by Christopher Cunningham
Building and maintaining a wooden boat involves a lot of sanding and a lot of dust. I have an exhaust fan for the shop, a dust collector connected to my tablesaw and jointer, and shop-vacuum connections for the belt sander, disc sander, bandsaw, and random-orbit sander. My latest addition to my arsenal of dust-collection devices is a shop-built downdraft table. It comes in handy for capturing the dust from sanding small pieces by hand or with a random-orbit sander. There’s nothing special about the box. I used 3/4″ fir from some old shelving and 3/8″ plywood for the top and bottom. Most of the downdraft tables I found on the web had interior panels sloped to draw the coarse particles toward the hose fitting, but with my shallow box, I didn’t think they would be very effective. The top is removable, so it is easy enough to get to the interior with the shop vacuum whenever it’s time to clean up the interior.
Cleats set inside the perimeter of the box provide ledges for the plywood after they’ve had their holes drilled. The top has a grid of 7/8″ holes drilled on 2″ centers; the bottom has one large hole to fit the dust-collector hose fitting, and a second smaller hole to fit the shop-vacuum hose. The bottom is glued and nailed in place. The dust collector normally does the work while the downdraft table is in the shop, and I’d take the table and the shop vacuum for jobs elsewhere. A foam plug blocks the unused hole.
I had to drill an additional hole in each of the rip-fence rails to support the downdraft table. Your tablesaw may require different modifications.
The downdraft table doesn’t interfere with the operation of the tablesaw. The fence slides over it and I have enough room under it to adjust the tilt without barking my knuckles. The extra surface area supports pieces being sawn on the right side of the blade and offers a place to set push sticks, pencils, and measuring tools. The downdraft table helps assure that what happens in the shop stays in the shop.
Christopher Cunningham is the editor of Small Boats Monthly
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