Hand-held Wood Sanders with Vacuum Dust Control

A vacuum dust control for hand-held wood sanders is a dust capture device that reduces airborne wood dust during sanding operations.


A vacuum dust control for hand-held wood sanders is an engineering control that can reduce the exposure to wood dust. The sanding surface is partially enclosed and may have holes through it; the sander has a port to allow for the extraction of woodworking dust. When a portable vacuum is attached to the extraction port, air is drawn past or through the sanding surface and into the port, capturing dust at the point of generation. The wood dust is then collected and removed from the work environment, reducing the concentration in the worker's breathing zone and the opportunity for skin contact.

OSHA recommends using a wood dust capture and control system, which tends to be in the form of vacuum dust collectors. These methods allow for the safe removal of most airborne dust particles that result from sanding. Using a vacuum with filters, instead of ventilating to the outdoors, greatly reduces the risk to other workers on a site. However, wood dust control by means of exhausting to the outdoors may be acceptable.

Dust control systems are a solution to the constant dust and debris created by wood workers. A permanent dust ventilation control may be the most effective way to remove the airborne particles, but portable dust collectors provide a solution for situations where fixed ventilation systems are not feasible.
Festool Sanders
Festool sanders have an internal fan to move dust into a collection bag and can be used with the Festool vacuums found below.
  • Vacuum Take-Off Diameter: 27 millimeters (1 inch)
Power Requirements
Speed (orbits per minute)
Weight (pounds)
Pad Size (inches)
FT567669 RS 2 E
120 volts, 2.75 amps
4 ½ x 9
FT567738 DX 93 E
120 volts, 1.3 amps
3 11/16
FT567852 LS 130 EQ
120 volts, 2.2 amps
3 5/32 x 5 ¼
FT571817 ETS 125 EQ
120 volts, 2.0 amps
6,000-13,000 (rpm)
5 (diameter)
(verified 4/2011)





Festool Mobile Dust Extractors - CT MINI and CT MIDI

  • Power Requirements: 120 volts, 3-10 amps, 350-1200 watts
  • Airflow: 99 cubic feet per minute
  • Maximum Static Pressure: 80 inches of water
  • Filtration: paper filter is standard, HEPA filter can be purchased for approximately $33
  • Sound pressure level: 72 dBA or less (OSHA’s Permissible Exposure Limit for an 8-hour time-weighted average is 90 dBA)
Dust Capacity, gallons
Hose Diameter
Weight, pounds
1 inch (22 millimeters)
1-1/16 inches (27 millimeters)
(verified 4/2011)









Metabo SXE 450 Turbo Tec Sander

This sander uses an internal aluminum fan to pull the dust into the dust collection bag or pleated filter.  Another option is to attach the sander to a vacuum with a bayonet connector and hose. The cost of the connector is $14 (part number 630898000). 

  • Cost: $220 (verified 4/2011)
  • Power Requirements: 120 volts, 3.4 amps
  • Weight: 8 pounds
  • Speed: 8,400-22,000 orbits per minute
  • Pad Diameter: 6 inches
  • Vacuum Take-Off Diameter: 1.5 inches
Metabo ASR 2050 HEPA Vacuum Cleaner
  • Price: $600 (verified 4/2011)
  • Bag Capacity: 13 gallons
  • Weight: 39 pounds
  • Power Requirements: 120 volts, 10 amps
  • Airflow: 130 cubic feet per minute
  • Filtration: HEPA filter capable of removing 99.97% of 0.3 micron particles (the most penetrating size)
  • Built-in electrical outlet to plug sander into

Black and Decker Dragster Belt Sander with Bag Dust Collection

This sander uses the air movement of the belt and a small internal fan to pull the dust into a cloth dust collection bag. An attachment to allow connection to a vacuum cleaner is available.
  • Cost: $130 (verified 4/2011)
  • Power Requirements: 120 volts, 7 amps
  • Weight: 8.25 pounds
  • Speed: 800 feet per minute
  • Belt Size: 3 x 21 inches
Pullman-Ermator Cyclonic Pre-Separators
  • Removes approximately 90 percent of particulates and can be used with Pullman-Ermator or other dust extractors
  • Dust collection: Longopac® bag system, which uses a 70 foot long plastic tube that is divided and sealed at the desired length
Inlet Diameter, inches
Weight, pounds
(verified 4/2011)


