Boat Shed Dust Collection click here to read or make an observation about this  article
By Roger Palmer - Crystal River, Florida - USA

I decided to address the boat shed dust collection subject because its been an issue with me for a while, and I do not hear much about it, on the duckworks site. This shop in the picture below is under construction, (but working), and the dust collection gear is being tested. I have done too much building, sawing, (that cabin in the picture as well), and at near 60, the health issues start to show up. Its do it better or stop.

I have been working around health issues on a boat building shed, it was required I build a bottom floor under a cabin I have in the backwaters in the general area of Crystal River Florida the last couple of years. The No Name storm got the last shop. Like many part-time boat builders, shop users, I have a narrow shop, 25ft long, 11 ft wide, with a washer/dryer, garage doors and a bit over eight ft of overhead, so its cramped. I use a shed for spill over wood and ply storage and for boating gear (if I have time to boat). This shop is very lean, with rolling tools. I find plain cast iron tools from China to be fine, IF, you are a person who can tune them. In this environment, its cheaper than flood insurance just knowing mama nature might give you a big hug and do your own prep and write offs. Most everything below a stilt house is not covered anyway so hug a cabbage palm and keep on living.

I do not park a car in my shop, but could. All the tools roll, but NOT while I am using them and I do not intend to let that beast in there with the saws. I have never understood putting a gas tank in your house, being an old country boy who leaves the cow outside and the truck next to its dead cousins.

I was sensitized to epoxy years ago, before it was a known hazard, before we knew how to control contact, and before we knew, how to clean it off the hands without the use of solvents. I had some skin break down and it took six years before I could get near the stuff, and when I returned to it, I was VERY aware. The one thing I noticed that I did not have good control over was dust collection, so recently I have been building a low cost solution for that.

I used to work outside. That was good, but in many suburban environments working in a driveway, or near your house, the central air return is sucking some dust back in through the windows. Or your house may be drawing dust in from the garage. It began to make me realize a lot of guys were doing themselves in, and I had been there.

I do not want to get too technical here, but am willing to answer questions about hazards and direct people to sites and some ideas about what I would say is pretty specific to tack and tape and glass and epoxy issues. Its too scary to deal with all the hazards at once. I believe lots of things build you and lots of things kill you, but some joy and playing with tools no matter how high tech, is still playing with a sharp edge. No sharp edges? Why get up in the morning? If we get into boat building, it takes over as a hobby and the health issues are greater than they would be with simple shop work. I do not believe the answer is in forgoing modern coatings, but in using them very pragmatically.

I built a dual 4 inch sewer and drain rig, running two pipes out of a Harbor Freight ($159.00 on sale) 2 HP Dust Collector down the center line. This dual pipe (could be one six inch or two four inch pipes) lets the DC run just below its maximum CFM. One drop per line to the side of the shop and two blast gates at the Dust Collector near the garage doors next to the infernal washer and dryer. The hose is 4" and where possible goes two hoses to a tool or a 2-1/4" shop vac hose goes to a tool or sander. If possible, I also use a four inch hose in the case of a tablesaw or belt sander or other heavy tool. As long as two blast gates are open, it pulls to its best CFM, (all specs lie, but close enough). The overhead centerline run is very good for sanding canoes or long flat surfaces. There is lots less tripping over the hose, pulling the damn shop vac around while it whines like a jet engine.

The dust collector is loud but its a nicer sound. The dual rig lets one hose go to a sander, the other hose go to a drop that has a nearby sweep on it, to get most of what you are sanding near it. Having a hose hanging over the work is less of a problem since you are working around the big object anyway.

Dust collectors, are all about how much suction they have at the tool and that is all about how much filter area they have at the unit. One four inch hose right out of the DC, is very good, and the unit rolls if it has a canister upgrade on it. It will get 99% of the dust, two four inch hoses, or one four and one 2/1/2 inch shop vac hose to a heavy tool is really effective.

Normally these units have two 30 micron bags that catch the dust, but they really pump the dust that kills you into the room. Most all dustcollectors sold at Home Depot are dangerous. Opinon. Studied opinon.

The one rule is HIGH CFM AT THE TOOL, to get the fines. A tiny shop vac is ok for some of it. Its NOT REALLY SAFE, but it's better with a HEPA filter than a dust collector is with a bag, even a one micron bag, will plug up fast and the CFM at the tool will go down and you start getting hurt. There IS a way to get it to work, and we boat builders in home shops can do better.

You will notice that this dust collector has an after market canister on it that one can buy from a good company for about 120 bucks. Its a lifetime filter that gets 99 plus percent of the fines, and the dust, and is made of a polyester wool that is washable and nearly bullet proof. Canister filters have pleats, and can have up to 300 sq ft of filter, or a hundred plus, depending on the material, most bags are from 15 to 30 cubic ft, and plug up fast, figure the math.

Most of my decisions were made somewhere between this site and BT3 central a great shop related site. For health issues go to Bill Pentz, a guy who is very aware of dust collector issues. He builds high end cyclones, and has a lot of integrity on this issue.

Plus, I hate perfection and spending lots of money and like mutts and things that work for the job they do. A good dust collection rig, can be built for around 500 bucks, pipe and all. Its the one tool in your shop dedicated to keeping you and your family safe.

It appears to be the last tool thought of when boat building. Hey, I know. I have been there. While not an expert, if anyone wants to talk to me about it, I can try to tell you WHY it matters. In plain, low budget bubba speak. I have not talked about dusts, fumed silica, barrier creams, or simple ventilation. I am talking about a mid level serious fix for a shop you intend to use that is a part of your house. That is different than an off site construction site, (been there), or a traditional barn style boatbuilding shed with huge, high, shop fans and open doors.

The little boat is a skimmer, needs repair now, but it is fun. The real fun for me, is the first test. The first time an old man in bib's pulls up next to a jet ski, and looks over at the tourists, and tips his cowboy hat.