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The Best Dust Collectors, Extractors and Filters for Woodworking

The best dust collection systems for woodworking shops vary with the number of tools, size of the shop and ultimately your budget.

And while the top dust collectors are usually the highest cubic feet per minute (CFM), have canister filters  and high horsepower that doesn’t meant they are best for your shops needs.

Instead, and after decades experience in small cabinet shops and home garages, I’ve found dust collection is a four-part collection of tools:

  1. Large CFM machines for planers and table saws.
  2. Dust extractors for hand tools
  3. Dust filters suspended from the ceiling to capture the 2-micron and smaller particles that hang in the air
  4. 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.

LARGE MACHINES

JET Full size multi-machine dust collector

Vortex + 1100 CFM + Canister

With about double the suction power of a basic dust collector this JET model is built to handle machines of all sizes. 

Or check out the large JET Cyclone w/Drum

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.

PORTABLILITY

BUCK Tool portable dust collector

Budget Friendly, Portable Power

For installing next to your machine(s) or on the wall this portable collector can be flexible to your shop. And at a budget friendly price you can consider buying a two or three to avoid running (or tripping over) hoses.

Backed by a 2-year warranty the Buck Tool portable floor or wall-mounted collector will adapt to your shop. While featuring only 550-cfm of air flow, this machine cuts the distance and length of hose. And longer hose equals less suction and more dust in the shop.

And at a low price point (less than a vortex cone and quality shop vac) you’ll be able to consider a few of these throughout the shop.

FOR HAND TOOLS

Festool Dust Extractor

Dust Extractor for Hand Tools + Saws

Nobody teaches a new woodworker that there is more to dust collection than a large bag. But, for hand tools and miter saws a dust extractor is a MUST HAVE to capture fine dust particles.

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.

DUST FILTERS

JET Dust Filter

Overhead Dust Filter (1044 CFM)

Fact: small particles hanging in the air for up to 30 minutes after the tools stop. The solution? Outside of always wearing a dust mask (I do anyways), most woodworkers will use a dust filter to keep the shop AND their lungs cleaner.  

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.

Key features:

  • Two filters (5-micron, 1-micron)
  • Remote control
  • Ceiling or workbench mountable
  • 2/4/8 hour timer

Best 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

Cabinet Maker Tools

For small shops dust collection can come in four different shapes and sizes:

  1. Shop vac dust collection
  2. Wall mounted
  3. 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

Types of Dust Collectors - Shop Vacuum

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

Wall Mounted Dust Collector

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

Compact Portable Dust Collector

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.

Which makes a compact unit like this brand-name Grizzly a top option to mount under a bench, attach to a hybrid table saw or simply move to machines when needed.

Portable Benchtop Dust Collectors For Small Projects

Benchtop Portable Dust Collector

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

How To Learn Woodworking Design

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.

One of the golden rules of woodworking is buy the next machine up from what you think you'll need. And with dust collectors that means buying into higher horsepower, canister filters and 2+ machine CFM.

Standard Upright Bag Dust Collector

Standard Upright Dust Collector

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

Types of Dust Collectors - Single Stage Canister

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

Types of Dust Collectors - Cyclonic Dust Collector

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

Types of Dust Collectors - Large Shop 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

Dust Extractor by Bosch

Collecting dust in a workshop isn’t simple. First, large machines like dust-generating planers and woodshop table saws must be addressed.

Then, as you know, your hand tools like routers, random orbital sanders and power track saws need to be addressed.

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 Hoods

Dust Hood for miter saws

After investing in a new dust collector and setting it up you’ll find one of the top dust generators in any woodworking shop still does what it does best: make a mess.

The solution? A dust hood that shrouds your saw and pulls the dust back into your dust collection. The Rousseau 5000, shown above, has a 4″ dust port to connect to your collection system of choice.

Best Dust Collectors - Top Brands

Like all tools, there are three categories of tools to wade through:

  • Imports found online that don’t have a website (read: no warranty support or parts later)
  • Brands targeted to end consumers that haven’t stood the test of time
  • Top woodworking brands that offer long warranties and decades of performance. 

So what does that mean for dust collectors? Shop at your price points within JET, Grizzly, Laguna and Shop Fox.

Dust Separators Improve Performance

Types of Dust Collectors - Dust Separators

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

Dust From Miter Saw

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

Rousseau Dust Collection Hood

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 Extractors vs. Dust Collectors

Fein Dust Extractor

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

Router Bit Dust Collection

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

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.

Summary

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.

6 thoughts on “The Best Dust Collectors, Extractors and Filters for Woodworking”

  1. This is very helpful.The question I am concerned about is noise. Other than the small dust collector units, is there a difference in decibel level among the various options?

  2. Hi Whitney –

    You are correct that size is a determining factor in decibel levels. More power equates to more air movement. My JET with a canister is loud, but since the tools I connect it to are generally louder I haven’t worried much about the noise the unit generates. And as you noted a dust extractor is a good option for quieter hand tools like a random orbit sander.

    Eric

  3. Looking to build a cust collection system in my garage. I have the typical culprits: bandsaw, table saw, planer, jointer. I believe these machines would be better suited with larger canister 2 stage system. But What are your thoughts on dust collection for a miter saw? Im building a miter saw station right now and trying to determine if a smaller shop vac w/ separator or extractor would be suitable? Or if I should plumb it to the larger system?

    Thanks
    Neal

  4. Neal,

    I’m in the same situation right now and am going to attach my miter saw to a dust collection hood (Rouseeau and a few others make them) and then plumb it to my Jet dust collector.

    Thanks,
    Eric

  5. Here at Tel Hai Retirement Community we have a woodshop about 50′ x 25′ with nine pieces of equipment to create dust. All are now hooked up to portable vacuuns. We are looking for a central vacuum system to save space and be more efficient. Please advise.

  6. John,

    Thanks for the great question. For a larger shop you’ll want to look for at least a 3HP unit to generate enough airflow. With so many factors including how many machines will be used at the same time, length of ducting, and types of machines its worth talking to a representative from JET (https://www.jettools.com/us/en/service-and-support/customer-support/), Laguna or other manufacturer for detailed specifications.

    Here are two machines to consider:
    https://www.jettools.com/us/en/p/jcdc-3-cyclone-dust-collector-kit-3hp-230v/717530K
    https://www.woodcraft.com/products/laguna-p-flux-3hp-220v-cyclone-hepa?via=573621bd69702d0676000002%2C576455d369702d2f2f0013a2%2C5764562369702d3c42000be9

    The Laguna is an incredible machine with HEPA filtration but at a premium price.

    Eric

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