Shop ventilation

I know this topic has been discussed in the past and I have saved
some of the ideas given. I am hoping someone will have an idea to
solve this problem that is reasonably priced and not to difficult to

I am needing some opinions on air quality in the shop. I notice this
in the winter because my tight little shop does not seem to have
enough fresh air. I seem to come in the house in the evening with a
headache way to often. My shop is about 9’x12’. I do not have any
ventilation and I heat it with electric heat. My smith torch does
steal oxygen. (I know I can open a window, but dang this is Minnesota
and it is 9 degrees today)

What do other silversmiths use for ventilation, and how do you
install it? I realize that a range hood only pulls the fumes from the
torch right up and into your face which is not what you want.

Has anyone ever heard of a system that has exhaust vents at bench
level with fresh air coming in a ceiling level? I know this was
proposed awhile back but that is the one post I can’t find.

Thanks for the help.

Jean Menden

I don’t know whether this is feasible in your shop, or even if this
is being done anymore. I was born in Quebec,Canada where winter
temperatures drop way below zero. The wooden frames on all the
windows in our house had 1" to 1- 1/2" diameter holes cut in them
(one to a window). Each had a round, removable plug, which was
removed when we wanted fresh air in the room without having to open
the windows. In most cases the windows were frozen shut and could not
be opened anyhow, and the little round holes gave us fresh air. As I
said, don’t know if this is feasible in your shop, but thought I’d
pass this bit of on. Alma, now living in the Pacific
Northwest, where temperatures are expected to go down below freezing

Jean I followed this thread a bit, i have designed and help install
a few studio/school shop ventilation systems in my carrer, the only
point that you have not touched or mentioned is the fact that no
matter how you ventilate the opposite side has to be a supply of
fresh air incoming to where you are. unless you go real high tech
and get a unit that will scrub and filter the air in your studio and
shoot it back inward. those units do cost quite high. Main concern
and question is what kind of a shop building is it, stand alone?
office building? studio building? loft spaces? depending on the
building if you get a ventilation system that just sucks the bad air
out through to a windo or a hole in the wall, thus creating a vacum
where fresh or cleaner air gets sucked in from another intierior
part of the building, hence air staying warmer then colder. just an
example of what you might have to consider. there are a lot of
industry specific ccompanies that make ventilation systems for the
specific materials you are venting. on the other hand when I had
shared a studio with a class mate eons ago we set up a strong window
box fan at the end of plastic 2x2 tube that we made out of 2x4s and
clear plastic tarp, had it set in the window, that thing worked
great for everything from flux fumes to spray painting jobs. till we
found out that we are not suppose to shoot all those toxins straight
out into the air outside before they got through a filter first.
philadelphia city ordinads. every city has their own. philadelphia
does get cold but not like where you are, I do open windows or doors
when I need that blast of fresh air in my studio. I own a torrit air
cleaner/dust collector but nothing like fresh air though. just my

Hratch Babikian

Hello Jean,

Your critical point of ventilation is that the vented air must be
replaced with fresh air which is -as far as I understand- to cold.
That air comming from the ceiling is warmer but remenber that gasses
are moving towards the ceiling aswell.

Reusing this air is something which I can not recommend, think about
it. Your inlet should be at the bottom and outlets need to be at the
ceiling for this reason

It sound silly but why not installing a car cooling system
(radiator). Connect it to a warm water source and add a vent to it
which is pulling cold air from the outside trough this system into
your shop? The small tubes and channels of this car radiator are made
out of copper providing you with warm AND fresh air! A small
waterpump takes care about the circulation of your warm water supply
and closes your home made vent system. A switch added to your system,
gives you the option to start or stop your ventilator as you wish.
You might consider a automatic temp regulator to watch your temp in
your shop

It is pretty basic and low level but if it helps…why not.

I have a kind of air conditioning system which retrieves warm air
out of cold air, but this system is not available at low costs.

I hope that this funny looking idea helps you out. I’ve never tried
it but this is the way how people used the warm air from their car
engine in the old day’s to warm-up the inside of their car. So, why
should it not work for you?

Whatever you do, keep the distance between inlet and exhaust as big
as possible and think about the wind direction.

Just trying to help you out
Enjoy and take care -)

Last week I found a great tutorial on a Studio Ventilation system on
Andrea Guarino-Slemmons website.

I believe it may cost between $300 to $500. I don’t know what price
range you are looking in.

All I know is that your health is worth installing a ventilation

Good Luck

The trend in colder areas of the US with tightly sealed homes is to
use an air-to-air heat exchanger to warm incoming make up air. This
helps keep the inside air fresh even though there is little air
exchange through the ceiling and walls. Older homes and those in
warmer climates have enough air leaks to avoid this problem.

Air-to-air heat exchangers are not cheap but perhaps could be found
it you looked hard and long enough. The current downturn in home
construction might help you find one at a more reasonable price.

Phil Duclos

Main concern and question is what kind of a shop building is it,
stand alone? office building? studio building? loft spaces? 

Thanks to all who have helped me. I am going to clarify my situation
here. My shop is a stand alone building next to the house I live in.
I have an 8’ bench with soldering station at one end and flex shaft
at the other. This bench faces an outside wall. The opposing wall has
my buffing equipment and it is not an outside wall. This wall has a
wood shop on the other side of it. That side is rarely used. So
venting the soldering side will be able to be done, but getting fresh
air in won’t be as easy…

The idea of drilling a hole in the window frame, or in my case the
wall, and plugging it when I don’t need fresh air seems simple. What
are opinions on that?

I was looking in the Rio catalog and they do not have any type of
shop vent equipment.

Thanks and more help would still be great.


Well, the hole in the window frame with a removable plug certainly
gave us fresh air when needed without freezing us out. The important
thing is to make a plug that fully seals the hole when it is closed.
Yes, I well remember those cold Canadian winters when Jack Frost
painted our windows with beautiful designs, and and the snow piled
up to the window sills.

Another link to a do-it-yourself ventilation system.

jean here is the Torit website,

I just looked at it, go there and look at all the advice they have,
they do have used equipment, and they do have help hotline you can
call for advice. they are one of the better industrial air
filtration companies around, and deal with all over the country so
they may have a better suggestion for your specific need including
your geographic location weather. they do make all sizes of dust
collection systems and all kinds of debris fumes or mist I find that
with companies like these you do better when you talk to the
technicians and engineers, not the customer service or sales
people.they may also be a lead in for you to get ideas, or check into
other companies of similar merchandise and design.

the only issue factoring in with your situation I can see is the
cold weather, and what ever you decide on the Budget to be. I have
used the machines from Rio and the other jeweler oriented dust /air
collection systems; they do not work for me, i have worked with
larger industry machines where you would have to walk into the
Machine with a zipped up suit/gloves and hat to clean the
filters.those work great BUT…

what i personally own for my shop is somewhere in between at the
lower end of the industrial side.definitely have a looksy on their
site, and call they may have a suggestion on the warming of the
incoming air since it is a stand alone shop.i think the hole in the
window /wall sounds fine as long as you keep in control with a well
made weather proof plug / door / vent shutter system.

good luck
Hratch Babikian

Hello, fellow Minnesota jeweler!

My soldering ventilation consists of a small enclosed fan mounted on
an outside wall, attached to a dryer vent hose with a fabricated
metal scoop on the end. I can move the scoop very close to my work
to vent fumes or fine dust as I work.

That’s all fine, but what about make-up air? My husband is a
residential building contractor, and make-up air is a BIG issue in
Minnesota building codes. We build tightly nowadays, and can
actually create a vacuum in homes when we force air outward. I pull
my makeup air through the wall of my studio from the attached garage
space, which tempers the air so that it is warmer than the outdoors
in winter, and cooler in summer, due to the concrete slab of the
garage floor, and windows on the south side of the garage/workshop
space. We put a small louvered vent in the wall between the garage
and studio. It’s maybe 6"x8". I think this will work for you, too. My
forced-air gas wall-hung heater comes on a few minutes after I turn
on the vent fan, because of the cooler air coming in from the
garage. That’s just the way it is, but it works and it’s healthy.

If you get headaches from being in there, it is surely NOT healthy,
and IMHO it could be caused just from your heater and lack of
ventilation, not even from the toxic stuff we work with. Add all
that in, and I think you have a situation which must be addressed
pronto. Ask at the hardware store for a fan, or at a heating
contractor’s. Mine is a squirrel-cage type. The heating contractor
will know about how many cubic feet per minute you need to move to
refresh your space properly. Email me off-line if you need more info.

Please take good care of yourself.

Thanks fellow Minnesotan M’Lou.

I have discussed the vent idea with my husband we and both though it
would work to take some air from the shop on the other side of the
wall from mine. We keep that one above freezing but not more than 40.
I have a new bathroom vent fan that we plan to put in next week.
Thanks to everyone for the concern for my health. The heater I use
is an electric one and I don’t think it burns oxygen, does it?
Anyway, the torch sure does and I need a vent for those fumes and a
fresh air intake. I will report back to the group when we are
finished with our project.

