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CaptainMarvel 12-28-2012 11:32 AM

Difference Between a SHOP VAC and a DUST SEPARATOR/COLLECTOR ??
Please forgive my embarrassingly noob question .... but I was hoping some of you could explain/educate me as to the difference between - and the purpose of - the function(s) of a Shop Vac and a Dust Separator/Collector.

THANK YOU in advance for your patience and minimized ridicule of my novice question.



joed 12-28-2012 11:40 AM

A dust collector as I think of it is just a very large shop vac with probably much more CFM and larger receptacle to hold all the shavings and sawdust.

joecaption 12-28-2012 11:44 AM

It also would sepperat the dust from the air and drop it into a hopper instead of just blowing it out into the air like a shop vac would.
One way to use a shop vac would be to attach another hose to the exhost and run it out the wall or window.

CaptainMarvel 12-28-2012 11:49 AM

So, as "beginner" as a beginner can be in starting into home hobby level woodworking projects, I don't really need to get a full blown dust separator system at this point - right? A basic/decent shop vac will probably suit my dust collection needs during my formative novice/learning period - yes?

jbfan 12-28-2012 11:59 AM

As a beginner of over 20 years, I still use a shop vac.

DexterII 12-28-2012 12:10 PM

Same here. Have always wanted to add a collector system, but, as the saying goes, money doesn't grow on trees, and a good quality shop vac works fine. With a little bit of tin, thin plywood, plexiglass, or a combination of components, whatever suits your needs, and a few of the right sizes of PVC, you can build some pretty decent custom pickups. On one of my miter saws, it's as simple as an old upper radiator hose that I have used for years, one end that slips over the discharge on the saw and the other end fits just right into my shop vac hose.

joed 12-28-2012 02:15 PM

I don't use either. I just sweep the floor of the shop when I am finished. I might use the shop vac if want a really clean shop shop for some reason.

JasperST 12-30-2012 08:27 AM

A dust collector is hooked up to machinery to help keep the dust down. You can obviously get by without one, and I did for many years, but the bigger the toys the more useful a collector is. It's especially nice when attached to a cabinet saw with a blade guard/vacuum setup. I really reduces the mess and helps you to see your cuts. I've cut literally tons of plastics so it's a lifesaver, plastic dust is horrible in numerous ways.

Here's a tip though. Do not use it when cutting metal. I've also cut tons of aluminum and used it at first but read too many horror stories on woodworker forums/usenet of metal embers setting the wood dust on fire hours after the work.

oh'mike 12-30-2012 08:40 AM

I agree with the others---if your tool budget is limited---use the shop vac---trash can separators are available for little money if you get tired of constantly emptying your vacuum---

Dedicated dust collection systems are great if the budget allows--($600 for machine and pipes/gates is typical for a small set up)

Simply open a gate on the tool you are using and the dust is gone----floor dust can be swept into a floor opening----real nice thing to have---but most woodworkers will spent the tool budget on tools ,long before spending it on safety or cleaning---

Thurman 12-30-2012 08:43 AM

A "shop vac" uses a fan to create a suction to pull materials into a canister. The canister has in internal filtration device to clean materials from the air introduced into the canister and that cleaner air is exited via an external "discharge" port. A dust collector work on pretty much the same principle but there is an added feature which introduces the incoming air/materials into a "cyclone" type device which greatly reduces the velocity of the incoming air/materials so that the materials literally drops out of the incoming air to be collected in a container. This reduced velocity air is then filtered, much as the shop vac, before being discharged into the atmosphere. You can buy the "cyclone chamber" attachment for your shop vac. One advantage of these is that the filter within the shop vac stays cleaner longer and they are easy too dump.

Gymschu 12-30-2012 08:59 AM

.........and, no offense to the ShopVac brand, well, I guess a little......but the quality of their vacs has tanked (pun intended) over the last 4 or 5 years. I owned one for 20 years.......1980 - 2000, metal parts, metal wheels/casters, almost indestructible. When it died I went right back for another TWO years it was a goner. So, I bought another thinking I just got a lemon or something.....well, it too died, this time in a year's time. I finally wised up and switched brands going to RIDGID mainly because it at least had solid metal wheels. It's still going strong after 3 years. Fingers crossed.

Ed911 12-30-2012 12:40 PM


Originally Posted by joecaption (Post 1081229)
One way to use a shop vac would be to attach another hose to the exhost and run it out the wall or window.

I don't think this will work...since the shop vac's motor creates a vacuum using the catch container. Therefore venting the container to the outside will defeat the vacuum and render the shop vac useless.

Just FYI...

Blondesense 12-31-2012 02:02 PM

You also need to consider your setup regarding ventilation.
If you're going to be doing a lot of work in an enclosed basement workshop I'd spend the dollars for a dust collection system.

OTOH, I generally set up sawhorses in the open garage or driveway so a push broom works for me.

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