Dust Collection for Sanders?

This week’s questions comes from Douglas. He writes:
I have a question on dust extraction. I have a Delta 2hp dust collection with the HEPA bag, it works great but…. You knew there was a but… :-) Sanding is the issue. I generally hook up my shop vac to the portable disk and belt sanders, etc. They clog up quickly and then leave dust all over. I have yet to find a way to hook them to the big delta. Any thoughts?

And here was my response:

Hey Douglas. Unfortunately, a big dust collector is not the ideal tool for the job of collecting dust from portable tools. Although the suction seems pretty good in a 4″ tube, performance take a huge dive when the pipe is reduced to the size of the tool’s opening. Think of it this way, the big dust collector is meant to move huge volumes of air at a relatively low velocity. A portable dust extractor, or a shop vac, moves small volumes of air at a higher velocity. And with the vac, you won’t need to reduce the hose very much in order for it to fit. The key to getting the shop vac to work better for you is to find some filter bags for it. The bags will catch most of the fine dust and prevent the filter from clogging so quickly. It’s also safer for you. I did that a few years back with my Shop Vac and I couldn’t believe the performance boost I got from it. Most manufacturers make a filter bag for their vac so I would start looking on their website or giving them a call. Hope that helps.

Categories: Safety, Tools


  1. Jimmy (http://) May 19, 2008

    What about using a down draft table hooked to the collection system?


    A down-draft table is certainly an option. I have just never really considered them too practical because they are only effective on small scale parts. So depending on what type of projects you work on, that certainly could be a viable way of utilizing the DC while sanding. Thanks Jimmy.

  3. Alex Jacobs May 19, 2008

    Don’t forget to look for a HEPA filter for your shop vac. Most I’ve seen are able to be rinsed off and reused so they’re a good deal.

  4. Tim TAN May 19, 2008

    douglas :

    I have a 10 gal porter cable shop vac with a bag that I hook up to my random orbital sander. Like Marc mentioned, a bag is very very important. The porter cable is quiet enough but more pricey than those you see in the big box stores. it has served me very well over the past 5 years.

    If you do not have a bag, the HEPA filter in your vacuum will clog up and disintegrate in no time, and before you know it, you will have to replace it.

    with regards to consumables, I just buy the fine-dust replacement bags by Shopvac from Lowes whenever I run out. They are about $10 for 3, I think.

    Other brands of good quality and quiet vacuums or dust extractors include Fein and Festool. I would “reserve” the cheaper, much much louder and annoying Craftsman, ShopVac and Ridgid models for rough work.

  5. Jim Jones May 19, 2008

    This is a good and timely question for me.

    I have a Rigid “shop vac” and they don’t seem to offer a bag for it. I bought an extra HEPA filter for it but it gets so full of dust I have doubts about it’s effectiveness.

    I just bought a Grizzly dust collector and have ordered a reducer from 4″ to 2 1/4″ and I have an adapter and a hose for the Dewalt random orbital sander I use and my belt sander. That’s a heck of a reduction which means air velocity should be realllly high. If it is too high and/or loads up the d.c. too much, I was going to use a blast gate to let it suck some air through another hose not connected to maybe my table saw.

    Some of the connectors haven’t arrived yet but I don’t see why the d.c shouldn’t work well with the sanders…. I hope.

    Anybody have experience with this approach?

  6. Harley May 19, 2008

    I concur on the filter bag/Hepa filter arrangement. I use this on my 16 gal Shop Vac with a ROS and it captures 99% of the dust. Add one of the Tool & Vac switches from Rockler that turns the vac on when you turn the ROS on and allows the vac to run 7 seconds after you cut the ROS off. This will save you a ton of time and steps.

  7. Tim TAN May 19, 2008

    Jim :

    Have read your post, and it looks like you have the Ridgid model that is not for fine dust collection. Instead it’s for sucking up large items and even water.

