Dust collection makes a difference

One-man shop finds investment in centralized dust collection reaps dividends for business
-by William Sampson

Reprinted with permission from the Editor, February 2001 issue of CabinetMaker.

Like many small shops, John Gaidosz Woodworking in Derby, Conn., had been getting by with minimal dust collection for years. Shop vacuums and a rolling two-bag collector nibbled at the dust problem but never really solved it. Finally this past year, owner John Gaidosz decided it was time to put in a centralized system, and he never looked back.

Gaidosz faced more than the usual challenges in solving his dust collection problems. His one-man custom woodworking operation has more equipment and square footage than most one-man shops. He had to address dust collection needs for two planers, half-a-dozen shapers and a Performax Supermax 37 x 2 drum sander, as well as a table saw and radial-arm saws. And the equipment is distributed through several rooms and work areas in about 3,500 square feet. But working closely with technicians at Air Handling Systems, he developed a system that not only meets his needs but also has added other benefits to his business.

Getting started

When Gaidosz first approached the folks at Air Handling with his needs, he had already done enough research to develop a rough sketch of what he thought he needed. “I didn’t understand it was such a science,” Gaidosz says. “I showed up with this drawing, and they told me it’s not going to work.” Instead, they discussed his needs and developed a coordinated system of collector, piping and pickups to address the specific demands of his shop.

The design they developed has a Dustvent 5-hp cyclone collector at its heart. Piping between machines and the collector includes both fixed metal pipes and some flexible hose connections. A number of metal parts were custom fabricated to meet special needs.

Some of the solutions are unique to his operation. For example, Gaidosz is a firm believer in saving on setup time. He dedicates multiple machines to different operations. He uses both a Rockwell Delta 13-inch planer and a Powermatic 18-inch planer, but he never uses the two at the same time. So rather than adding additional piping for permanent hookups to both machines, the plan called for one planer pickup with a flexible hose. When Gaidosz changes planers, he simply pulls off the hose and moves it to the other machine. Since no fasteners are needed, it takes only seconds, probably less time than it would take to close one blast gate and open another.

A similar setup was created for a group of one DeWalt and four Powermatic shapers. There the flexible hose connects to a custom hood that’s held to the shaper table by powerful magnets. But a small, old Delta Homecraft shaper that is used for different kinds of work has a fixed hood and fence system for the most efficient collection.

Just as Gaidosz takes pains to meet the individual needs of his custom customers, he says he was appreciative of all the work the Air Handling staff put in to meet his special needs.

Putting it all together

Once the system was designed and the parts ordered and delivered, Gaidosz took the lead in doing the installation work himself. With a shop that has multiple rooms and work areas, that meant piping through walls and a few other unusual logistics. Several times, Gaidosz was back in touch with the Air Handling staff to develop specialized solutions. He says he was constantly amazed at the creativity of the Air Handling crew in fabricating special parts to improve his system.

He also got creative help from his electrician in wiring the system. Together, they came up with a low-cost, off-the-shelf system to give Gaidosz remote control capabilities (see the sidebar on this page). Most of the installation work was done in about a week, but Gaidosz continues to fine-tune the system to meet his needs. He’s also made arrangements with a nearby farmer to take his sawdust to be used as animal bedding.

Before and after

Gaidosz says there is no comparison between his shop before he put in the dust collection system and now that the centralized system is up and running. For the last 20 years, Gaidosz has been running his custom furniture and cabinetry business as a one-man operation. Before that, he helped his father manufacture wooden cases for metronomes in the same facility. During all that time dust collection efforts were minimal.

Beyond the use of shop vacuums, his most sophisticated dust collection system was a portable two-bag collector that seemed to use up special expensive bags at a prodigious rate.

Now, with the new system, the change is obvious. “What a difference,” Gaidosz says. “I was standing in dust all the time.” He said that before he put in the centralized system, it was common to see big clouds of dust illuminated by the sun coming through the shop windows. “Now there’s hardly anything,” he says.

But besides the obvious improvements such as a clean shop, Gaidosz says there are other benefits. “I spend less time cleaning up now,” he says. He also adds that it’s more comfortable to work in the shop, and he believes his machines are running better – particularly the Performax sander – with the more efficient dust collection system.

Gaidosz invested some $6,000 in his system, an amount that many one-man shops might balk at. But Gaidosz has no doubts that his investment was justified and will pay back dividends over time. “You’ve just got to do it,” he tells other shop owners. “It’s just another tool, and once you buy it you don’t think about it.”

Besides, he adds with a smile, “I would have bought six-grand of those bags” if he had kept his old system.