Small Shop Dust Vac
Shop Fox Wall Mount 2.5 Micron
Both new and experienced woodworkers often overlook dust collection.
This leaves a messy shop and a health hazard as un-contained dust and wood chips scatter throughout the workshop.
Fortunately, dozens of solutions are on the market that fit your budget, can be adapted to just about any woodworking machine, and will improve the quality and safety of your woodworking journey.
One of the easiest ways to plan a new collection system or upgrade an existing is to start with the machines you use most commonly and work backward by the size of the hose:
- 4-inch hoses are connected to tools that remove large amounts of wood like a planer, router table, jointer, and table saw attached to a high cubic feet per minute solution.
- 2-1/2 inch hoses are standard with shop vacuums and collect concentrated dust from smaller tools like a band-saw, miter saw, or benchtop router table. While not all dust can be managed, dealing with the following tools requires attention:
- 1-1/4 inch lines for dust extracts that connect to hand-held sanders, track saws, routers, and more.
Of course, the machines used for these dust lines are different. This means most workshops will have a central dust collector, a dust extractor, and a dust filtration system to capture dust at its source AND filter the air.
Our experience ranges from whole shop dust systems with connected planers, table saws, and shapers to small shop dust extractors. While the sizes of the systems are different, we understand a few features matter:
- Ability to move high volumes of air (cubic feet per minute)
- Small micron filters to avoid spitting harmful dust back into the air
- Dust collection systems are just that, systems that typically include a dust machine, dust extractor, and dust filter.
While woodworking is a great profession or hobby, dust is one of the top health issues. And investing in your health is more important than saving a few dollars on dust solutions.
The Basics of Dust Collection
Pulling dust out of the air involves moving air away from the source to a collection system. And at a high rate to keep particles from falling and collecting near the machinery.
This is why most dust solutions use a rate of airflow measured by cubic feet per minute (CPM) to compare the filter’s overall power.
But, there are a variety of systems and ways of managing the dust collected:
- Traditional systems use bags or canisters with a collection bag
- Vortex systems use an intermediary collector that collects large chips, passing only smaller particles (or “cake”) to the filtration
- Dust extractors are used for hand-held tools
- Dust filtration systems collect airborne dust and are not connected to a machine directly
- And, lastly, shop vacuum systems use a traditional shop vac paired with smaller diameter hoses
Generally, higher While dust collection may seem simple, the art of collecting all of the dust down to that last micron takes machines that:
- Move a significant volume of air and are measured using cubic feet per minute (CFM)
- Uses dust filters are either cloth or canister, and a canister filter will collect more fine dust
- Yield high horsepower to drive CFM
- Longer lengths of dust collection hosing degrade performance
- Cyclonic filters are best as they separate large dust particles
Buying Criteria For Top Performance
While CFM is a crucial measurement of the performance of a system, the actual dust system performance is often derived from the following:
- Horsepower of the machine
- Canister filters capture lower micron particles than bags
- Total cubic feet per minute
- Number of connections for single or dual machines
- HEPA-grade filters
- Brand reputation
Best Options By Woodworking Tool
As you probably know, every tool produces a different dust or wood chip type. This 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 prominent 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
Best Dust Collectors For SMall SHops
Most woodworkers will start with one dust machine, only to find it only captures some dust.
We recommend choosing a dust collection system that captures all your machines’ fine particles and chips.
That’s part of the system?
Well, we recommend the following for all small woodworking shops as a way to control dust from your orbital sander to the planer:
- JET Dust Filter for capturing dust that hangs in the air
- Festool Dust Extractor to connect all your hand-held tools and miter saw
- JET DC1100 Vortex upright to power multiple tools (table saw, planer, drum sander)
- (optional) For isolated machines, a portable floor or wall-mounted collector
While small shops often have premium floor space, it is sometimes best to invest in a single high-end collector that can connect your table saw, planer, jointer, and router tables all in one machine.
Fortunately, some compact collectors have the necessary CFM, canister filter options and are usually portable to move around the shop.
These collectors will feature:
- 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, a paddle-cleaned canister, and two machine connections, this dust collector is built for ease of use.
Other Models Considered
- Shop Fox W1666 is a budget-friendly option but lacks the canister solution that allows for enhanced dust filtration
- VEVOR 2HP upright has a unique two-stage design but lacks the brand reputation to justify the near four-figure investment.
- Grizzly Upright features basic features but lacks high horsepower and a canister
After using a JET upright with a dust canister for nearly twenty years, this is a brand we trust and have had excellent performance with. While dust bag changes can be challenging with the legs interfering with a FULL bag, we’ve had no other complaints.
- Vortex action to separate large chips
- Large bag capacity
- 1100 CFM of air flow
- Dual dust hose ports
- Large capacity motor
- 2-micron filter
- Easy to change bags
- Portable to wheel around shop
- Takes up floor space
- Louder than smaller units
Shop Fox W1826: Best Single Machine Wall or Floor Mount
Shown: Shop Fox Wall Mount Vac
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.
Other Models Considered
- WEN-DC4301 is a budget-friendly option but lacks the brand durability of more established solutions.
