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Ventilation / Fume Extraction


I have followed with great interest the discussion of the importance
of adequate ventilation in your workspace. I have a few questions to
pose to the “learned masses of Orchid”. I am looking at ventilation
options for my studio (a converted, heated garage of which I recently
submitted photos of for the “bench page”). Currently, I have a door
to enter the shop, an 8’ garage door and a large, unopenable picture
window. It is not practical to have either open during most of the
year due to temperature and lots of rain (I live in a temperate rain
forest in Alaska). I do silversmithing and lapidary work and would
like to expand my work to include (have accumulated materials and
some equipment) NW Coast style engraving, chemical etching (on mokume
gane), and gem carving. I have a dust collector for my buffing unit
with an electrostatic filter. I try (could be better) to wear a
quality dust mask when buffing and doing work with my handpieces. My
jewelry work is not my full time job but is more of a "serious hobby"
with the hopes of someday becoming more.

With all of this in mind, I am looking at ventilation options.

  1. I assume a stove type ventilation hood would not be adequate. What
    other options are there for similar fume hoods,etc for small shops?

  2. What is your opinion of these portable filter systems for
    soldering/welding. I am presently getting some info on a couple
    different types right now. Is anyone using these presently?

  3. What are you using? Off the shelf or fabricated, etc?

Any opinion, etc would be great. I love doing
metalsmithing and lapidary work , but not enough to suffer
healthwise from it.

Look forward to all responses,

Chris Hanson
Abo Originals
Ketchikan, AK

  I have a dust collector for my buffing unit with an electrostatic

Chris, Why are you using an electrostatic filter in the polishing
machine? Enlighten us!! I just ordered a Handler 62-11 featured in the
May issue of Proffesional Jeweler. It’s a very ‘localised’ vacuum
system, not for clearing the whole studio. Has any Orchidians used
this product? Thomas Blair



I’ve also been trying to figure out ventilation for my studio in the
basement of the house we are building. It’s 16’x20’ with a 10’
ceiling. I had been unable to find any until a few days
ago when I got my new Hoover & Strong catalog. As I was thumbing thru
it, I discovered on page 47 a short article on “Solder Safety
Precautions.” And there it is, THE formula. L:ike you I was worried
that a regular range hood would not be enough, but it turns out it

I don’t know if you have a H&S catalog (800/759-9997, In case you don’t, here’s the formula:

Multipy your room size in cubic feet by 6 (the standard for # of air
exchanges needed per hour). For example, mine is (16x20x10) x 6 =
19,200. Then divide the result 19,200 by 60 minutes = 320 CFM. That’s
what I’ll need. The average range hood discharges 150-350 CFM. So I
need a high-end hood, but that’s what I was planning anyway, and now
I feel much better knowing it will be enough.

Good luck! Sharon


Hi Chris,

The purpose of ventalation is to remove the gaseous & particulate
matter that’s created in the process of jewelery making. Generally,
this means a certain amount of ‘good’ air is expelled along with the
’bad’. You can think of the exhaust fan as a vacum pump, by
exhausting the air from the shop, it’s creating a vacum. Obviously,
the vaucum isn’t very good owing to the many airleaks in the typical
building & the poor ‘vacum’ efficency of the exhaust fan.

However, the efficency of the exhaust fan can be improved by not
making it work so hard. This can be accomplished by providing a fresh
air inlet. With a fresh air inlet, the exhaust fan really is just
moving air from the inside to the outside. The air inlet provides
the ‘make up’ air to replace the exhausted air. Be aware though, that
when the air is exhausted, any heating or cooling you put in it is
also exhausted & needs to be replaced.

If I were going to use an exhaust system to clean the air from
around a polishing, casting, plating &/or other area, I’d try to
make the area as small & enclosed as possible. Then a fresh air
source could be provided for that area only. The fresh are sources &
exhaust ports could be controlled with dampers to minimize the
heating & cooling loss & to completely shut off air transfer when the
ventalation system was not in use.

If your garage has a finished ceiling & a ventalated attic, you may
be able to get ‘make up air’ from the attic. Extend a metal duct
through the ceiling & into the area of the shop you want to provide
the makeup air. Building supplys & hardware stores stock prefab
ducting of various sizes as well as trim necessary to do the job



One jeweler I know has a swing arm lamp that has been modified so a
clothes dryer type vent hose attaches to the back and goes to a
blower fan that exhaustes it out a wall. He just positions right over
where he solders.



