Creaturiste's Laboratory

Techniques, works in progress, and everything that doesn't fit in the portfolio. Comments and questions are encouraged, custom orders are welcome!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Shop Vac Wood Dust Danger

Hi all.
The previous post was about making a wooden mallet, and some steps of it required the use of power tools, namely a band saw, and a Dremel with sanding disk.

By necessity, I work in my small apartment, and therefore keeping good air quality is very important for my health. I don't even use toxic solvents in the winter.
I got sick on fine dust particules from clay many years ago (I knew nothing of health hasards of Art materials), and that was enough of a lesson for me.

While workiong on the mallet project, I had my shop vac plugged into the band saw's dust expulsion tube. Once activated, it did a pretty good job of keeping dust propagation to a minimum. Well, on the machine at least...

The system failed! For one simple reason: I had not checked my shop vac's filter bag before starting. It had become dislodged inside the tank since my last use. I probably banged it too much when moving furniture around.

So in effect, all the dust that was absorbed by the shop vac just twirled into the container, and was powerfully redistributed into the air. A fine dusting of extremely fine maple wood dust was coating half of my apartment's floors and low surfaces! Not to mention my lungs, no doubt. I took an hour to clean the whole place as much as I could.
I also removed the filter bag, and washed the shop vac's container. Those should always be kept clean and dry, to prevent mold growth.

One exposure to so much fine dust is probably not that big of a deal, but I won't let it happen again. I'll make a point of checking my filter bag everytime I start working with power tools.

I never had that problem before, as I use really good filter bags, designed to filter the finest of nocive particules, including plaster dusts. They cost extra, but since I've been using them, I've had good air quality in here. One dislodged bag is enough of an example to make an impression.

Lesson learned!


While all fine particules can be damaging to our lungs (including baby powder!),
some wood dusts are much more toxic than others. I'm told mahogany and particule boards (MDF, HDF) are particularly nasty to the lungs, which is why I refuse to carve or saw those in here.

I'll also make sure I only work with wood that seems clean and sound, without mold or traces of insect attacks.

No comments: