Best Woodshop Vacuum Systems

In my last post, we looked at the Beginner Woodworking Tool List. Every tool, except for the shop vacuum, is going to make some kind of dust that you need to clean. Maintaining a healthy woodshop environment might be the best first step in evaluating which tools you purchase.

As you get started woodworking, you are confronted with a lot of tool choices. Choosing tools designed for connecting with a dust collection system keeps your shop and the air you breathe cleaner.

Buying a dust collector is rarely a consideration for beginning woodworkers. A couple of reasons exist for this.

  • First, sucking up dust doesn't look anything like creating something from wood.
  • Second, most of us would opt to buy other tools for cutting and shaping wood rather than a tool for cleaning. Please stick with me, though, and I think you will find this useful.

In this post, we will look at the need for a woodshop vacuum system and different types to consider before you purchase one.

Since this website is focusing on people just getting started in woodworking, I have not included any sizeable industrial-strength dust collection systems.

What about "dust extraction" systems, you ask? Keep reading so you can spend less money. I'll save my dust extractor review for another time.

To keep the focus on those who are just getting started, I'll stay with the more standard wet-dry shop vacuum. These versatile vacuums are powerful. They can also be upgraded with dust collection attachments, HEPA filters and come in at half the price of a "dust extraction system."

Is Wood Dust Bad For You?

Wood Dust Health Effects

Common sense should tell us that sucking dust laden with natural and synthetic chemicals into our lungs is a bad idea. But, just in case you disagree, you can do a quick Google search and find tons of information about the effects of breathing wood dust. For general shop safety check out this post on Shop Safety Rules.

The results of wood dust exposure are many and range from mild congestion to cancer. Of course, the more prolonged and severe your exposure, the more long term health consequences you will suffer.

Feel free to check out these links to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH)

Wood Dust Is More Than A Health Hazard

Working in the shop with the floor covered in sawdust and woodchips is dangerous too. Tripping over piles of wood debris, slipping on sawdust and shavings, stepping on screws and nails lost in the clutter are all hazards that exist in a dirty shop. Delaying cleanup is also a fire hazard. Piles of dry wood shavings make excellent tinder, and a stray spark can easily cause a fire.

Enjoy Woodworking More

Making a mess while woodworking is easy, but few of us enjoy cleaning up afterward. A dust collection system continuously cleans as you use it, giving you a lot more time to spend working on your projects and less time cleaning up.

Removing dust from your environment as you make it is the most effective and efficient way to deal with wood dust. If your shop doesn't get dirty, then you don't have to clean it!

Should I wear a dust mask if I have a dust collector?

Yes, even though tool companies are making more tools with dust collection ports, they still do not remove 100% of the fine particulate dust. Wearing your respirator or dust mask is still very important. If you are prone to allergies or have asthma or any other breathing issues, it becomes vital to take safety precautions.

Types Of Dust Collection Systems

Single-Stage Dust Collectors

A small woodshop that doesn't create a large amount of dust will likely be fine with a single stage unit. A single-stage dust collector is usually portable and consists of an electric motor and fan that draws air through intake ports. Dust and debris fall into the canister and dust collection bag, and the air returns to your shop through the filtration system.

With newer filters in use today, single-stage units can trap dust down to 2 microns. For more filtering capability, you will need a two-stage dust collector.

Two-Stage Dust Collectors

In a two-stage dust collector, the dust and air enter through an intake port and encounter a cyclone dust collection drum for stage one. The wood and dust particles spin around the cone-shaped drum then drop into a collection bag or bin.

In stage two, the now cleaner air moves to the filtration system, which removes more fine dust particles before releasing the air back into your shop. 

Two-stage dust collectors cost a little more than single-stage but are much more efficient and effective at keeping your shop environment clean and healthy.

Best Woodworking Vacuum Systems

Vacmaster Professional Wet/Dry Vac, 16 Gallon, Beast Series

Vacmaster makes the top of my list with this high airflow wet-dry vacuum. The company makes several other models, of course. Still, this one wins because of its airflow and detachable blower, which generates an impressive 240 mph stream of air.