Risks Addressed:

Exposure to wood dust in the workplace has several associated hazards. Wood dust irritates the eyes, nose and throat, in addition to leading to pulmonary function impairment. Western red cedar dust is considered a human carcinogen and has also been shown to cause asthma. Significant accumulation of fine wood dust particles can also be a fire and explosion hazard in the workplace.
“Random orbital (rotating) hand sanders and orbital hand sanders have been found to create significant amounts of wood dust. Workers exposed to wood dusts have experienced a variety of adverse health effects such as eye and skin irritation, allergy, reduced lung function, asthma, and nasal cancer. Therefore, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends limiting wood dust exposures to prevent these health problems.” (Topmiller, 1998)
Spee et al. performed task-based monitoring of 26 carpenters at 13 building projects to measure exposure to wood dust. Eight hour time-weighted average (TWA) exposures to wood dust ranged from 0.8 to 11.6 mg/m3 with a geometric mean (GM) of 3.3 mg/m3 and a geometric standard deviation (GSD) of 2.1.
Numerous studies in various countries have addressed whether Hodgkin’s disease (HD) is linked to wood dust exposures. Studies involving those who have already died from the disease, those who currently have the disease and woodworkers who were believed to be at risk of getting the disease were conducted. No study included sufficient information to find a correlation between length of employment, type of position, exposure to certain products, or contact with chemical agents that may be used in woodworking and HD. These investigations have shown that those with the greatest risk are among the carpentry and lumbering occupations. In the end, twelve studies were looked at, and five yielded statistically significant relationships between woodworking and Hodgkin’s disease (McCunney, 1999).
The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) published a Threshold Limit Value (TLV) of 1 mg/m3 for wood dust, excluding western red cedar. The TLV for western red cedar is 0.5 mg/m3. Oak and beech wood dust have been confirmed as human carcinogens and birch, mahogany, teak, and walnut are classified as suspected human carcinogens (ACGIH, 2011).

How Risks are Reduced:


Depending on the type and model of sander, the sanding surface is partially enclosed and may have holes through it. When a portable vacuum is attached to the extraction port, air is drawn past or through the sanding surface and into the port, capturing dust at the point of generation. The wood dust is then collected and removed from the work environment, reducing the concentration in the worker's breathing zone and the opportunity for skin contact.



Dust collection techniques will visibly reduce airborne particulate matter of a broad range of sizes, but the extent that it reduces the small, inhalable particles is significant. Although exposure is not reduced to zero, substantial reduction has been documented. This is dependent on the amount of airflow through the machine, the distance between the sanding surface and the vacuum inlet, how effectively the collector removes particles from the air, the nature and amount of work and the extent to which workers are exposed to particles that are not captured. While published sampling data on these specific tools is not available, evidence indicates exposure to inhalable wood dust can be significantly reduced through the use of dust extraction methods.
In a study of dust extraction systems for hand-held sanders, Thorpe found that “the use of a filter bag resulted in large decreases in dust concentration when flat wood was sanded (typically 85% reduction) for all types of sanders.” In the same study, Thorpe concluded that “Dust capture efficiencies and the reduction in dust concentrations were greater for all sanders tested when used with an external source of extraction rather than an integral filter bag. This was especially so with the orbital sanders when used on dowel, where a 10-fold increase in capture efficiency was observed, although the actual values were still quite low (around 50%). The increase in dust capture efficiency provided by an external source of extraction is attributed to the six-fold increase in flow rate produced, compared to an integral filter bag.” (Thorpe, 1993)
The results of two cross sectional studies in the furniture industry indicated that “The following determinants of exposure were found to ‘decrease’ dust concentration: manual assembling/packing; sanding with adequate exhaust ventilation; adequate exhaust ventilation; vacuum cleaning of machines and special cleaning staff.” (Schlunssen, 2008)


Effects on Productivity:


Vacuum dust collectors can have either positive or negative effects on productivity, but definitely improve the quality of the work by removing large amounts of dust, which provides a cleaner environment for operators and reduces the effort and time required for clean-up. In some cases, particularly where work is intermittent or in an area with general ventilation, use of dust collectors may be adequate to reduce the need to wear a respirator, and the need for an employer’s respiratory protection program.