It is a standard unit that I bought from Rio Grande 6 or 7 years
ago. I don’t think it is the most efficient filtering setup on the
market but it was what I could afford at the time and can’t really
justify buying another at the moment. I’ve seen similar units in a
number of jewelers shops that I’ve looked at. I wear a dust mask too
when I do more that just a touch up on it. The filter is washable
and at the time, I considered that a real selling point. I think it
is intended for small shops and hobbyists. If I recall it cost about


What is your opinion of these portable filter systems for
soldering/welding.  I am presently getting some info on  a couple
different types right now. Is anyone using these presently? I love
doing metalsmithing and lapidary work , but not enough to suffer
healthwise from it. 

Hi Chris,

We use portable filtration units. But before that I’d like to
comment on what you said, " I love doing metalsmithing but not enough
to suffer healthwise from it."

I really admire that statement. When I read it I was instantly sent
back in time to when I was growing up around the business. I recall
as a young boy when my father was teaching me how to solder at age 10
while sitting at his bench (by the way his bench was in our home)
when he said, “Now remember son, never touch this!” It was a bottle
of mercury. A real ole timer he was. Imagine working with mercury.

I know I speak for many veteran bench jewelers (you know who you
are) when I say some have become accustomed to traditional ways of
working the bench that one tends to forget and or overlook the
serious hazards of some materials which they might have worked with.
Or taken unnecessary chances when they knew they shouldn’t have. It
wasn’t that long ago when those asbestos round soldering pads were
still in use. What! You still have yours in the drawer???

An old master jeweler (55 years exp) we knew would on occasion say,
" I’ve stripped and bombed so many times, I’m immune to cyanide!" He
wasn’t serious of course but he was very careless in my opinion with
how he worked with it, especially the removal of toxic fumes from his
shop. A simple fan facing the window with the sink in between. He
never would wear a mask. You could see the old stains on the ceiling
near the sink from improper mixture. You would think he’d be an
expert after all them years. KaaaBoom!!! Woops water must have been
too hot! Hence, the chemical process by why it’s called, bombing. I
always wanted to develop for the “bombers of the industry” the
perfect safety sealed capsules that released after melting when only
submerged in hot water the perfect quantities of peroxide/cyanide in
relation to a metal weight chart - but that’s another dream. Run with
it people :slight_smile: Don’t forget the holding tank!

As for me, I promised myself and made a decision 15 years ago that I
would never use cyanide anymore. That was that! I simply found other
ways to strip which I find much more controllable than bombing.

Like many in this forum, I feel this is an important subject that
needs special attention regarding chemical mist, fine dust and
gaseous vapors for the long term exposure of the career artist, as
well all health related issues for the industry. Quick fixes or home
made gadgets are a great first thought for most of us jewelers
because they tend to be more affordable. Why buy an expensive
centrifugal dryer for removing water stains after steam cleaning when
a $10. blow dryer works just fine. Your right! But when considering
making your own ventilation, just make sure you know exactly where
those harmful fumes are going. Out a wall to where?

As I’m not familiar with all the particulars of your home. Some
things come to mind. Do you have kids? Animals? A vegetable garden?

To expand further, when I think of working out of my home ( wait - I
qualify - I live at my shop 12 hrs a day - home sweet home) I think
of children, animals and unforeseen accidents that could potentially
occur. What - no children! What about the neighbors? Hmmm, a garage
which my bench tanks have to share with an approaching car(s)
everyday. Not if you saw my kids car front bumper.

Some quick food for thought for extra care when anyone is
manufacturing at home.

Kids - Serious strict rules about tanks, torches and sharp tools.
Lock the chemicals. Unplug the rolling mill if electric when not in
use. Yikes! Don’t forget! Animals - Not near my bench, they like to
lick things and knock things over. Tanks - Chain those tanks well to
the wall. If in the garage, well out of range of approaching vehicles

  • check for leaks periodically. The tops of the tanks are the most
    important thing to protect. Make sure nothing from a shelf above can
    fall onto the open and close valve of the tank etc etc etc and many

Sorry - got carried away to a distant land - see what a well
deserved Hawaiian Friday beer can do to ya - 1 tequila, 2 tequila, 3
tequila - FLOOR! :slight_smile:

I think this was about portable filtration - back to business for
the serious minded

We use portable filtration systems. While the portables we use were
quite costly, we truly feel the benefits when using our units called
the “Mini Vac” which has up to 560 cfm each of collection power for
anywhere (on wheels) we need in our factory.

