While it's better than nothing, a shop vac really doesn't move enough
air to be effective at dust extraction.
Look for something with a 2" hose or bigger. If you can get a HEPA
filter for it, so much the better.
Actually, I've used a couple for a few years now, with 2+" hose coupled
to Hitachi tablesaw or smaller hose to router-table. Sometimes two
connected to router-table. Works great. On occasion with router-table,
I've managed to fill nominal 12-gal bucket on ShopVac in an hour and
Not much dust escapes, and extreme little gets throuth Gore-Tex filter.
Never seen a HEPA filter for one. Note that most "dust collectors"
don't do well with multi-micron-size dust particles, much worse than
When I had my old Ryobi BT-3000 (the saw everybody loves to hate), I
just plugged my shop vac into it and it collected 99% of the dust.
The secret is that the blade was closely shrouded underneath the
Now I've got a Unisaw and a "real" dust collector, and I have dust all
over the place. What a mess. I did 100 times better with the old
I don't know if there's one that would be any better than others in the
"homeowner class" shopvacs (If you can afford to pay $$$ for a Fein or
Festool, do it - quiet and great quality from what I've heard). I
currently use a Ridgid 9gal shopvac with HEPA filter for dust
collection, and it's pretty good - not as good as a dedicated dust
collector, but a heckuva lot better than nothing. I use it for my
plunge router, router table, 10" bandsaw, ROS, and general cleanup.
The HEPA filter makes a big difference - definitely look for that. If
I were buying it again, I'd probably get the 12 gallon one - it's
supposed to be quieter (the 9gal has quite a whine, even with the
"muffler"). Capacity isn't a problem with the 9 gal - the filter
usually gets caked with dust before the tank fills up with
chips/shavings. I might also look for one that can take bags -
emptying an extremely dusty tank can be very messy, and it seems like a
bag would extend filter life also. I don't think any of the Ridgids
Hope this helps,
A Shop-vac is fine for a router or a saw, so long as your shrouding is
efficient enough that you're not wasting airflow. It's only the
thicknesser that really needs those 4" hoses.
A Shop-vac also has higher air velocity than a 4" chip collector, unless
you have multi-hp power behind it, so it's better for working a simple
small-scale dust cyclone.
I've got a shopvac, and while it does pretty well at the router table, I
won't say that it gets absolutely everything.
On the saw it gets most of the stuff under the table, but there's still
a lot of stuff coming off the top of the blade, even with a guard on it.
A really good dust collection system will collect all the fine dust as
well as the chips, so that your lungs are protected and you don't need
to wear a respirator. This level of airflow is almost impossible with
4" ducts on a standard dust collector--they just don't have the velocity
when using such narrow ducts. On a table saw you really want upper and
lower dust collection, so a 4" hose for each is about right.
Someday I'll get a proper cyclone. Until then I wear a respirator.
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