Don’t skimp on your last line of dust defense
Clockwise, from low-dough to high-dollar, three ways to defend your lungs: paper/cloth masks, respirators, or power air shields.


Since I installed ceiling-mounted air-filtration units to supplement the cyclone dust collector piped to my machines, the shop has never been so clean! Should I still wear a dust mask? If so, what kind?
—Pat Goodwin, Cleveland, Tenn.


Even the best dust-collection equipment can't keep all superfine dust—the stuff most harmful to your lungs—completely out of the air, Pat. So, you'll still need an effective personal respiratory-protection device. Choose from these three types:

Paper or cloth masks. You'll find an array of these available, including disposable ones costing pennies apiece. Better masks include double straps, and valves for easier breathing, but none fit airtight to your face. So fine dust particles can still sneak in around the edges. These masks provide no protection from solvent fumes.

Respirators. Highly effective and costing as little as $20, this choice suits most woodworkers. A silicone face seal forms an airtight barricade around your nose and mouth (unless you have facial hair—then see the next option). Fit a respirator with replaceable cartridges made for filtering fine particulates, spray finishes, or various solvents, as your needs dictate.

Power air shields.

If you can afford to spend several hundred dollars, you won't regret buying one. A battery-powered fan provides a stream of filtered air that keeps your face cool and prevents fogging. Positive air pressure inside the shield prevents particulates from penetrating around the loose, comfortable-fitting edges.