My Small Shop Dust Collection System

I’m sharing the space-saving dust collection system that I use in my small shop, including the wall-mount dust collector, cyclone separator, and more.

I'm sharing the space-saving dust collection system that I use in my small shop, including the wall-mount dust collector, cyclone separator, and more.

Small Woodshop Dust Collection

One of the questions I’m often asked is, “what do you use for dust collection in your small workshop?”

I haven’t shared what I used for dust collection because I didn’t feel like what I was using was the best solution. That is, until now.

I completely overhauled my system, and I’m taking you for a behind-the-scenes look at the space-saving solutions I use to banish dust in my small workshop!

This article is not sponsored. I bought all of the supplies listed in this article.

This tutorial contains affiliate links to supplies and tools. Purchases made using these links help support the Saws on Skates website and allows me to share more projects and tips with you. There is no cost to you for using these links. Visit my site policies for more information.

Table of Contents

Inspiration for This Project

Sawdust, especially fine sawdust, can be harmful to our lungs. Not only can it be dangerous, but sawdust is also messy and time-consuming to clean up.

Related: Clever Uses for Sawdust: 11 Ideas That Will Inspire You

I always wear a respirator when cutting or sanding wood, and I also use a dust collector. I haven’t shared what I used for dust collection because I didn’t feel like what I was using was the best solution.

Years ago, before I focused on maximizing space in my small workshop, I bought a Central Machinery dust collector at Harbor Freight.

Related: 9 Clever Ways to Make Your Small Workshop Feel Bigger

The Harbor Freight unit worked, but it was too big for my small shop. The collector took up an entire corner of my tiny workshop. Even though the collector was on wheels, I rarely moved it. The area behind the collector was wasted space and became a black hole for cutoffs that would fall behind the unit.

Plus, the dust bag was huge and heavy when it was full. The entrance to my shop is tricky to navigate. When the bag was full, It was difficult to remove the heavy bag from my shop.

Removing a stationary dust collect to make room for a wall-mount dust collector.

I’ve been planning a makeover of the wall where I keep my miter saw. Right now, I’m using a folding, portable miter saw station similar to this one. I plan to make a larger, fixed miter saw station that would extend to the dust collection area. The giant Harbor Freight unit had to go to start the makeover on the miter saw area.

Related: My 12×13 Small Woodshop Layout

I looked at smaller, wall-mounted options and decided to buy this Grizzly wall-mount dust collector.

Below I’ll share considerations for choosing a dust collection system for a small shop. After each section, I’ll share what I chose for my shop and why I made that decision. I’ll also share how I set up the system, including a complete supply list.

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Small Shop Dust Collection Considerations

There are several things to consider when thinking about managing the sawdust in your workshop, like the size of your shop, what tools you’ll connect to a dust collection system, and of course, your budget.

There are two more considerations: CFM and horsepower. CFM is Cubic Feet per Minute, and it’s a measurement of airflow. Horsepower is a measurement of power.

There are lots of articles out there that do a way better job of explaining CFM and horsepower than I ever could. For example, I was reading a post in a woodworking forum about dust collection. One of the responses recommended this article by Wood Magazine that includes charts and worksheets to calculate your dust collection needs.

It’s a great article, but it was way over my head!

I used a very basic approach to decide on which dust collector to buy. I looked at the CFM requirements of my tools, and compared those requirements to the CFM ratings of the dust collectors I was considering. Then I chose a dust collector with a CFM rating greater than the CFM requirements of my tools.


Size of Workshop

The size and configuration of your workshop will impact what you choose to use for dust collection. 

My workshop is small. Small workshops face challenges that larger workshops might not have, like low ceilings or limited wall space. These are the challenges that I faced in my workshop.

In a large workshop, long runs of ducting can reduce the efficiency of a dust collector. Long runs of ductwork are not as much of a problem with a small workshop. My shop is about the size of a small bedroom, so the dust collector is only a few feet from each machine. Plus, my tools are on wheels, so that I can move the tools closer to the dust collector.

Related: 7 Ideas to Make Your Tools Mobile & Maximize Workshop Space

One of the biggest concerns for a small workshop is the size of the dust collection unit. Floor space and wall space are at a premium in a small shop. A big stationary dust collector, like my Harbor Freight unit, takes up too much floor space and wall space in a tiny shop.


What Tools

What tools do you want to connect to a dust collection system? For me, the tools I use the most, and my biggest sawdust makers, are my miter saw, random orbital sander, and table saw. Occasionally I’ll use my circular saw, jointer, or thickness planer mounted on this flip top tool stand.

Related: What’s the Best Sander for Furniture?

After you decide what tools you want to connect to the system, you can look at a chart (or your owner’s manual) to determine the CFM requirements for those tools.

The Central Machinery unit was rated at 1550 CFM. This smaller wall-mounted unit I was looking at was rated at 537 CFM.

So I knew it was going to be a tradeoff between space vs. suction capacity. For me, space won out. That big stationary unit was preventing me from building my new miter saw station. And building a new miter saw station would make my shop a better place to work.

Side view of a wall-mounted dust collector used for a small shop dust collection system.

