Sep 03 2014
If you were to ask me what the most important tool in my shop is, I would have to say that it would be my entire shop. Because it takes my entire shop for me to do all that I can. Every machine, every tool is important.
But if you were to ask me which tool I use most in my shop, that’s easy, it would be the shop vacuum hands-down. I use the shop vacuum for dust collection on a number of different tools as well as for general cleanup, so that my shop is ready to use no matter what direction my next task takes me. It doesn’t make anything in particular, but my shop vacuum makes my entire shop work better, and my entire shop is my most important tool.
I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned about making what may be your most important tool, your shop, work better!
Keeping a woodworking shop clean requires constant upkeep. Dust collection at the shop machine is a biggie. Dust collection at the power tool when possible is too, and cleaning up after everything that doesn’t get collected any other way simply falls to good old-fashioned cleanup methods. That’s right, the shop vacuum and the broom and dustpan.
In a woodworking shop, making and fabricating with various woods, metals, plastics, glass and leathers is messy. Many of these materials can cross contaminate others and ruin them. Additionally, waste materials can affect precision and accuracy as well as operator health and safety.
It’s pretty much a given that best practice is to collect what you can while working and clean up after one task before starting another. It’s pretty important particularly when time and productivity are in the mix, expensive materials are being worked, and our own health in a dusty environment, benefits from minimized risk.
The shop vacuum as a shop tool is ubiquitous. There are many manufacturers and brands. They run the full spectrum of pricing and quality. With few exceptions however, most of them come with hoses and attachments that provide only a short reach, are difficult to use and maneuver, and often times offer only a few attachments that suffer from suction trapping them on the surface we are attempting to clean, effectively creating a better bulldozer than a vacuum.
I found that my cleaning needs in the shop were not well served by most of the attachments that are available as accessories to shop vacuums, and sold at most major big box stores. Not being willing to struggle on with short hoses and clunky accessories that didn’t work well, I went in search of vacuum attachments that would absolutely rock in the shop.
After asking around I learned most of the folks who know vacuums, don’t know what will work well in a workshop, and most people cleaning workshops were trying to get by with the supplied shop vacuum accessories. So, I researched, studied, purchased, and tested a wide range of vacuum tools and accessories and went about putting them through the paces in my shop.
Over the course of several years, I used and tested many different tools and attachments and learned which ones wear out too quickly and break, and which ones will not function in a shop environment. I marked them off the list. It may surprise you, that even some of the tools and accessories marketed for workshop use, didn’t make the cut. Durability or special colors did not always equal high performance. After some very extensive testing, I learned which vacuum tools and accessories really bring it in the workshop.
The workshop is a tough place for a cleaning tool. It takes a lot for a tool to live up to what’s being asked of it. The tools we need most are the ones that work best overall. In most cleaning situations. there is no one be all, end all vacuum accessory, but there is a kit of them that will get you through most situations.
After extensively testing a lot of different vacuum tools and accessories, we are now offering in our Woodworks Store what I feel are exclusively the best of the best, and most affordable Shop Vacuum Tools and Accessories available. We have set it up so you can configure a kit of Shop Vacuum tools that is suited to your shop’s needs. The tools that help do the best job and do it with the most ease. It is a set of Vacuum tools and accessories that can grow and expand as your shop does, or be as small a kit as you need.
Hoses. Our tests revealed that 1-1/4 inch (32mm) diameter was the best for high air velocity, and high air velocity is what is needed to the lift particle matter and carry it to the separator or canister. For any vacuum’s given CFM rating, we found this diameter works best. It works in favor of the fact that many Power tools are made to work with this size as well. Many manufacturers offer dust collection adapters based on the 1-1/4 inch hose size.
We can adapt our crushproof hoses to Festool, Fein, Ridgid, Craftsman, and ShopVac brand Wet and Dry Vacs, and most any other vacuum that has a 2-1/4 (50mm) tank inlet.
We also found, that cleaning and dust collection remained very efficient with long to very long hose lengths. Even lengths that would be typically longer than required in most shops. This also remained true with a particle separator such as a shop vacuum cyclone or Thien style separator installed as part of the vacuum hose line. We tested on everything from sanders, chop saw hoods and router table fences with great results.
We selected a quality crushproof hose that offers great flexibility and doesn’t collapse. We offer it in several different lengths ranging from 30 to 66 feet. It is available in silver and orange, which look good in any shop as based on your aesthetic preference. These hoses do not lock you into preset sizes. They are easy to cut to any lengths you need. We offer a full line of hose end cuffs, so that hoses can be made appropriate to your shop’s needs.
In our shop, I prefer having the vacuum centrally located. I keep a master hose hooked to it all the time. This hose is made with dust collection as its priority. It has the ability to reach the work areas and equipment I use the most. I have creatively used wands as vacuum ducts, and made additional extension hoses for cleaning remote areas of the shop, as well as some shorter hoses for specific hookups on various machines, so dust collection attachment is quick and easy and the productivity doesn’t slow down. We are offering these crushproof hoses in our store.
Handheld and Floor Tools. We are offering what I feel are the best handheld and floor vacuum tools available for cleaning workshop surfaces and floors. They deal with sawdust and other shop debris better than any vacuum accessory we tested, and are very affordable. We are offering these handheld and floor vacuum tools in our store.
Many of these tools can be set up with dedicated wands to facilitate many cleaning needs, or used directly. This can mean having more than one of a tool type, but this is often task or material type oriented. This way the tool is ready to clean directly, and should not contaminate what we want it to help clean. Whether it is a floor tool or a handheld tool, we have vetted its capability in the workshop, it’s just a matter of putting the right attachment for the job on the hose and getting after it.
We also tested different styles of Vacuum Wands that help extend your reach, and make your cleaning job easier. They work great with both floor and hand tool accessories, and everything in our entire shop vacuum tool line is an easy on easy off friction fit. We are offering these wands in our store.
What I’d most like to share with you is that these vacuum hoses and accessories will help you make your entire shop into your most important tool, making it easier and work better than it ever has. More importantly these accessories are affordable, and can be configured to fit your shop and work your way.
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