Avoiding dust in the workshop

If your like me you love to build airplanes and have more projects on the board and in the queue then you’ll ever finish.  For many building is half the fun in the RC airplane hobby.  It can be very rewarding taking a pile of wood, foam or other material and form it into a flying airplane.  This takes some work and can make a mess at times.  One of the issues with building is your going to make a mess and create dust.  This can be from wood, foam, fiberglass, carbon and many other materials.  The problem is that dust is small and gets everywhere.  At the very least it will make a mess of anything sitting in your work area.  But the real issue here is that those small dust particles get into the air and you’ll end up spreading them around more then your workshop.  All that dust that’s in the air means your breathing it in and none of that is good for your lungs or long term health.  So let’s look at a few ways to manage that dust and keep us breathing normally.

First off it’s always best to try to do any sanding outside.  This will allow the dust to disperse away from your normal living space.  However if your like me you find yourself with a few months of snowy winter and that is when my building time really kicks into high gear.  So what do we do when we have to sand inside?

The first thing I do is try to seal up my workspace so whatever I’m doing in the shop does not make it’s way into the rest of the house.  A detached garage is nice but not always practical.  So look at your door ways and vents.  I like to add some weather stripping on the doors to help them seal.  On the vents I try to make sure that if there is a cold air return in the room that I fit that vent with a filter of sorts.  You can find them at your home improvement store that will either fit right into the vent or be cut to size.  This will help keep dust from being pulled into your homes heating or cooling system.  I also try to install some active venting to the outside world.  In my shop I simply added a bathroom fan to pull air out of the shop and outside.  This was easy as I was setting up in an unfinished area of the basement.  This will also help when using any solvents to keep the fumes from getting into the rest of your house.

Once you have your shop sealed up as best you can to keep the dust in the room you need to look at how to collect any dust made from working on your airplanes.  There are fancy dust collection systems out there but most hobby budgets wont support the purchase of one of them.  So here is where we can be a little creative.  All that a dust collection system does is to move air through a filter that will catch all the particles of dust.  This can be done with a simple box fan and filters.

You will need just a few items to put this together.

Your filters of choice.  20″ x 20″ should fit  standard box fan

1 box fan with the fan control on top for access

Your tape of choice

You will start by choosing your filters.  I chose a two step approach one to collect the larger bits and a second one to catch the smaller dust.  This may be overkill but they were inexpensive at around $1 each.  One thing to note is to check the filter for any airflow direction and make sure the filter gets taped to the fan in the correct direction.

Once I checked for air flow direction I taped the two filters together with duct tape.  I wanted to make sure there was very little gap to let air in between the two.  This ensures that air is pulled through the filters.

Once they are taped together I went ahead and taped the filters to the back of the box fan so it would pull the air through the filters.

With this all in place I can now set this at the end of my workbench or where ever I am doing the sanding and it will pull the majority of the dust into the filter leaving little dust left in the air to get sucked into my lungs.

Another good investment to have in the shop is a small shop vac to clean up the dust and small debris from your projects.  It’s best to clean it up before it gets pushed into all the nooks blown back into the air.

Finally I can’t say enough about having a good respirator on hand.  This will filter out the dust and many harmful vapors while your working.  I prefer the ones with replaceable canister filters and a breathing valve.  They are more expensive but are also more comfortable to wear and breathe through.

Building airplanes can be very rewarding but it can also require us to exercise a little caution in what we are breathing in.  Taking a little time to make your workshop a safer and cleaner place will help ensure you have many more healthy and happy years to enjoy this hobby.

One thought on “Avoiding dust in the workshop

  • August 12, 2015 at 11:37 pm
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    Fiberglass Warehouse carries an extensive inventory, and items are available in both large and small quantities. You can order fiberglass cloth by the yard or purchase an entire roll. Other products are sold in quantities from pints to 5-gallon pails and drums.

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