    They have a $99 model that accommodates bags. I was looking to buy one for my uncle a few months back, and saw this difference.

    with regards to your Grizzly dust collector, I have noticed that my 2HP 220 V model requires the very fine bag to be able to match the dust-trapping performance of a dust extractor. The most important point to note is the collector’s ability to retain the dust after collecting it; so even if you have a high velocity airflow, do make sure that the dust does not escape via the dust bag, or for that matter, anywhere else on the dust collector! :-)

    Tim TAN

  8. Douglas, I used my 5″ random orbital PC to sand my sheetrock seams. I know, crime against tools. But, I hooked it up to my 16 gallon Shop Vac with a dust bag and it worked great…no dust in the air. I did not use a hepa filter. There was no dust in the air, even seen with shafts of sunlight through the windows. One of these days I’ll upgrade to a Festool system. I’ve tried them out at my local store and they are everything they are hyped to be, but spendy.

  9. Random Orbit Sander on sheetrock!!!

    I wish this post would have been made about a week ago. I just got done with my sheetrock in my shop. DOH!

  10. Jim Jones May 20, 2008

    Thanks for the response Tim.

    I didn’t know that about the Rigid. Mine was cheaper than $99.

    My Grizzly is a 1029Z (2HP, 220v) which has a 2.5 micron bag. I’m guessing 2.5 micron gets most of the sanding dust.


  11. Jeff Jackson May 20, 2008

    I know you have heard this before, but get a Festool Vac and your worries are over! I know they are expensive, but they live up to all their hype. I was sanding last night with my 5″ Festool and my CT22 and while I was sanding I was having a conversation with my wife!!!! No dust, no noise……..well worth the price. When I first got my CT22 I hooked it up to my 5″ Festool ROS and turned the sander on. I had the vac turned to automatic and I thought the damn CT22 was broke because I didn’t hear it come on. I realized it was on when I turned off my ROS!!!! OOPPS!!! Felt like an idiot but they really are that quiet.

  12. Gatorbait May 20, 2008

    Buy a Festool – this will solve all your problems :-) I know that would have been too easy for Marc to say but it is true. That was my first Festool purchase (sander and vac). I will NEVER go back. They are very pricey but well worth it. My shop air and lungs have never been cleaner. You can’t put a price on that.

  13. Bill May 20, 2008

    I’ve hooked my Porter-Cable Random Orbit sander to my ClearVue cyclone (with 5 hp motor and 1 micron filters) through a 2.25″ to 3.5″ to 6″ series of flexible hoses with great results. Another option to consider is a ClearVue mini-cyclone (Mini CV06 clearvuecyclones.com) between the shop vac and the sander – this drops most everything into a collector bucket so the HEPA filter lasts much longer.

  14. Sharon May 20, 2008

    same as others here- I use the shopvac (quiet-deluxe model = $70 at costco) with HEPA filter, and I also started using filter bags. this will do 2 things – 1. will keep your HEPA filter clean and unclogged (I was pretty surprised after emptying the vac that the HEPA filter was practically clean with only very very fine dust on it) and 2. it’ll make it so much easier to empty your shop vac, and keep the dust from filling the air.

    you might be able to use shopvac (at lowes) or ridgid (homedepot) filter bags and retro-fit that into your existing shopvac – worth trying out.

  15. Tom May 20, 2008

    I have been using a Oneida’s Dust Deputy along with my Sears shop vac along with my Delta Random Orbit sander for over a year now. It works great taking the dust out before it is in the shop vac. My Sears shop vac has a bag in it, but the bag does not get loaded up with the dust because the Dust Deputy takes it out before the dust gets into the bag. This setup is much cheaper overall. You have the one time cost of the Dust Deputy, about $180.

  16. Ken Phillips May 20, 2008

    Good answer Marc, I added the Oneida Dust Deputy to my shop vac and it really does a great job. http://www.onedia-air.com

  17. Germain May 20, 2008

    Good info, everyone. Can a Festool vac work well with non-Festool tools? I might pony up for a Festool vac someday, but I don’t want to replace all my power hand tools at the same time.