Budget

Budget will also play a role in your dust collection system. You’ll need the dust collector, fittings, hoses, blast gates, etc., to make the system work. I planned to repurpose much of the hoses and fittings from my old system, so I had to buy only a few new things.

But generally speaking, the higher the CFM, the more expensive the system will be. Also, wall-mounted units are usually more expensive than a similar stationary unit

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Dust Collection Options

There are three options for dust collection:

  • Dust collector
  • Shop Vac
  • Dust extractor

Dust collectors are HVLP, high volume, low pressure. In other words, HVLP is high airflow, low suction.

Shop Vacs are HPLV, high pressure, low volume. In other words, HPLV is high suction, low airflow.

This means the high suction of a Shop Vac can pick up heavy debris, like rocks off the floor mat of your car, but the low airflow means the hose needs to be close to what you’re trying to pick up.

The low suction of a dust collector has trouble sucking up heavy debris, like metal, but the high airflow will easily pick up light debris, like sawdust and wood chips.


Dust Collector

Dust collectors work well for large woodworking machines like:

  • Table Saws
  • Jointers
  • Thickness Planers

Dust collectors are available as:

  • Stationary units
  • Wall-mounted units
  • Mobile floor units

A wall-mounted collector is a good option for a small workshop. It hangs on the wall, which frees up floor space. Also, it hooks on a bracket, which means it can be easily removed from the wall and moved to another location.


Shop Vac

Shop Vacs work well for smaller tools with smaller dust ports like:

  • Miter saws
  • Router tables

And handheld tools like:

  • Circular saws
  • Sanders

The advantage of a Shop Vac is they don’t take up much space, and they are mobile. It’s the least expensive option for dust collection. Plus, it’s multi-purpose, which means you can use it for other projects like cleaning the trunk of your car or vacuuming up a 5-pound bag of flour that spilled in the kitchen.

The downside to a Shop Vac is that it can’t do dust collection for an entire shop. And it really only works for one tool at a time.


Dust Extractor

It looks similar to a Shop Vac, but it’s not a multitasker. Unlike a Shop Vac, it’s exclusively designed to pick up dust.


Filter

The filter that you use with your dust collection system will also have an impact on your system.

My Harbor Freight dust collector came with a filter bag that was rated for about 30 microns. That means anything smaller than 30 microns was blowing back into the air. Filter bags are not the best option because fine dust ends up in the air.

One of the first upgrades I made to my Harbor Freight unit was to add a canister filter. A canister filter has up to six times the surface area of a filter bag and does a better job of trapping fine dust.

The upgraded filter was rated for about 5 microns. The filter of this Grizzly wall-mounted dust collector that I bought was rated for 1 micron. The 1-micron filter will trap smaller particles, but it will also have less airflow than the 5-micron filter.

With use, dust will cake on the pleats of the filter and is called dust cake. Dust cake helps improve filtration. That said, the loose dust should occasionally be cleaned off. The Grizzly wall-mount dust collector includes a filter cleaning handle. Turning the handle knocks off the loose dust that has collected on the filter.

Filter bags are usually the least expensive filter. And a 1-micron filter is usually more expensive than a 5-micron filter. In other words, the more you want to filter, the more you’ll pay.

Turning the filter cleaning handle of a wall-mounted dust collector used for small woodshop dust collection

Single-Stage vs. Two-Stage

Using a dust collector, Shop Vac, or dust extractor by itself is called a single-stage system. A two-stage system combines a dust collector, Shop Vac, or dust extractor with a cyclone separator.

A cyclone separator, sometimes called a chip separator or dust separator, separates chips and heavier dust into a removable container. Separating the heavier dust before it reaches the filter helps your filter to stay cleaner. Keeping your filter clean provides maximum airflow and reduces how often you’ll need to change the bag.

Side view of a cyclone separator used as part of a small shop dust collection system

What I Chose

For my new dust collection system, I chose this Grizzly Wall-Mount Dust Collector. This 1 HP unit has a canister filter rated for 1 micron. The canister filter has a handle that knocks off the loose dust that has caked on the filter’s pleats. The handle is a great feature that the aftermarket filter on my Harbor Freight unit didn’t have.

📝 NOTE: I have read some reviews from people who had trouble keeping the bag on the collector. I have not experienced this issue.

Parts inventory for a wall-mount dust collector

I wasn’t using a dust separator with my Harbor Freight collector, so when I bought my wall-mounted dust collector, I also purchased this cyclone separator. In less space than my Harbor Freight collector occupied, I now have a dust collector and cyclone separator.

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Ducting

Ducting or ductwork is what carries the sawdust and chips from the machine to the dust collector. There are three common types of ducting: flexible hose, PVC pipe, and metal pipe.

Before we look at the differences in the types of material, we should consider the ductwork layout.


Layout

As I mentioned earlier, there are lots of articles out there that can do a better job of describing CFM, etc. 

The same goes for laying out the ducting. But I will say that sometimes in a small shop it’s challenging to follow the guidelines. I mentioned that I only have one wall to mount the dust collector, and the ceilings are low. Sometimes you can only do the best that you can do.

