hoods work to capture all of the dust.
And, when paired with your dust collection system (there’s a hookup at the bottom back of the bag) you’ll be able to capture a high volume of that dust.
Dust Collectors for Planers
As you probably know, the #1 producer of wood
Dust Extractors vs. Dust Collectors
All of this is great, you might say, but how do I control the dust of my hand tools?
With a dust extractor of course.
Where a dust collector is all about large volumes of air, a dust extractor is built for high suction. And convenience with features like:
- Automated on/off to start and stop with your tools
- Long, small diameter hose to work with your tools
- Portability for use in the garage, home or on the jobsite
- Lower decibel than a shop vacuum
- Power plug on the machine to detect and enable the dust extractor to start/stop
The Best Dust Collector System Requires Accesories
Once you have a decision made on the best dust collector for your shop you’ll want to take a look at a few additions.
While easy to either overlook, or just not know they are available, here’s a few to consider:
- Extra dust hose
- Floor sweep chute
- Pre-piping on tools with hard-to-reach dust ports (table saw)
- Ducting supplies and reducers (router table)
- Extra dust collection bags
- Hand tool adapter hoses
- And, the most innovative item, a switch that will automatically turn your dust collector on & off when a connected tool is installed
Frequently Asked Questions
How much CFM do I need for a dust collector?
In general you’ll want a dust collector that can produce at least 500 cfm. Since you’ll lose suction to hose length, fine dust cake that accumulates on your bag, and simply some tools that just require 400-500 CFM. While this rules out a shop vacuum for most larger tools like a planer, if you are looking for dust collection with a smaller hand tools a 100-150 CFM shop vacuum can work.
How much does a dust collector cost?
A small shop vacuum dust collector with a dust separator can start around $125 and run all way up to $700 for a larger shop dust collector. Industrial dust collection units typically start at $1500 and cost upwards of tens of thousands of dollars for large furniture shops.
Do I need an air filtration system if I have a dust collector?
It’s always best to pair an air filtration system with a dust collector. Since a dust collector only captures dust in range of it’s suction you will not collect the fine particles that hang in the air. The air filtration systems, however, will circulate the air in your workshop and collect dust that remains suspended for up to 30 minutes.
Is a single stage or cyclonic dust collector better?
A cyclonic dust collector is generally better than a single stage dust collector as it separates heavy particles early and allows separated collection of large and fine particles.
Is a shop vacuum or dust collector better?
Because dust collection is all about cubic feet per minute (CFM) the best way to capture dust from a woodworking tool is the tool with the highest CFM. And, for that reason, a dust collector that is built for moving large amounts of air is the winner. However, shop vacuums for small shops and tools like orbital sanders can work.
While choosing the best dust collector for your workshop and tools isn’t always easy, hopefully this article shed some light on where to invest.
Last update on 2022-12-01 at 10:09 / Images from Amazon
- About the Author
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Eric has been a professional woodworker for over thirty years and has worked in small cabinet shops making everything from kitchen cabinets to hand-made furniture. Now working from a home woodworking shop Eric is sharing his passion for woodworking, tool advice and how-to knowledge from his Minnesota-based woodshop.