Who Says Hand Tools Don't Make Dust?

A couple of months ago, I posted a photo on Instagram of my air cleaner's filter after I had ripped a piece of East Indian rosewood with a hand saw, the filter was nearly black from the sawdust and I ripped only two small pieces. After I posted it, someone commented on the photo and said something like "What!? I was told that hand tools don't make wood dust! I was lied to!"

Yes, hand tools do make dust!

Saws make, well, um, saw dust when the teeth cut the wood.

The iron of your hand plane, or spokeshave, makes dust as it cuts and lifts a shaving of wood, and you should see the amount of dusting and shavings that a sharp hand rasp can make!

Anytime I pull out a rasp to work on a guitar neck I don a respirator, when I rip saw by hand a guitar top or back and sides from a billet I do the same. Even with an air cleaner in my tiny 238 square foot studio space I think about protecting my lungs from dust.

Look closely at this photo and find all the wood dust on the handle of the spokeshave! These shavings are from carving a guitar neck.

Every week I clean the filter on the air cleaner, the only power tool I use in my shop is a laminate trimmer for cutting binding ledges and that happens only once a month!

This is what the filter looks like after I have planed some wood and sanded a guitar just a little bit. 

If you look through my blog you will see that photos of my experiences as a historic preservation carpenter. I have worked in several nice shops that were set up to reproduce any kind of sash rail, stile or muntin, along with being able to reproduce any kind of wooden door or other part for a historic house, so I know how much dust, shavings and noise professional woodworking machines can make.

Don’t lose yourself in the romanticism using of hand tools, sure they are not as loud as power tools, but they can bite, cut, tear and make your life a little bit miserable. 

The point of using tools is to make something beautiful...


  1. I bought one of the Dyllos (sp) particles in the air measuring devices early on in my hand tool woodworking to measure the increase in air particulates (i.e. wood dust) relative to the background readings. Handplanes and chisels really didn't change the value much. There was a noticeable jump when sawing. A much bigger jump when I used sandpaper by hand. If I need to sand by hand, I put on a dust mask and try and do it outside. I don't sand much.


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