Made by Airflow systems in Dallas Texas,
these units are a high quality designed systems made out of heavy
gauge steel cabinets (the size of a low style 2 drawer filing
cabinet) utilizing collection hose maneuvering arms (stiff arm hose
has top or side mount options) with 3 stackable filters inside. Two
hepa filters with a third bottom filter of activated carbon in a mesh

Important Note: Activated carbon is a proven method for trapping a
variety of molecular pollutants and gaseous contaminants. If the
units you’re looking at don’t have activated carbon filters - find
some that do - or put your own in. Microscopically, activated carbon
is a sponge-like pore substance that can collect and retain chemical
compounds on its surface. Simply put, it’s the best for a portable
filtration setup.

We use 6 of these mini vacs for our plating, soldering, vulcanizing,
investing and casting departments. They are widely used and in high
demand in soldering computer boards. A more descriptive example in
filtered usage is our need to produce sometimes as many as12 silicon
rubber molds in a typical day. As you might imagine, the odor
generated would be quite considerable producing uncomfortable work
conditions for everyone in that department without the use of our
mini vacs.

Again ours cost a bundle - but well worth the investment in our
view. Check them out, they may have a smaller
more affordable system for your needs. Our main objective in making
our decision to purchase the units was to go with a good quality
local air filtration system for our work stations which improves and
promotes a healthy work environment. To that end, we also protect our
most important company asset " Our employees".

Hope it helps. Sorry about the long reply everyone. I enjoy
reflecting on the past with fond memories of Dad at the bench when he
was alive. After many years of having a distant relationship I was
fortunate enough to work with him the last 10 years of his life. I
truly value his knowledge as I do this wonderful forum.

Best Regards to All with Aloha,

Steve in Hawaii,


Following Dan’s instructions, I obtained a range hood blower and
made a great exhaust system. I went to Home Depot and purchased all
the prefab 6" duct and fittings to put it all together. The intake
end is connected to 6" Flex duct and has a 4 x 10 prefab fitting. It
can be moved from my burnout furnace over to the casting/soldering
area and does double duty. I also built an excellent vacuum casting
table using Dan’s directions… modified of course to accommodate my
"found" materials.


Hello all,

If you want a robust and nice looking fume extracting arm, look at

Martin Niemeijer



I’m glad this subject has come up because I’ve been meaning to
address my ventilation area in my studio. I presently have a NuTone
Allure exhaust range hood. I’d like to know if you would contact me
offline to explain how you re-vamped your system. When I’m doing a
lot of soldering, the heat can set off my smoke detector (right
outside the room) which is such a lovely, soothing sound!! But
clearly, I need to look at this. My address is
Thanks - Janice


This is in response to Steve in Hawaii" post.

You are dead on target. The old I’ve done that for the last 10
years and it “ain’'t hurt me yet” mentality is just producing a lot
of early candidates for the grave yard. The stuff we work with is
not good for you. The fact that we value our profits more than our
health is just plane stupid. Take care of your health, the profits
will continue. If your health fails. so will your profits, but not
your expenses. IE it “Ain’t a good business decision” to ignore the
health aspects of our business!!!. It will bite you in the butt in
the end.



I Weld and braze by the double door of a garage with the door open
or outside on a deck. I do jewelry size work in a normal shop
space but this is occasional for short periods with small flames. I
don’t use any cyanide process. I am very concerned about setting
something on fire as being my biggest risk. For small polishing and
grinding I use two small portable dust collectors. The dust you
can’t see is the bad stuff.

NOW that I have stated how little I do :

Kitchen exhaust hoods do “something” but they don’t do a good job
of protecting against higher risk fumes. They really don’t do a good
job of venting kitchen fumes as can be observed by smells in the
house and the activation of remote smoke detectors. For professional
occupational use they are are a joke and dependence on them would
probably be considered negligence. .

For Laboratory use Which would include electroplating, solvent
cleaning, acid exposure, solder material and flux fumes etc. the
standard exhaust requirements are a face velocity of 100 cubic Ft
per min. per square Foot of hood opening between the operator and
the exposure. To see more look at the MIT hood requirements:

And for a little more see the Washington state requirements:

Look at the discussion on canopy hoods to see what is wrong with
kitchen hoods.

Go through all the pages of the MIT site so you can see how lab
hoods are built.