Best Shop Vac for Woodworkin

The key to removing dust is airflow, and at 150 cubic feet per minute (CFM), this machine does it. A 16-gallon tank with a significant drain port makes wet cleanups and emptying nasty fluids from your tank efficient. 

A 20-foot cord powers the 6.5 hp motor and, combined with the 7-foot hose, allows an excellent long cleaning reach without unplugging. A standard assortment of accessories fit in the unit base.

Be sure, as with any power tools, not to overload a single outlet as some people have blown circuit breakers using this powerful vacuum.

One rare feature is noise-reducing muffler that makes this quieter than many competitors, all though this feature can cause a reduction in airflow. If you experience reduced performance, just remove the muffler. Finally, this machine has a well designed integrated storage for the hose.

The Vacmaster Pro is a great first choice for your woodshop or construction site where no-nonsense cleanup is required. 

Vacmaster, VBV1210, 12 Gallon 5 Peak HP Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum with Detachable Blower

Vacmaster has been winning my heart with its smart design and sheer power. This vacuum features a unique detachable blower, which I find super helpful for a zillion different tasks around my home from blowing leaves to filling air mattresses.

Home Shop Vacuum Dust Collection System

A 12-foot cord powers this five hp motor moving 133 CFM (cubic feet of air per minute). Connect this to any of your Power tools with dust extraction ports and be amazed at how little you need to clean up later. The 12-foot cord limits the cleaning reach, and the slightly lower CFM rating is why this machine is in second place. 

The accessory pack is exceptional! Vacmaster did excellent work, realizing people want accessories that they can use inside their car. Included is an 8 inch Car Nozzle, Crevice Tool, Utility and Blower Nozzles, and Noise and Air Diffuser Adapter for the Blower Wand

The large drain port on the bottom means you will never have to lift the machine to empty it. The casters are a little smaller than I like and can tend to get stuck on cracks in the concrete floor or hang up on small debris. However, with the power the vacuum offers, you should be able to keep the floor of your shop clean and the vacuum rolling smoothly.

DeWALT 10 gal. Poly Wet/Dry Vac

Reading my blog, you will know that I like DeWalt tools a lot. Coming in third place is this 10-gallon wet dry vacuum. I prefer the 10-gallon model to the 9-gallon as it has the 20-foot cord powering its 5.5 hp motor. It moves 90 CFM of air, which is still plenty of power for your home workshop or construction applications.

Best Shop Vacuum Ratings

The large on/off switch makes operation simple with gloved hands, and the vacuums larger casters roll smoothly when moving around the shop. 

A standard assortment of accessories are stored in a removable accessory bag and include Utility and Floor Nozzles, and Crevice Tool. Also included are a disposable dust bag, and a washable filter cartridge. A unique feature is a rubber strap that holds the flexible hose in place while in storage.

The large drain port on the bottom makes wet messes drain fast. A rear exhaust port converts this vacuum into a reasonable blower to remove leaves or other debris.

Wet/Dry Vac Comparison

Vacmaster Pro

VJH1612PF0201
  • Airflow: 150 CFM
  • Volume: 16 gal.
  • Cord Length: 20 ft
  • Hose Length: 7 ft.
  • Weight: 24 lbs.

Vacmaster w/ Blower

VBV1210
  • Airflow: 133 CFM
  • Volume: 12 gal.
  • Cord Length: 12 ft
  • Hose Length: 7 ft.
  • Weight: 24 lbs.

DeWALT Poly

DXV10P
  • Airflow: 90 CFM
  • Volume: 10 gal.
  • Cord Length: 20 ft
  • Hose Length: 7 ft.
  • Weight: 23 lbs.

Add-ons That Make Your Vacuum a Super Dust Collector

The Dust Deputy Deluxe Anti-Static Cyclone Separator 5 Gal Kit

Add the Dust Deputy to your shop vac, and you automatically trap 99% of dust and wood chips before they get to your vacuum filter! This little gem keeps your shop vac filters from clogging quickly. The cyclonic dust-trap helps you maintain airflow, which is so critical to removing dust and keeping your shop environment clean and healthy.

It is good to note that any time you add length or restriction to your vacuum system, you will effectively reduce the amount of airflow. These are simple laws of physics at play and not something to cause worry. Instead, make sure you purchase a shop vac with the highest CFM rating you can, such as the ones listed above, and you will be quite happy.

