Wood dust or sawdust is a potential problem in virtually all woodworking applications. In any type of woodworking environment, wood dust and wood shavings can lea to serious health and fire hazards. Wood dust is actually classified as a particulate airborne contaminant. A valuable tool used to control wood dust is a duct collection system. Industrial dust collectors are specifically designed to remove particulate airborne contaminants at the source.
Wood dust has been identified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as both a potential safety and health hazard. Constant exposure to wood dust can cause long-term health problems and can be an irritant to the sinuses, skin and lungs in the short-term. Woodshop owners would be wise to refer to the OSHA standards for wood dust exposure for employees.
There are many good reasons other than health for using a dust collector in woodshops. Wood burns and the dust that is created from cutting it is a serious potential fire hazard. If fine, powdery wood dust is heavily concentrated in the air and exposed to a spark, it can cause an explosion, similar to what can happen in a grain silo. If you are trying to apply smooth finishes with wood dust hanging in the air, the dust will create imperfections on the finished product. Wood dust can also have a negative effect on power tools and machinery, shortening their lifespan.
There are three primary factors to consider when designing a dust collection system for your woodshop. First, you must determine how many CFM (cubic feet per minute) of air movement is needed in your collection system to handle your shops wood dust output. Secondly, it is vital to lay-out a system that insures your shop tools, collector, and ductwork provide maximum efficiency for you requirements. The third factor is to determine whether to use a single or double stage collection system.
A single stage dust collector pulls the wood debris through an impeller and deposits it in a collection bag or bin. A double or dual stage collection system deposits the larger wood pieces and shavings in a bin before they reach the impeller. The fine wood dust passes the impeller and is collected in a storage container. This stops metal objects like nails and screws from hitting the impeller and causing a spark. Dust collection creates a static electrical charge, so all collector systems must be grounded with copper wire to prevent combustion.