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Page 3 of 6
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Getting Tough on Dust

Choosing a Dust Collector

To choose the right dust collector for your shop, you'll need to consider the air volume requirements of the tools in your shop and also the amount of static pressure your dust collector will have to overcome. Unfortunately, a thorough explanation of dust collection design - including formulas for calculating air volume, velocity and static pressure losses - is beyond the scope of this article. For that, we recommend a dust collection book, where you'll find the detailed information you'll need to do the best job of designing your dust collection system. 

There are, however, a few dust collection "rules of thumb" that are based on the size of your shop and the type of tools in it. Below well offer our picks for dust collection systems ranging from a small portable dust collection solution to a central system for a well equipped two car garage sized shop.  

How Dust Collectors are Rated

Dust collectors are designed and rated to produce a sufficient air moving force to capture and move woodworking debris under certain conditions. Nearly all manufacturers publish ratings for individual dust collectors including:

  • Air velocity in feet per minute (fpm)
  • Air volume in cubic feet per minute (cfm)
  • Maximum static pressure (sp)

A large, powerful dust collector will, of course, move more air with more friction-overcoming force than a small, portable unit, and therefore can be used to service machinery that produces greater volumes of debris and have greater cfm requirements.  Also, because of their greater capacity for overcoming static pressure losses, more powerful dust collectors can be situated farther away from individual machines, making them more advantageous for central dust collection systems.

Affordable, Portable Systems

A portable dust collector is a good option if your priorities are affordability and simplicity.  A portable dust collector is moved from machine to machine, keeping it in close proximity of the tool it's servicing and limiting the static pressure losses caused by long runs of ductwork. There's a minimum amount of set-up involved - the dust collector connects to the dust collection port of the tool it's servicing with a short length of flexible hose and a keyed hose clamp.

The Jet DC650 is an excellent choice for a small woodworking operation where an affordable solution is the goal. The DC650 is rated to move 650 cfm through it's 4' port - more than enough for the type of equipment most often found in a small, hobbyist shop. It's compact  - 14' by 22' at its base - and runs quieter than larger portable units, making it perfect for tight quarters and home shops where noise is often an issue.

Stepping Up for Better Performance

Best Value and Performance in Portable Dust Collectors

Fine Woodworking Magazine tested 10 leading portable Dust Collectors and published the results in its April 2006 issue. The test, which simulated actual shop conditions, placed both the
Delta 50-760
 and the
Jet DC-1100 in the top performance category and named the
Delta 50-760 "Best Value" of all machines tested.

The Jet DC-1100, the Jet DC-1200, the Delta 50-760 and the  Delta 50-850, all rated in the 1100 - 1200 cfm range, are a step up in power.  Used as a portable dust collection system (moved from tool to tool), dust collectors in this class will produce ample air velocity and volume to handle chip removal for even the largest home shop tools.

Central Dust Collection Systems

In a central dust collection system, the dust collector stays in one place in the shop and is connected to the woodworking tools it services with a system of ductwork. A central system has a couple of advantages over a portable system. The central dust collection unit can be placed in an out-of-the-way location where it doesn't take up the most valuable space in your shop. Also, a central system is permanently connected to your tools, meaning that you can move from tool to tool freely, without having to stop work to transfer the dust collector's connection.

Getting the Right Sized Dust Collector

Runs of ductwork, elbows and wyes required in a central system mean greater static pressure losses. A dust collector used for a central system has to be powerful enough to overcome static pressure losses - with enough air volume and velocity left over to move material.  

Basement and One Car Garage Sized Shops

The Jet DC 1100, the Jet DC-1200, the Delta 50-760 and the Delta 50-850 offer an economical central dust collection solution for small shops. Each of these machines have air volume ratings in the 1100 - 1200 cfm range and are rated for a maximum static pressure of 8+ inches of water, making them powerful enough for a hobbyist's basement or one car garage sized shop. Good dust collection system design (discussed on the next page) will go along way in making dust collectors in this class perform well in a central dust collection system.

Two Car Garage Sized Shops

If your shop occupies a space approximately the size of a two car garage, or you own tools with very high cfm requirements, then a moving up to a powerful, 3HP dust collector is probably your best choice.  The Powermatic Model 75 is rated to pull 1900 cfm - enough to service tools with the highest cfm requirements, like wide belt sanders or an industrial class planers.  The Powermatic model 75 is rated for a maximum static pressure of 12.8, which is a t the top of the range for dust collection systems designed for home use. 

Next Page
Next, on page 4, We'll offer a few dust collection design tips, including advice on setting up and optimizing the system's ductwork. 

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