Shop Vacuum and Power Tool Adapter Hose and Fittings

In our world of tools with no standard size dust ports, the need for hose fittings and adapters of various sizes is essential. This kit gives you what you need when you need it, connecting to a variety of different tools. The package includes a ten-foot-long 1 3/16" Outer Diameter flexible hose, one flexible small screw-on rubber fitting, and one flexible large screw-on rubber fitting. It also contains one plugin shop vacuum adapter that will allow you to connect the hose to most shop vacuum cleaners.

Be sure to measure the Inner Diameter (ID) and Outer Diameter (OD) of your vacuum and power tool ports. Measuring in advance will ensure the fittings will work with your equipment. There are other vacuum hose adapters on the market too, so it may take a little more searching if this one isn't right for you.

HEPA Filters

Many of the top wet-dry vacuum manufacturers offer an extended assortment of HEPA filters that can be added to your vacuum and increase the filtering capability to .3 microns. Be sure to double check that the filter is compatible with your model of vacuum.

When all of you're shop vacuum add-ons are assembled, you will have a handy dust collection system for less than $300.

Final Words

Maintaining safety and good health is the priority when getting started in woodworking. There is no way to ignore the fact that breathing dust is harmful to you, so starting properly and minimizing your risks is of vital importance. Doing this planning now will give you many more healthy years of woodworking enjoyment.

Knowing that dust collection is so critical, use this knowledge in the selection of your tools. Be sure to choose tools that have a dust collection port. Almost every manufacturer has a line of tools with dust collection ports built-in. Of course, there are degrees of quality and effectiveness with each tool brand, so be sure to subscribe to my newsletter and receive all my reviews on different portable electric hand tools.

Choosing a woodshop vacuum system should be pretty easy now. With my wet-dry shop vacuum review above, you can assemble an effective system quickly and without too much cost.

No one is going to argue with the fact that dust capturing is best done right at the source. With the shop vacuums and add-on equipment mentioned in this article, you can easily keep the air clean in your shop.

As always, I would like to hear from you. If you have followed my recommendations, I'd like to know how you're doing!

Be sure to leave questions or comments below, and I will answer you as soon as possible, usually within 24 hours.

10 thoughts on “Best Woodshop Vacuum Systems”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing with us such a beautiful article. I am glad to see your article. I think that maintaining safety and good health is the priority when getting started in woodworking. My uncle has a woodshop and works on wood. I know that breathing dust is harmful to him. After reading your article, I am relieved. I can help my uncle through Woodshop Vacuum Systems. I have one question, How many hours can this vacuum system run? Thanks for writing such a beautiful article.

    1. Hi Sabrinamou,

      I’m glad you are wanting to help your uncle work in a more healthy environment. To answer your question, the system I describe in this post is for beginning woodworkers that will turn the dust collector on and off with each individual tool, perhaps 5 to 20 minutes at a time. It would not work for someone in a professional woodworking shop that requires the dust collector to run for hours at a time. There are several excellent systems that are designed for professional/ industrial use such as the “Shop Fox” that you can see by clicking this link.

      Thanks for visiting!

  2. Greg,
    Is wood dust bad for you?  Definitely. 
    When I was enlarging our house I went to a lumber supply that had a great assortment of exotic woods.  I chose Purple Heart for the window sills and enclosures for the lighting.  The cutting and fine sanding were done inside.  BIG MISTAKE.  I noticed that the dust oxidized from purple to brown rapidly.  As a chemist, I realized that sanding inside was not a good idea since Purple Heart may have some toxic properties.  One of the dust collectors would have been safer than my paper mask.

    I’ve always enjoyed making things for my home but hated the cleanup.  Go ahead and laugh.  Once, I made a very nice 7’ high x 12’ bookcase for my office. I did all the work outside with a nice routered designed top trim.  The only problem was that with the trim on it would not fit through the door.😠

    A question I have always had about wet/dry vacs is: Would adding a little water to the canaster help collect the very fine dust particles?

    This post explained the why’s, what’s, how’s, and which dust collectors would be best for me,  This is very appreciated information.
    Still an amateur wood crafter,
    Leo

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience Leo! Ha ha…that’s a great story about your project not fitting through the door! If you have any photos of your purple heart window wills, I would love to see them!