- POWERTEC DC5371 is an up-and-coming unit at a budget price from a trusted woodworking brand
- Rikon features a dual floor or wall unit for versatility
Featuring a 2.5-micron bag, see thru sides, and sturdy construction, the Shop Fox is a budget-friendly yet dependable option in the compact floor or wall mount field of collection systems.
- Wall mount to save floor space
- Top brand name in woodworking
- 2.5 micron bag
- 1HP single phase
- Window to gauge dust level
- Easy to use zipper
- Limited to 2 cubic feet of dust
- Cloth filter doesn’t filter ultra small particles
- Single intake hole
Festool CT15: Best Hand Tool Dust Extractor
Shown: Festool HEPA Dust Extractor
The industry-leading brand Festool is rarely 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 invaluable. With auto-on power, when used as the electrical source, the collector is on only when needed.
Other Models Considered
- Bosch VAC090AH features an auto-cleaning filter
- Fein Turbo with wet/dry capability
At a budget price point and solid 3-year warranty, the German-made Festool is a perfect pairing for a Kapex, Festool DOMINO, or a track saw. With features of many extractors nearly identical, the brand and reputation of this unit set it apart.
- HEPA filter
- Fits most hand tools with dust ports
- Almost 4 gallon dust capacity
- Festool brand reputation
- Made in Germany
- Lacks Bluetooth found in more expensive models
JET AFS1000B - Best Dust Filters For Overhead Use
Shown: JET Air Filtration
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 to install this quiet, hidden machine in your shop. At just 20 inches high, this unit will only obstruct headspace in some 9-foot or less workshops.
- Two filters (5-micron, 1-micron)
- Remote control
- Ceiling or workbench mountable
- 2/4/8 hour timer
Other Models Considered
- AlorAire 360-degree dust filter with ionization is a close second if you are looking for an ionization feature
- WEN 3410 with 300-400 CFM of air movement has the basic features but lacks the brand and durability reputation of JET.
Most small woodworking shops are under 600 square feet, and for the size and budget, this is one of the top values for dust filters. And with 1044 CFM of air pull, this unit will capture its share of harmful dust.
- Top brand in woodworking tools
- Captures dust down to 1-micron
- 20-inch vertical space required
- Dual filters
- Remote control
Other Small Shop Dust Solutions
Not all tools will need an 1100 CFM dust collector.
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 are many choices before choosing what is best for your shop.
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 devices.
The drawbacks of this system are the fast clogging and filling of your main collection tank. But that is addressed through a shop vacuum dust vortex that can be added to this shop vac.
Wall Mounted Dust Collectors
According to one of the popular benchtop planer manufacturers (Dewalt), you’ll need over 500 CFM to operate their planers properly. While a shop vacuum can work for small jobs, it won’t provide sustained volume for larger projects.
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 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 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, the overall quality of the dust control.
Portable Benchtop Dust Collectors For Small Projects
Shown: PSI Woodworking (725 CFM)
A portable dust collector is an excellent option for projects where dust collection hoses can’t connect to the machine.
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 is meant to be on the bench) is a significant upgrade.
Dust Collection Systems for Large Shops
Space is always a luxury in a home woodworking shop. Whether it’s a dedicated 600sqf shop or a 1000sqf shop that has to be shared during the week with cars, space allows for better 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 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.
These upright units start with about 40% more CFM, 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 type of dust collector is worth it.
While a bag system inflates and deflates, a cartridge system is static, and its grooved fin design offers a greater surface area for filtering dust. And they can generally capture more than one 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, featuring two-stage dust separation and the most cubic feet of airflow.
While you may have seen larger units parked on top of industrial buildings, these have been shrunk down to size to fit into most more extensive workshops.
Why a cyclone? 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 run multiple tools with high CFM requirements, 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 HEPA filtration.
Dust Collection Solutions for All Shop Sizes
Large and small woodworking shops have tools needing 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 set up a hose. Or lathes generate dust behind the chuck that needs 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 devices.
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 collection system work MUCH better.
While there are a variety of systems, including the extremely popular Dust Deputy, the basics of a separator are in its use of a cyclonic air movement that pulls heavy chips out and only passes finer dust upstream to your shop vacuum.
Is it optional? 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 upgrading my miter saw station, I hadn’t yet installed a dust collection hood.
Dust Collection Hoods for Miter Saws
As 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 Extractors vs. Dust Collectors
You might say all this is great, but how do I control the dust off 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 job site
- 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 decide on the best dust collector for your shop, you’ll want to look at a few additions.
While easy to either overlook or just not know they are available, here are 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?
You’ll generally want a dust collector that can produce at least 500 cfm since you’ll lose suction to hose length, delicate dust cake accumulating on your bag, and simply some tools requiring 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 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 up to $700 for a larger shop dust collector. Industrial dust collection units typically start at $1500 and cost tens of thousands of dollars for large furniture shops.
Do I need an air filtration system if I have a dust collector?
Pairing an air filtration system with a dust collector is always best. Since a dust collector only captures dust in range of its 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 a separate 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 with the highest CFM. And for that reason, a dust collector 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, this article sheds some light on where to invest.
- 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.