Hi out there in Orchid Land (do you all know that there have been
over 50,000 species of orchids described?)
There have been lots of good discussions of health hazards at the
bench-many good and a few perhaps a bit excessive. It is important
to reserve the TOXIC designation for things which have, not only an
unpleasant connotation, but a genuine dangerous denotation. Other
than the “don’t do it” advice, comments have ranged from “maybe you
can ignore a little bit”, to “do it outside”, with most suggesting,
“use a good dust collector”. The problem is most dust collectors,
although being very pricey, simply don’t work!
Let me show you a very simple solution that I put together a few
years ago when I was doing some flex-shaft work on woods that I am
sensitive to. The basis is a 5 gallon poly water jug with a very
large screw top with the vacuum supplied by a full size shop-vac,
which I put in the other room at the end of a double length flex hose
so I wouldn’t have to listen to it.
I think the photos show the construction pretty well. One of the
broad faces of the rectangular jug was cut out and a “window” of 1/16
inch polycarbinate attached with pop-rivets. Both of the smaller
sides were cut out and filled in with transparent polyvinyl (it’s
about.024 thick), again attached with pop-rivets. In the upper area
of each side a 3 1/2 inch hole was cut out and it’s edges split in
stellate fashion about 1 1/2 inch further (explanation vide infra).
The large cap was removed and a 2 1/2 inch hole cut in the center to
accept a 2 inch pvc drain fitting. The fitting was glued in and into
it a 2 inch shop-vac connector was glued. The combination gave me a
removable cap on the jug with a secure slip fit for the shop-vac
Now, for the function.
It’s not necessary to caulk, glue or try to seal the various
windows-any leakage in use will be a leak into, rather than out of,
the jug! The hand holes were cut into the upper area of the vinyl
windows-because this contraption is used UP SIDE DOWN. (Maybe one of
our English friends can explain to us why we say up side down rather
that down side up; I’ve always wondered.) I had initially planned to
make a bracket to hold it on the edge of a bench with the hose
hanging down. However, I ended up just holding it with the hose
trapped between my knees, perhaps because I didn’t use it all that
In use, a Luxo type desk lamp hovering over the bottom (which, of
course, is now the top) gives very satisfactory illumination;
diffused thru the polyethylene and direct thru the polycarbinate. The
polycarbinate front window gives great protection from any flying
stuff inside the jug; and all of the odors, dust, allergens and yes,
even the toxins, go into the shop-vac.
For hand grinding, flex-shaft or ultra high speed burring this has
really worked. The jug could also be very easily adapted to fit over
a bench top grinder/buffer although I have not done it. For
cost/benefit calculations it’s a winner.