  18. dennis (http://) May 20, 2008

    I do use a Festool Midi Vac with my Dewalt sander, works good, the fitting isn’t the greatest but the dust level is lower and much quieter than my Sears Shop Vac.

  19. Matt Worner May 20, 2008

    The Festool Ros/DC setup is really a winner at keeping visible dust under control, but (yes, Douglas, there is indeed a ‘but’) I would use a dust collector if you have it as well. As Marc said a small nozzle on a large dust collection pipe is nothing but a flow staller, but if you have a way of moving a large volume of air to pick up what the high speed air of the vac has left behind you are better by far. As for the 2.5 micron bag Jim mentions, I’d want closer to .5 micron filtration if I had to exhaust back into the shop. Fortunately I have a situation similar to Marcs, only neighbours within a half mile go “moo”. I read someplace that if you can smell it, it’s getting into your lungs. Makes too much sense for me to ignore.

  20. Martin J Richter May 20, 2008

    I have an older “Stinger” that I picked up at Home Depot. It is a smaller unit but when dedicated to a random orbit sander it does the job nicely.

    One thing you might try is to cover the filete with a nylon stocking. That helps keep the filter from cloging.

  21. Another plug for the Oneida. However there are two versions: there is one for a two inch hose and one with a 1.5 inch hose. Get the larger port. More surface area and less problems with air flow.

    I sand a lot of purpleheart. That shit is nasty. My ridgid and onieda are an unbeatable team. If not, you can try pantihose over the filter. It works for a while, but not as effective shaking out the filter frequently.

    I took my friends DYSON (you know the ones that NEVER lose suction), and i was amazed that it NEVER stopped. Of course, he did not like me using it for that purpose. But hey, what are friends for?


  22. Richard Furbee May 20, 2008

    Just upgraded to the Festool MIDI this week and wow. I agree about the fear that the vac isn’t working because I can’t hear it over the sander noise. Marc will hat me but but I’m using my old Porter Cable 333 random orbit and the Festool hose fits perfectly. The paper lasts so much longer and I swear it sands faster. I’ve been sanding spalted quarter sawn white oak and the spalting is driving my allergies crazy and the dust kept clogging my Triton filter helmet (space helmet). With the MIDI I didn’t bother using my Triton hood and no dust.

    Marc, my only question is about the festool MIDI doesn’t have the automatic speed control. so I adjust it manually. How do I tell what is the best setting. I’ve been using full speed but my stock is thin enough that some of the sanders holes are always open. I assume I’ll need to dial it down when I’m sanding a wide board covering all of the sanders holes, but what is the correct setting.

  23. Thought I’d drop my 2c in as well – I concur with Bill particularly – irrespective of what dust collection you are using (household vac, HEPA vac, Festool etc), I still feed my suction through a (homemade) cyclone before it gets to the vacuum itself.

    This takes care of a good 99% (if not more) of the heavier particles, and means the vacuum collection and HEPA only has a very small amount of particles to deal with, and means their filters last a lot longer. The cyclone itself, not having any internal filtering requiring cleaning / replacing just means the collection bin needs the occasional emptying. The cyclonic collection system works very well on the high velocity vacuum systems (and you can make one yourself pretty easily).

    btw – as a few have commented, reducing a 4″ system down to 1″ doesn’t result in a massive increase in suction. It results in a remarkably pathetic dust collection system! (Been there, tried that, should have known better but didn’t, discovered it through experimentation! I now use a 4″ for some machines, and a shop vac through a cyclone for others, depending on the specific requirements of the task)


    lol Richard. I don’t hate you for using a Porter Cable sander with your Festool vac. In fact, I think if you already have a sander you are happy with, and you aren’t ready to upgrade, that’s a good way to go. I know lots of folks who use non-festool tools with their CT extractor.

