Fighting Dust

Today I use a variety of masks and gloves and a large exhaust system to prevent airborne exposure to dust and fumes. If you use a bench grinder or rotary tool this creates dust particles, which tend to stay airborne for a while. Steel, aluminum and wood dust can be hazardous to lungs and eyes.

I started asking others smiths what precautions they were taking. I was surprised most did very little beyond eye protection and an apron. I did find a few who had suffered some infections from wood dust and one from ivory dust.

My first step was to evaluate my workspace. I wanted to minimize the areas of exposure. I moved my welding area to near the area I use for spray coatings. This area got a large industrial exhaust fan and hood. It’s also close to my Bridgeport mill, which is equipped with a misting system for cooling.

The bench grinding area got partitions to enclose the grinders on three sides. I also installed a dedicated shop vacuum for clean up. For work in this area I use a 3M-dust mask, covering the nose and mouth and having removable fine particle filters. I also have two glass or aluminum oxide blasting cabinets. One for stainless, the other for carbon steel, and each has a dedicated vacuum and filter system. No matter how much vacuum you may use, they still leak a fine dust. I tend to get my face close to the window while working so I mask up there too.

My surface grinder was next. I hand pump coolant to help keep the dust down, but a mask is a must for the cooling vapors as they cook-off the hot work.