C.C. Steven & Associates states that the “Control of dust and smoke is also key to maintaining high worker productivity; studies show that a cleaner work place is a more productive one.  Keeping the air clean helps improve employee morale and reduces absenteeism, positively impacting overall productivity.”


Additional Considerations:


There are additional conditions and practices that can improve the performance of dust collectors and reduce particle exposure:
  • Keeping your head away from dust created by the process and using adequate ventilation is key to controlling exposure to airborne dust particles.
  • The Scientific Committee on Occupational Exposure Limits (SCOEL) of the European Commission stated that exposures greater than 0.5 mg/m3 of wood dust could cause pulmonary effects and should be avoided.
  • The particles that can do the most damage in the lungs are small enough to penetrate the filters found on many shop vacuums. Additionally, some inexpensive shop vacuums pull the dust through the motors, which can destroy the vacuum on really dusty jobs, eliminating any initial cost savings.
  • For operations that generate large amounts of dust, cyclonic collection units, if available, may be the best solution. Rather than require more expensive filters and bags that must be frequently changed, cyclonic units spin the particles and drop them into inexpensive bags that need to be replaced far less frequently because loading of the bags does not cause a pressure drop.
  • Vacuum performance must be monitored on a regular basis. A vacuum with a pressure gauge allows for frequent and easy monitoring of airflow. For high dust generating tasks, dust caked on the filter may reduce flow to a level where it no longer provides adequate dust capture. Automatic and manual filter shakers, coarse pre-filters and cyclonic collections units are available with some vacuums and may help maintain the air flow rate.
Large electric vacuums commonly require 20 amp electrical circuits in addition to the 20 amp circuit used for the electric sander. Cords and extensions must be rated for the tool's power requirements, be inspected regularly, replaced when damaged, and used in combination with ground fault interrupt circuits.
Some large vacuums, cyclonic separators, and exhaust ventilation blowers can be very loud.  Noise levels may be high enough to cause significant hearing loss over a work lifetime.  Buy quiet devices and maintain them properly.  Noise exposures can be reduced by working further away from the noise source, enclosing the noise source, or using ear plugs or muffs.
When sanding painted or finished wood surfaces, additional precautions must be taken to limit health hazards. Sanding lead-based paint can produce very high lead exposures for the worker using the sander, co-workers, building occupants, and family members of workers who bring contaminated clothing home. Children and infants are at greatest risk for lead poisoning. Review EPA and state rules for the removal of lead-based paint. Paints may also contain chromium, cadmium, or other toxic components. Vacuum dust control alone is unlikely to adequately control health hazards when sanding surfaces with paints or coatings containing toxic components. Analysis to determine the lead content of paint chips is inexpensive. Have paint chips analyzed and know what you are working with before you start sanding a painted surface.
As is the case with any construction equipment, users should follow manufacturer safety recommendations and comply with any applicable local, state or federal regulations.

Hazards Addressed:


Black and Decker Dragster Belt Sander with Bag Dust Collection
To obtain information, visit http://www.blackanddecker.com or contact 1-800-544-6986 http://bdk.force.com/FAQ/PKB_SubmitCase?brand=Black_Decker

Festool Sanders and Dust Extractors or compatible Pullman-Ermator Vacuums
To obtain information, visit http://festools-online.com/567696-festool-orbital-1-2-sheet-sander-rs-2-e-t-loc.html and http://www.pullman-ermator.se or contact 1-800-365-6677

Metabo SXE 450 Turbo Tec Sander
To obtain information, visit http://www.cpometabo.com or contact 1-877-619-5602 http://www.cpometabo.com/on/demandware.store/Sites-metabo-Site/default/CustomerService-ContactUs

Return on Investment

To calculate the return on investment (ROI) for your specific application, please visit our Return on Investment Calculator. While a specific ROI example has not been developed for this particular solution, the ROI Calculator provides a useful tool and guidance on how to generate your own on investment analysis.