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A wood shop is not a static object. It has a life of its own and it evolves just like a living organism. Fortunately, though its evolution can be slow, as mine has been, it also tends to change dramatically in one’s lifetime. Mine has taken eight years to evolve from a completed two story empty building to the shop I will discuss today.

My Brother Ron Standing On A Ladder Assembling A DropThis latest evolutionary step is a big one. It was originally planned to be completed before I even moved in; and it’s one I would not have completed even now if it weren’t for the help of my older brother Ron.

Each year my family has a reunion which occurs on the first weekend in August (I am one of twelve siblings). People come from all over the country to attend and often stay for a week to a month; they visit family, old friends and high school classmates. Ron and my sister-in-law Wanda come from Tennessee and usually stay with me for at least a few weeks. Typical of my family we don’t sit around watching TV and chatting. We have to do something. This year Ron and I decided to add dust collection to my shop.

My Brother Clark With Red Auerbach During the eight years I have been planning this project I read every article I could get my hands on concerning dust collection issues. I was appropriately frightened by articles on the potential for static electricity fires if non-conducting piping were used. I read an article written by an MIT professor debunking that myth. I have no less than five books on building your own shop and/or dust collection system in my library. I debated flexible hose, metal piping, plastic piping with grounding wire and PVC. It wasn’t until my oldest brother Clark piped his basement shop with PVC recently that I settled on it as the pipe of choice. I must admit here and now, my extensive research played a minor role in my decision, which was based primarily on my brother’s choice, PVC’s availability, its relative inexpensive cost and the MIT professor’s article (I’m an electrical engineer and it made sense to me).

At this point the project is not complete. I need to add fourteen 4” blast gates, all the manual plastic variety, and flexible hose connecting the shop’s equipment. I also left a 3” drop near the Lie-Nielsen Workbench providing a vacuum system for my Random Orbital Sanders (ROS). The current state of this project is shown below. My Powermatic Dust Collector has three 4” ports. Two of them are used to connect to the two returns shown. Not shown is the third port which will connect directly to my 8” Jointer with hose only, no piping. We also made provisions for a future second floor line. Click on the picture below to enlarge it.

Dust Collection Piping Without Blast Gates & Connecting Hose

The project used approximately 100’ of 4” PVC and numerous wye’s and 45 degree fittings plus a few 4” to 3” fittings – all schedule 40. In addition I will use 14 4” blast gates. All told it cost me $615.14. I chose to buy the PVC pipe and fittings at a local plumbing supply because they had all the fittings, J hooks and ceiling hooks I needed. Home Depot had all but the ceiling hooks. To my surprise the plumbing supply charged $1.60 per foot of PVC while Home Depot charged $1.13, a difference of $47. The fittings were also less expensive at Home Depot so I spent about $100 more than I should have.

4" Black Plastic Blast Gate Fits Snugly Inside Schedule 40 PVC Pipe My brother Clark discovered that standard black plastic 4” blast gates used in many shops fit snugly inside schedule 40 PVC. All that is needed to secure them is two sheet metal screws and silicone sealer. I used PVC cement on all the piping and fittings because I am unlikely to make many changes. However, the blast gates may change in the future should I decide to use switching gates or add a wye to the drop for expansion. Removing two sheet metal screws and sealer is easy compared to sawing off cemented pipe.

Note the picture on the left shows a 4” to 3” reducer and drop. This will be used to connect to a vacuum hose with the other end connected to a Random Orbital Sander. I will need to add further reduction to match my two sizes of ROS hoses.

Ceiling Hangers Were Used Away From The Wall's One thing my research convinced me of is  loss due to 90 degree fittings. Ron and I chose to use two 45 degree fittings and a 6” connecting piece in lieu of a long sweep fitting to achieve the same effect (in some places a wye, 45 degree fitting and 6” connecting piece was used). Forty-five’s are more readily available and more flexible – the design changed numerous times during the project and this flexibility was very much welcomed. One significant change was to put most of the piping on one leg, leaving a second for future second floor expansion. The third leg is also lightly loaded; only the router and table saw are on it. I may expand this leg to provide more shop vacuum capability.

J Hook's Were Used Along The Wall'sSupporting this much PVC required both J Hook’s and Ceiling Hangers shown above right and left respectively. This allowed us to hang the PVC 5” on pipe center to the ceiling everywhere along the run. The piping, done this way, does not interfere with the fluorescent lighting. That is, it blocks no light and casts no shadows. I will complete this post when I have added the blast gates and hookups. Hopefully I will be able to report a positive experience using dust collection. Stay tuned.