I have used home built soldering stations that are similar in design
to a lab hood. These have been very narrow ( probably designed
more to provide a dark are for work color visibility) but they do
a good venting job . They probably had a 6 square foot face ( 2 ft
by 3 Ft) opening which would require 600 cfm !! by hood
standardsbut they only had 200 to 300 cfm. I haven’t built one
yet. If you do glass lampwork you really need the venting to get rid
of the CO2, nitrogen oxides and condensing fume vapor. You must
provide fresh makeup air to equal the exhaust volume. Very tough on
air conditioning.

You exposure risks are greatly increased ( exponentially ?) if you
are or have been a smoker!!

I am retired but am a chemical engineer with years of exposure to
all types of bad stuff mostly when protective equipment was not used
and current standards were not in place . I was never a smoker,
but I have buried many coworkers who were. Those “surviving” seem to
all have emphysema.



I’d like to make a point that most of you have missed aboput
ventilation. At a BENCH, an overhead hood draws fumes upwar= ds and
isn’t doing much to help you. A better ventilation system is one
that draws from the back of the bench, pulling f= umes AWAY from you.
An ordinary range hood MIGHT be okay, but it would be better to use
a much more powerful (and noisy)= fan like some of the bathroom
exhausrt fans. The hood should be over the BACK of the bench not
directly over the work.

Wayne Emery

  One jeweler I know has a swing arm lamp that has been modified
so a clothes dryer type vent hose attaches to the back and goes to
a blower fan that exhaustes it out a wall. He just positions right
over where he solders. 

Dental Technicians do a lot of grinding and soldering, and they work
with monomers and other chemicals that emit fumes. If you look
through dental supply catalogs, you will find small, self-contained
dust and fume collection units, as well as special benches that have
these units built in. I just finished setting up a Vaniman collector
at my bench for grinding, a charcoal filter is available for this
unit for fume reduction. I modified one of the collection heads that
Vaniman makes to fit a GRS bench plate. There are "fishmouth"
collectors that could be placed behind a soldering area to draw away
fumes. My assistant
uses a microstar 2000 unit. The collection head sits on her benchpin
during use, and is simply put aside when not needed. Both units are
extremely quiet- generally the sound of the air going through the
hose opening is louder that the unit itself. and search for “dust
collectors”- there are several brands to consider.

Rick Hamilton
Custom gold and platinum jewelry
CAD/CAM and conventional modelmaking


Hi Jesse, In refference to the kitchen hood… If you go back to my
original post, you will see that I mentioned you will have to buy a
blower as the one in the kitchen hood is inadequate. I also mentioned
that a suitable blower is available from Graingers and other
sources. The response I made was in reference to some one who does
soldering and casting… In both cases, I had no fumes at all and
this was in the basement of my house. Bringing an air Inlet
underneath the hood as a fresh air supply is also very helpful. It
takes some adjustment to get the hood at the correct heights and the
incoming fresh air hose situated , but it will work. Again, I never
said to use the blower that comes with the range hood… this is
definitely not powerfull enough. Daniel


I did not post on this subject as a negative on what anyone was
doing. I did want to get actual standards posted on how to handle a
venting problem as required in academic and industrial environments.
OSHA inspectors are still not doing a terribly good job at
industrial sites. They target specific exposures and often ignore
bigger problems.

A canopy hood needs side panels to the bench top to begin to cleanup
a work surface. A backpanel baffle should be provided so exhaust
occurs partialy from the benchtop as well as from the top of a
hood. The MIT site shows a hood cross section. Adding a fresh air
intake to the bench top is a good idea and will save some air
conditioning in the shop space. Whenever you melt a metal, glass
or a flux you boil up some into a vapor that will condense
immediately into small invisible particles. Most of these are in the
size range that are impossible to see and very to remove with
filtration. These are the worst size for the lungs. In open well
ventilated spaces for occasional use with small exposures You don’t
have much risk outside what you get just by living.

In a production full time working shop environment ( with employees
) you have a potentially different problem.



Greetings All, I had to put my 2 cents in here. I use a shop vac for
fume extraction. I have a metal end for the intake hose which sits
just above my brazing area (about 6"). Don’t want to burn down my
garage, especially after I just fixed it up. I also have a hose
connected to the exhaust, running to the great outdoors. I do not
create jewelry on the same scale the majority here it seems to serve
the purpose for my needs. (I am a weekend Jeweler). Just a
suggestion. I’ll go back to slepp now.

Tom Timms
Arizona, USA
Where 109 deg. has come a little early this year.