    By the way, the input here is terrific. You guys have a much wider range of experiences in this area than I do so I really appreciate your thoughts and ideas.

    To answer your question Stuart, the speed control on the CT’s are something i really only concern myself with when I am finish sanding, or doing the final sanding before a finish. When all holes are in contact with the wood, the suction is so great that it can pull the sanding grit into the wood a little more than you want. So what I do is dial it down slowly with the sander running and wait for the sander to feel like its floating (like an air hockey table). The sander is a pure pleasure to use with minimal vibration at this point. And the dust collection is still nearly 100%.
    Hope that helps.

  25. Larry Schwager May 21, 2008

    “The key to getting the shop vac to work better for you is to find some filter bags for it”. I have to agree with this totally. I was amazed at the results when I bagged my shop vacuum for my table saw. And the 4″ system for me does not work at all when I attach it to my 2.5″ lines. Marc your right on the money.

  26. Gatorbait May 21, 2008

    I use my CT33 with my Dewalt (DW621) – I don’t have a Festool router (yet). It works ok – better than my Ridgid vac but not as well as I would like. I don’t think this is a CT issue but more of a router design (or should I say lack of design) issue.

  27. Mitch Hrycan June 10, 2008

    Just recently in a wood working magazine I read an article about someone who had a Rigid Vac and built a sound proof box around it. He reduced the noise by something like 25 decibels. The box was vented at the bottom for air flow out as well. I can’t recall the magazine and am currently searching for the issue.

    It’s not an Festoll or Fein, but for people on a budget, I can see it making a big difference in noise reduction.

  28. terry August 22, 2008

    My 15 year old screamer shop vac finally broke. my ancient dust collection system needs updating. I use a grizzly table saw witha good fence, and do hobby cabinets, and replace wood sofits etc on my house. I see that rigid sells a muffler for its otherwise loud machines. seems like a good idea. anyone know how well they work on rigids, or on others?

    bosch wants a lot for its hepa filter. I want a quiet, hepa filter rig. rigids have inexpensive hepas, and mufflers.

    it sounds as tho whatever shop vac I get will largly replace my old dust collector. is that the trend of things now?

    I have an air filter machine, and a few years ago put an exhaust fan in the garage. but I sure still smell the dust, big time!

  29. Stephen Savill September 17, 2008

    I am considering a festool, but am a little put off by the price, not just of the machine itself but of the accessories –

    • jHop August 3, 2009

      I’m doing the opposite now: using a house vac for shop vacuuming. Fortunately it’s a spare vacuum, because it’s not working as well as I need. and if the primary house vacuum (which will never touch the shop) wasn’t my great aunt’s Kirby, I’d be trying this argument as well.

  30. Julia March 9, 2010

    I am looking for an orbital sander (or any power sander) that works with a HEPA vac, preferably the Love-Less Ash #16004. Can you give me any leads on where to find something like this?

      thewoodwhisperer March 9, 2010

      Hi Julie. I might be confused on your question. Any sander with a dust port can technically work with any vac, including those with HEPA filters. So as long as you can match up the hose to the port, you should be good to go with any standard sander.

  31. Pete January 8, 2012

    Hi..hunting for a system to keep the dust at bay while sanding the yellow pine walls in my parents 3 story house…50 year old wood that has gotten very dirty..only solution..get prepared with a good system and sand the damn walls down..looking for suggestions.

    Im interested in the Festool products..I’ve been doing tests on this project in smaller, isolated areas of the house with a cheapo Rigid Random Orbital..working fine..After reading this series of comments Im definitely of the mind that I need a complete system..daunting job.

    One of the most important aspects of the system is length of hose vs intake loss..I need length and and a system that isn’t “rigged” because I don’t want to drag a duct taped rig job all over scaffolds, stairs, etc..What sort of lengths can I expect to work properly et al?

    Is Festool my best bet? Any other companies that are selling a complete idea of woodworking / sanding coupled with effective dust removal?

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