I’ve noted before that compromise plays a large role in woodworking, and as I set up my new dust-collection system I find I’m making several.

Whether it’s efficiency versus aesthetics, cost versus availability, or design versus deadlines, we juggle a lot before the successful conclusion of any shop project. Because my shop is in a converted two-car garage, my upgraded dust-collection system is compromised right off the bat.

Ideally, a dust collector should be centrally located with the length of duct runs kept to a minimum, but I can’t do that. My setup dictates that the collector go in a shop corner and with the current layout the duct run can go only one direction, meaning a single long run that will cut down on my total cfm level.  Were this a regular building or other square room I’d do the run diagonally over the ceiling to keep the run shorter, with drops down to the tools. Can’t do that, though, because of the garage door: Ceiling drops would interfere with rolling up the door.

Now, I could do a total redo of the layout to get that collector in the center of a wall with a shorter run in each direction. However, that would require a total overhaul that includes removing hung cabinetry on one wall or built-ins on another. I don’t have that kind of time or finances.

So I’m reluctantly putting it in that corner with a single long run. I’ll minimize angles and bends, and I’ll use as little flex hose as possible, but I’ll still lose some cfm. So on the one hand my dust collection capacity won’t be perfect, but on the other hand it’ll be light years better than it’s ever been. That’s a compromise I have to make – and I’m willing to do so – as long as I’m in this particular space.

This is just one example of compromise, applying specifically to shop infrastructure, but I could think of a dozen more examples that apply to tools, projects, finishing, hardware, contracts and commissions. I’m betting that as you read this you’ve thought of several from your own experience. Care to share some of them?



  • Dan says:

    My boat building shop had an overhead door, which I sold and used the money to build a pair of swinging doors, much nicer in all ways!
    I put a standard door in one of the large swinging ones, so I didn’t have to wrestle with the big ones except when I was bringing a boat in/out. Used barn door pintle-type hinges, worked fine for the 30 years I was using them. Also MUCH more airtight than any overhead door!

  • Stuart Simmons says:

    Perhaps you need a larger collector and ducting? If you are losing enough CFM to be significant, either your collector is underpowered, your ducting is too small, or both.
    You do not need to compromise on CFM in a shop that size.
    I would recommend
    1. Lay out your duct runs.
    2. Calculate the static pressure of your longest run.:
    3. Use the static pressure and the fan curve to select a collector.
    You do not need to compromise on CFM in a shop that size.

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