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The dust collection on our shop’s cabinet saw sucks. Let me re-phrase that. It doesn’t suck. Zero suckage. Two holes. Tons of waiting.

We have a big cyclone dust-collection system. We have our cabinet saw hooked up at its base and in the basket guard. Still the dust tends to build up in the cabinet. (Note: It hasn’t ever gotten as bad as when Glen D. Huey turned on his Unisaw and the blade wouldn’t move because the dust had collected up to the arbor, stopping the motor.)

Still, all of us are careful to never lose the arbor nut when we change the blade on the saw. If you drop the nut, you can count on about an hour of digging through the cabinet to look for your lost nut.

So today, I lost my nut.

So I opened the bottom of the cabinet saw and laughed out loud. The sawdust had packed up so tight that it looked like a sand sculpture or layers at an archaeological dig.

So I took a photo.

If you look close, you can see all of the projects we’ve worked on since the last time someone dropped a nut. At the top is mostly maple from Executive Editor Robert Lang’s latest project. Below that is Senior Editor Glen D. Huey’s lowboy in 200-year-old mahogany. Then you can see the walnut from my White Water Shaker Side Table. And below that is a lot of unidentified light-colored wood that no one will fess up to.

I call that the Early Bob Period.

Almost an hour later, I hadn’t found the nut until Managing Editor Megan Fitzpatrick suggested a very big magnet that Huey had. That found the nut in 20 seconds flat.

Somewhere in the Early Bob Period.

– Christopher Schwarz

Ways to Avoid this Dust Collection Problem

– “Setting Up Shop: Completely Revised And Updated” by Sandor Nagyszalanczy

– “The Complete Woodshop Guide” (Popular Woodworking Books)

– “Woodshop Dust Control” (Taunton) by Sandor Nagyszalanczy

Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.

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Showing 21 comments
  • Ronnie C

    I’d just like to point out that two of the comments mention bacon. Never underestimate the power of bacon.

  • Alan in little Washington (NC)

    David hit one big point- don’t close off the openings in the saw cabinet except for the bottom and motor cover! Air out MUST = unrestricted air in. But, holes in a zero clearance insert don’t help- the stock will block them.

    Here are the suggestions:

    1. Make sure your DC is working properly.
    2. If it is a low power unit (2hp and below) make sure no other blast gates are open when using the saw.
    3 keep the bags or cartridge filter clean.
    4. run 6" duct from the DC to the cabinet which should have a 6" port. If it doesn’t open it up to 6".
    5. limit bends in your duct work- they are CFM killers
    6. limit the use of flex hose- another CFM killer.

  • Peter Chast

    Hmm, wish there was a way to edit a comment…… I posted too fast.

    Looking at the picture of your saw’s base I see its just about flush to the floor. I don’t know your shop or that model saw. Does it have a solid bottom or is it open with leveling feet? What size is the dust collection?

    The solution may be as simple as adjusting the leveling feet up to allow some air into the bottom of the cabinet.

  • Peter Chast

    Some local Woodworkers have found tremendous improvement in collection with even 1-1.5HP machines by changing to a 6 inch metal duct system. Stepping up to 6 inch right at the blower and carying it to within 3 ft of the point of use seems quite effective.

    Most collection points have enough air leakage to supply movement. I suspect you may need to vent the bottom of that saw cabinet and experiment with the amount of opening to provide enough air to move the dust.

  • My dust collector doesn’t have the power to suck my arbour nut vertically. When that happens to me, I shove the dust to the d.c. port until the cabinet is empty. The nut is waiting for me at the first elbow, which is taped together for quick disassembly.

  • Clay Dowling

    Wow, that’s gonna raise the roof when it finally goes up.

  • Gary

    My question is, did you clean it out or did you just stick the cover back on?

  • Paul Stine

    I bought a contractor style saw with an enclosed motor that was packed with sawdust up to the table top. It took four 16-gallon shop vac loads to suck it all out.

    I like that the sticker next to the access cover says "SAFETY".

  • Luke Townsley

    Actually, the solution to the dust buildup is pretty simple.

    You just need to store the magnet closer to the saw.

  • Bob Lang

    The secret is to never drop the arbor nut.

  • John Walkowiak

    I think you need to take another look at this problem. I have the same saw and have had only a couple inches in the bottom using just a small portable collector. If I read correctly a Unisaw also had the same problem connected to the same system. If these 2 saws had a problem with dust collection it would be all over the internet, and I have not seen it.
    I would bet the problem is on the sucking side and not the sawing side.

  • david brown

    I was gonna suggest a magnetic pick-up tool until Megan beat me to the punch.

    They save my bacon all the time.


  • Gregg Counts

    Wow! Now I don’t feel so bad about how my saw looks when I clean out the sawdust.

  • Take Alberts

    I like the "Better By Design" plaque above it.


  • I believe in the natural order of things. Saw dust should collect on the floor until blown out of the shop by a leaf blower.J

  • For a bizarre moment, I was trying to figure out why you had a side of bacon hanging out of the cabinet of your saw. All I can say is that it’s been a looong day! 😉


  • David Cockey

    Re-read your post and see you have a air also being sucked through the basket. That will cut down on air flowing through the cabinet. If you are using a zero-clearance insert try drilling some large holes in it. If that isn’t sufficient then look for some other ways to get more air into the cabinet.

  • David Cockey

    Your cabinet saw may be too air tight.Yes, I know it is "counter-intuitive" and goes against the conventional wisdom, but there is simple physics behind it. (I’m assuming with the duct disconnected from the cabinet saw and the dust collector running there is a reasonable amount of air flowing into the duct.)

    Dust is carried by airflow. Unless air is flowing from the saw’s cabinet into the duct dust won’t move out of the saw. So if the cabinet is close to airtight it will choke off airflow into the duct.

  • Joel Jacobson

    Yikes! Not a good idea to store so much fuel inside your cabinet saw. A misguided spark (from perhaps an unknown small piece of embedded steel) and your entire shop could go up in flames – a fate far worse than dropping a nut. It’s happened before.

  • Jim Marsh

    Beautiful, it looks familiar. I have the same table saw. I put mine on a base of 2×4’s to raise the saw’s height and put a piece of masoniteon top of the 2 by’s. I put silicone caulk on all the seams to help with the dust collection and it seems to have helped significantly. Next step is to build a masonite vee collector inside the saw to channel the dust to the opening.

    Isn’t it a bear to change blade height or angle with all the dust inside? I can’t imagine using your saw especially when you have been sawing SYP with all the pitch.

    Thanks for a great pic.

    jim marsh

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