Until I tried the Resp-O-Rator by Duxterity of Graham, North Carolina, I’d been using disposable dust masks and traditional respirators for years, but with my full beard, they didn’t seal properly against my face. My nose-blow tissue test always showed that I’ve been inhaling a bunch of dust. On top of that, I use prescription safety glasses, and both dust masks and my half-face respirator caused my glasses to fog up and ride high, so I often chose what I thought was the lesser of two evils—inhaling dust instead of risking an eye injury—and skipped the mask.
Some guys grease their beards with Vaseline to get a good seal with a respirator, but my beard is long enough that I just can’t grease it up enough for a proper seal. When I did try, the Vaseline inevitably migrated to my hands, tools, and whatever I was working on, and the mask became a slithery mess. Even with a shorter beard, I wasn’t going to go to that trouble for a quick, it’ll-only-take-a-second job.
The Resp-O-Rator, an odd-looking device with twin snorkels connected to disposable dust filters, isn’t compromised by a beard. The mouthpiece goes between lips and teeth, and the attached clip clamps your nostrils shut. To assemble it, a quick push and twist attaches the 4-1/8″-diameter filters to the tubes, and it’s ready to put on by removing one of the tubes from the mouthpiece, wrapping it around your neck, and reconnecting it.
Since my lips make the seal with the mouthpiece, I don’t need to worry about getting a proper seal against my beard. My safety glasses don’t fog or ride up. When I release the mouthpiece, the whole thing drops, completely hands-free, taking the nose clip off with it, and the Resp-O-Rator hangs comfortably around my neck where I can just let it ride until I need it again. With one hand, I can pop the mouthpiece back in and install the nose clip in less than 5 seconds, and I’m ready to go again.
The mouthpiece includes one-way valves to make sure you are not just rebreathing exhaled carbon dioxide. About the only downside is that condensation does occasionally drip from the downward-facing exhaust port. The large, replaceable HEPA filters pull air through both front and back faces, so it’s easy to draw air in through them. Their filtering efficiency is listed as over 99.97 percent, [removing particulate] down to 0.3 micron in diameter for a respirator rating of 100. The common disposable dust masks with two elastic straps are rated 95, or 95 percent of particles of at least 0.3 micron—assuming they have good contact to the face. The Resp-O-Rator is not suitable for filtrating aerosols, volatile organics, or particulates that contain oil, but neither are disposable dust masks.
If you are sporting a full beard, there’s a pretty good chance you aren’t getting a proper seal even with a certified mask, and for those without beards, you may find the Resp-o-Rator gives you a better seal than a dust mask’s elastics and metal nose clip. And on a hot day, not having half of your face in a wet rubber respirator can be a welcome relief. The Resp-O-Rator works well with glasses, and it’s comfortable and convenient enough to let it hang around your neck ready to be used instead of sitting on the shelf. When I’m in my shop, I’m always wearing my safety glasses and when I’m about to start creating dust, my Resp-O-Rator is the first thing I reach for.
Geoff Coley of Medicine Hat, Alberta, is a mechanical engineer whose first cedar-strip canoe was followed by a cradle boat for his first child. That was in the early 1990s; he is now working on boat No. 7 and dreaming about building a double garage so No. 8 can be just a wee bit bigger.
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