A few weeks ago I got an email from a woodworker who saw my miter saw workbench (aka chop saw station) on my website. He asked if I could supply the drawings I used to build it. I explained that I didn’t use a drawing, but rather built it from mental drawings, but said I would reconstruct a model in SketchUp for his use. That gave me the idea for this blog article – if one person was interested, maybe others would be.

Chop Saw StationWhen I moved into my current home with attached workshop, all I had was a contractor’s table saw, a miter saw, hand tools and routers. No benches, not even an extension on the table saw. My shop is two stories, 30 feet by 30 feet. So my workbench was my shop floor. I had an idea in my mind for my first bench, a miter saw bench. I bought some plywood and set to work. If you have ever built something this large, without a workbench – not even saw horses – then you know what a physical and crafting challenge it is. I made a few mistakes, largely due to the working environment, but I ended up with a very workable miter saw bench pictured at left. The overall dimensions are 97 1/2” long, 25 1/2” deep and 36 1/16” high. If you plan to build this for your shop and have a sliding miter saw, be sure to leave enough room behind it for the slide.

SketchUp Model Of Miter Saw Bench - ISO View At the end of this post I will supply a link to the SketchUp model (see right) and Cut List (CutList Plus file, CSV File & Excel File)which you can download and modify for your needs. The recessed area of the top was designed to work with a DeWalt Model DW708 12” Sliding Compound Miter Saw. If you have a different brand or model you will want to customize this area, including the depth of the recessed area. In this particular configuration I left the recessed depth just slightly deeper than the height of the saw and used washers to raise the saw to the exact height. The shape of the recess was designed to allow full swing of the miter arm both left and right. This will also be unique to the brand and model.

Chop Saw Station Pull Out Shelves The drawers on the right and left are graduated and the bottom drawers are designed for file folders. I keep all my power and hand tool manuals in a file drawer for easy and organized access. The tall doors on either side open to expose adjustable shelves. The middle short doors pull out to expose shelves that may be accessed from either side as shown at left. The middle shelf is adjustable. Note that the pull out extends all the way out. The bottom slides are Accuride, model 9301. You can get them from most woodworking supply catalogs.

Chop Saw Station Fence & Adjustable Stop I added a homemade fence with built-in tape measures and moveable stop for accurate cut settings. However, the fence and tape measure do not support pieces shorter than one foot. For that reason I keep an accurately cut “One Foot Stick” which I stick between the stop and the piece I am cutting, and set the fence for one foot longer than the desired cut. This works really well. If I had it to do over I would buy a commercial metal fence with T-tracks. Mine is made with two pieces of 3/4” plywood and trimmed in oak. I have noticed some warping over the years even though the fences are screwed tightly to the top. The top is finished with Formica and trimmed in oak. This makes for easy cleaning and a hard durable surface.

Chop Saw Station Sliders The pull out shelves are supported by two slides on the bottom and one on the top. The top slide is a normal heavy duty drawer slide laid on its side to keep the push/pull travel stable and centered. The bottom slides are heavy duty pantry pull out slides. See the close-up at left. The adjustable shelf is supported by vertical holes spaced 1” apart, two rows on each of the front and back.

I used birch banding on all exposed edges of the plywood. This is an easy process and dresses up the plywood quite nicely.

I should say a few words about the SketchUp model and the joinery. The model does not show joinery such as pocket hole screws and biscuits. I leave it to the woodworker to decide which type of joinery he/she prefers. I also have not included all the cleats, brackets, braces etc., though some are shown. Again, the woodworker can decide how much reinforcement is necessary. The model is largely dimensioned, though not completely. Most of the dimensions that are missing are obvious ones, e.g. 3/4” thickness of the primary plywood. I assume that anyone using the SketchUp model knows how to use SketchUp and can fill in the details. If you are not a SketchUp user but would like to learn, see my Beginner’s SketchUp Tutorials on my Google SketchUp Page.

Lastly, I offer this model and cut list free. I accept no responsibility for its completeness or correctness. Travel at your own risk and check carefully all documents. My lawyer made me say this. Have fun with this, and if you make significant modifications I would appreciate an Email with the SketchUp file attached and pictures.

Downloadable Files:

Miter Saw Bench SketchUp Model

CutList Plus File

Cut List CSV File

Cut List Excel File

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