Jean Menden

What a great idea about the return air. I’ve been wrestling with
this problem also.

Just to add another idea, put the return vent near the ceiling where
there’s a lot of unused hot air this will further warm the cool air.

Thanks M’lou.

Just to add another idea, put the return vent near the ceiling
where there's a lot of unused hot air this will further warm the
cool air. 

You know what? That is where my husband put the vent, right up by the
ceiling. I didn’t think to mention it, but I see now that it is
important, and makes a lot of sense!


The following book was very helpful in addressing the ventilation
aspects of my studio.

Ventilation A practical Guide for Artists, Craftspeople, and
Others in the Arts. Nancy Clark, M.A Thomas Cutter, P. E Jean-Ann
McGrane, M. SLyons & Buford 

Thanks to Jim Binnion who pointed me in the right directions at the
onset of this arduous task.

On this subject you might also check out this company out as well…
Quatro Air Technologies Inc

Andy “The Tool Guy” Kroungold

On this subject you might also check out this company out as
well.. Quatro Air Technologies Inc 

I love the Quatro products but most are filters which remove
particulate matter. They will not absorb gasses like carbon monoxide
or vapors. There are some air cleaner units that can remove a limited
range of vapors and gasses but they are very expensive to purchase
and like a chemical vapor respirator the cartridge filters need to be
changed often to keep them working properly and that is a very costly

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts

Jim and others,

I’ve been reading on the ventilation issues and here is what I’ve
found. There is a unit called the BVX-201 from Oki International. I
have somebody, right now, working on my long overdue website which is
one of the products Cleverwerx is releasing. I’ve already sold one of
these, so you can order one from me now.

The BVX-201 is a triple cartridge fume extractor which was designed
for the electronic soldering industry. It contains a pre-filter, a
hepa filter and a charcoal filter and pulls at 150 cfms at the
source. It’s meant for FUMES not particulates and that was the
difference I was looking for in a small portable unit for my needs.

The unit weighs 20lbs, is completely portable and is amazing. I love
it. It’s very, very quiet and when I considered the alternative of
putting up expensive ducting in my studio, the cost was a no brainer.
It’s not cheap at $725, but it is the best and safest product I
found, which took nearly a year of hunting down lots of options for
safe soldering.

Testing. When I saw this thing I thought, oh right. This little
piece of plastic is going to work for me? Hah! My sales rep from Oki
stood there and watched me first burn pitch and then burn epoxy out
from one of my resin inlay castings. My studio mate stood 10 feet
away and didn’t smell a thing. Everything was caught in the little
pre-filter. I thought Hunter, my sales rep was going to have a
coronary, but he kept quiet and let me run this system through it’s
paces. He hasn’t dealt with jewelry world, only electronic soldering
world, so it was new territory for him. We opened the case and the
pre-filter had a blackened spot, as we suspected, but it did not go
through to the other cartridges. The pre-filters cost $25 for a set
of 5. All I need to do when I use pitch is to turn the pre filter
around and use it again. I was sold, died and went to heaven.

For regular soldering, it’s a dream come true. The pre-filters last
and last and if I leave my studio, I take my system with me. The
ducting alone from an HVAC company would be $1200, not counting the
motor and hood. The ducting would be stay in the ceiling where my
hard earned money would live forever.

Soon I will be teaching a soldering workshop at Metalwerx and will
carry this unit with me for an added soldering station for demos at
the bench. Imagine, no matter where you solder you will be safe. No
windows to worry about, no cold air to suffer through.

You won’t find it on my website…yet, but soon. However, I can
arrange to get one to you if you are interested. I solder, a lot and
I have talked about soldering on this forum many times. Honestly, if
you don’t buy it from me which is fine, just get it for yourself. I
want people to be safe. It works flawlessly. My sales rep at
Oki/Metacal is terrific and I had a long one hour talk with the
national sales rep. The company is wonderful and so is the unit.

Here’s the link to the system so you can check out the specs.

Here are some pics of my system.

We are building a metal dongle to fit a standard plenum to bench
clamp with a plastic hose to the unit so it can really take heat. I
have a cludge going at the moment, but it works. No burning, no
heating. Good ole duct tape and plenum which I tabbed. No leaks, did
the smell test with incense.

Hope this helps you. It sure helped me. Email me offline if you need
more info.

Karen Christians
Who does her happy dance when she solders!