I did my best to avoid sharp bends and tried to use gentle curves instead.


Flexible Hose

A flexible hose is one of the easiest to run. Just lay it out, cut it, and connect with hose clamps. The downside to a flexible hose is that it’s not as efficient over a long run. 

The corrugated walls reduce the airflow. Wood chips are more likely to get caught on the corrugated walls and cause a blockage. Blockages are less likely with the smooth walls of PVC or metal.


PVC

PVC pipe has smooth walls, which improves airflow and is less likely to have a blockage. These advantages come at a price. PVC is usually more expensive than a flexible hose.


Metal

Metal pipes, like PVC, also have smooth walls. It’s the most expensive option and is usually found in commercial workshops.


Static Electricity

Flexible hose and PVC pipe have the possibility of creating static electricity. This static electricity can cause the sawdust to spark and cause a fire. I’ve read articles that say a dust collection system must be grounded, and other articles say that a spark caused by static electricity is unlikely.

I think these grounding kits are cheap insurance. Out of an abundance of caution, I will ground my system.


Blast Gates

A blast gate is a sliding door that connects two sections of pipe or hose.

Blast gates control the airflow of a dust collection system. It focuses the airflow to the tool you’re using and closes off the airflow to machines that are not being used.

Blast gates are available in plastic or metal. Metal is a better option, but metal blast gates are more expensive than plastic.

Opening a blast gate that is part of a small woodshop dust collection system

What I Did

I had some flexible hose that I used with my Harbor Freight collector, so I reused this hose with the wall-mount dust collector.

I know the flexible hose is not ideal because it will sacrifice some performance, but I have a lot of it. Perhaps in the future, I will upgrade to PVC ducting.

I also had a handful of plastic blast gates from my previous setup that I will reuse with my new setup. Again, I may upgrade to metal blast gates in the future.

I will use one of these grounding kits to ground the ducting.

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Optional Accessories

Auto-Switch

This auto-switch turns the dust collector on when you turn on the tool.

Wireless Remote Control Outlet

Barry, a long-time reader and a woodworking friend I met through this site, shared that he uses a wireless remote control outlet similar to this one for several tools in his workshop. The remote turns machines on and off, like a dust collector from just about anywhere in the shop.

When the switch broke on my Central Machinery dust collector, I bought one. I emailed Barry and said thank you for the suggestion and wondered why I waited so long to buy one!

Port Adapter

Hose diameters come in lots of sizes 2-1⁄2″, 1-7⁄8″, 1-1⁄2″, and 1-1⁄4″. A port adapter like this one allows you to connect your dust collection system to just about any tool.

HEPA Filter

A HEPA filter helps to trap fine sawdust. Many brands offer a HEPA filter for their Shop Vac.

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My Small Shop Dust Collection System 

The owner’s manual for the Grizzly Wall-Mount Dust Collector says the wall bracket needs to be mounted a minimum of 56 inches from the floor. 

I attached a support board between two studs about 61 inches from the floor. I covered the studs with tongue and groove boards that I had leftover from another project.

Measuring the location of a wall bracket for a wall-mounted dust collector

Next, I attached the wall bracket to the support board using 3″ lag screws.

Using a drill to a attach a wall bracket for a wall-mount dust collector

Then, the dust collector was attached to the wall bracket.

Attaching a wall-mounted dust collector to a bracket

I built a platform for the cyclone separator. The floor of my shop occasionally gets damp with groundwater. The platform keeps the paper container off the floor. 

The platform also provides a space for the floor sweep. The classroom where I took my furniture-making classes had one of these, making it quick and easy to clean up the shop.

Related: 11 Places to Take Beginner Woodworking Classes

Using a broom to sweep sawdust into a floor sweep that is part of a small shop dust collection system

Supply List


What’s Next

The next area that I want to work on is to improve the dust collection at my miter saw. A miter saw is a tool that I use for nearly every project and one of my biggest producers of sawdust.

Related: How to Make a DIY Miter Saw Dust Hood

I will also consider upgrading the ducting from flexible hose to PVC pipe and the blast gates from plastic to metal.

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Final Thoughts

Thank you for stopping by. If you enjoyed this tutorial, would you please take a moment and pin it to Pinterest? I’d really appreciate it!


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4 Comments

  1. I see that you are using a fiberboard (cardboard) drum under the cyclone unit. How are you keeping it from collapsing under suction? I built a cyclone based system using a shop-vac and 2-inch hoses (the size of the outlets on most of my machines.) Shortly after starting it up, the barrel collapsed. I started with a heavy food grade poly barrel and moved to the fiber one. I didn’t want to move to a steel drum due to weight considerations so I installed a series of ribs into the fiber drum.

    Just wondering if you’ve had the same or similar trouble.

    Thanks

    Ray

    1. Hi Ray – I’ve read reviews where the container has collapsed for some people, so I was apprehensive about buying it. I would have preferred a plastic container, but so far, this fiberboard container has not collapsed for me.

  2. Hi Scott,
    Very good tips as I am facing the same issues with my small workshop and long-technical articles are way over my head, so this simple and precise advice is very appreciated! Keep going!
    Best regards from Spain.

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