      To answer your question, I would not expect adding water to your canister vacuum to be a significant benefit, and may actually be harmful to your equipment. First, although it is a wet/dry vacuum, every one I have seen is intended to operate exclusively in one mode or the other by removing the paper filter for wet applications and adding the filters for dry applications. Putting water in with the paper filter could cause the paper filter to be ruined. Second, to effectively catch flying dust in water, the dust would need to pass through the water and get wet in order to keep it from flying out. There is a popular vacuum made by “Rainbow” that uses this process it has a water tank with what they call an “air and water separator” that blends all of the dust and dirt with the water keeping it in the water tank without a paper filter. However even with that technology, certain dust particles will not mix with water due to their electrical charge (as I am sure you are aware as a chemist) thus, even with a Rainbow vacuum, dust such as talcum powder will bounce off the water and be blown out the vent without a secondary filter installed. My recommendation is to purchase a high quality filter like the HEPA filters that can filter down to .3 microns. When using these filters, you will need to clean the filter more frequently to maintain your vacuum air flow too.

      Excellent question Leo, I hope this helps.

      Have an awesome day!

  3. Hello Greg, it’s a pleasure going through your article. You make some really compelling points. No doubt, vacuum systems are actually the only tools in a wood shop that don’t generate dusts. In fact, it does the exact opposite. I have a nephew who is a passionate wood worker. He is still relatively inexperienced, but seeing how fond of it he is, I’m sure he’ll get along just fine.

    Now, you made mention of beginners not considering dust-collecting tools as opposed to tools that actually aid them in creating designs. That is so true.

    But I have to say, dust-collecting tools are also important for keeping the wood-shop tidy. But more importantly as you mentioned, it can also be hazardous to the health. 

    I think my nephew would thank me for sharing this information with him. Now I have to ask, do you think the single-stage dust collector is suitable for someone just taking on passion projects?

    1. Thanks for reading my post Rhain! I really appreciate your comments too! I hope your nephew will find it useful as well. To answer your question, I am assuming by “passion projects” you are referring to small, weekend type projects such as small boxes and decorative pieces, not a reproduction of an 18th century Chippendale armoire:) The single stage dust collectors l have described are intended for the beginner woodworker. Most beginners and hobbyists will not be running the dust collector for hours on end, but intermittently as needed with each tool.I hope this helps!

  4. This post will be so useful for carpenters out there! I love it, my neighbour will love this.

    But concerning one of the tools you talked about in the removal of dust or collection of dust, at your blog, I have some questions I would want to ask and I hope to get an instant response please.. About one of the Dewalt tools, precisely the DeWALT 10 gal. Poly Wet/Dry Vac, do you have any place online you recommend we make purchased globally?

  5. I love that your post delves deep into the safety side of woodworking and the health impacts long term exposure can do.  20+ years ago, my ex owned her own woodworking shop that I was in a lot helping out.  This shop did have an amazing vacuum system.  I have no idea what kind it was, that many years ago, but it sure made a huge difference.

    In my current job I do have small jobs that I do that includes cutting and sawing wood.  We always wears masks now in that environment.  Personally I think years ago we never worried as much about things that like and now we are more educated about it. 

    The Dewalt wet/dry vacuum that you like has a 90 CFM of power and I was wondering if it still has good suction or not.  It is the lowest of the 3.

    Thanks for sharing this post, I really enjoyed it. Good job!

    1. Hi Coralie!

      Thanks for your kind words! You are so right that years ago we didn’t concern ourselves with dust. I know I have breathed a lot more sawdust than I should have. Thankfully now we have access to good research studies that help us understand all of the risks.

      To answer your question, The DeWalt vacuum you mentioned can help remove a fair amount of dust, but each person will need to evaluate how much time the machine will be running and the amount of dust being created by your tools. For instance a jigsaw cutting 1/4 inch plywood for craft projects will create much less dust than a circular saw cutting shelving from 3/4 inch oak plywood. So thinking ahead to the kinds of projects you want to create will hopefully inform you as to the power your vacuum may require. 

      I hope that helps!

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