From the Workshop - Part 4 archive

Thursday 7 February 2013

Ben Hawthorne tackles dust extraction in his workshop and continues the piece of carving with his grandson that was started in the last issue


I didn't see much of Will during the school holidays as his parents got a bit fed up with the miserable summer weather and decided to escape to some sunshine in Spain. This meant I managed to get quite a lot done in the garden and sorted out my workshop somewhat.

Eliminating dust

I was slightly concerned about the cough that had been developing after a spate of regularly using my bandsaw, so decided that I ought to do something about sorting out the problem of dust. I am very careful about sweeping up shavings and sawdust from the floor after a friend of mine had a fire in his workshop that started in a pile of shavings by spontaneous combustion. Fortunately it wasn't serious, but it very easily could have been if he hadn't found it before it really got a hold. However, other than using a small respirator at times I had no real system to keep the dust down.

I have a pile of different catalogues at home and found one from a large tool and machine supplier that was not too far away from home, so decided to have a day out and see what I could find. Mary was very happy to get me out of the house as she had jobs she wanted to do, so armed with my cheque book, off I went.

As I have found best in these circumstances, I pleaded complete ignorance when I was greeted by a young lad in smart overalls looking about 12 - but then, everyone looks that age to me nowadays! He was delighted to be able to air his knowledge. I must admit to being lost once he started mentioning microns and cubic feet per minute but I did get the gist of what he was saying. What it boiled down to, I think, is that many of the cheaper so-called dust extractors actually put more dust into the air than they take out. They are really only chip collectors. If I had a limited budget he suggested that I buy a small chip collector which would be suitable for the bandsaw and other small machines and get a dust filter unit to hang from the ceiling. This should keep the air clear in the workshop and I might find that I wouldn't need to use my respirator as much. This sounded like pretty good advice so I agreed. He advised that the filter is best not placed directly over a tablesaw as it can suck the dust up into your face.

Neither of the units was very big so we managed to get them into the car and after a very enjoyable hour browsing around the store trying to find an excuse to buy every amazing looking machine there was, off I went with my purchases. The installation process was surprisingly simple and went without a hitch. So far all is well and, as the lad said, the air in my workshop is crystal clear and I am no longer coughing.

Continuing carving

Will did come over once or twice when they got home and we managed to get a few days to enjoy some carving time. I think his mum Helen has accepted that he is going to be working with sharp tools and if he can produce a nice piece of work, she may be won over, particularly if we can avoid even the smallest of nicks to Will's hands. Although I don't usually use safety gloves when using gouges I thought that, psychologically, it would be a good idea both for me and for Will. It is not easy to find suitable gloves small enough for children, but I managed to track some down on the internet that had the necessary safety ratings - don't buy cheap ones as they really won't do the job.

We found a good photo of Usain Bolt and I drew something based on this for Will to carve in shallow relief. This meant that he wouldn't have to remove too much wood and also wouldn't need to put in too much detail. Something like this is great for children to try as there is little chance of them cutting themselves or going seriously wrong.

So that he felt he was trusted to do the carving on his own and avoid me getting involved with his piece, I decided that I would carve the same design with him. This made it easier for me to show him what to do and he was also able to watch how I was working so that he didn't always need to ask me if he had a problem, he could just watch in his own time and imitate. Although it was a very simple piece of work which only involved taking out a little background and cleaning up the outline of the runner, we both had a lot of fun. I must admit that I did have to help him a bit with cleaning up the edges, but all in all he made a very good job of it. We gave the whole thing a coat of finishing oil and Will couldn't wait for his Mum to come so that he could show her. I think she was duly impressed. It's funny how doing something very simple like this where you don't have to worry too much about how it turns out can be so enjoyable.

Woodworkers Institute

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