Miter saw vs. table saw airborne dust

I'm not a fan of miter saws. I have one, but it's in a awkward spot in my shop, so I never use it. Aside from being less accurate, miter saws also shoot a lot of dust in the air, which I'm not fond of. Jay Bates in one of his vlogs, mentioned a sinus infection he got from cutting some oak on his miter saw with the dust collection off.

So I figured I'd do an experiment to see how much dust a miter saw puts in the air compared to a table saw.

I started by running my air cleaner for about 40 minutes to get the ambient dust levels really low, as measured by my cheap particle counter. Getting the ambient particle count way down takes a long time. Somehow, the air cleaner seems less effective on the ambient dust than on wood dust.

I then cut a piece of pine ten times (actually, reviewing the footage, it appears I cut it just 9 times on the first test). After making those cuts, I turned on my oscillating fan to spread the dust evenly throughout my shop. That way, I could be sure that the reading from my particle counter was representative of how much dust was put in the air, as opposed to dust levels in one particular spot.

The graph at left shows first the ambient (after running the air cleaner for a long time), followed by the dust settling on its own with the oscillating fan running. After about 15 minutes of this, I turned on the dust collector and the air cleaner, which caused the particle counts to drop much more rapidly.

Quite a mess behind the miter saw from the cutting!

The next test was to make the same cuts (really ten cuts this time) on the table saw using my small table saw sled

The airborne particle counts from this were less than half those from the miter saw, even though I made ten cuts this time instead of nine. I had the dust collector off while making those cuts.

I repeated the same test, with the dust collector turned on. In this test, the dust that ended up in the air was reduced by 80% from cutting without dust collection.

Then repeating the same test, with dust collection hooked up to the miter saw.

I didn't think this would make much difference, and certainly there was still a big mess of chips behind the saw after the test.

I had my small dust collector hooked up to it, but to not put this test at a disadvantage, I also turned on my big dust collector, which I had running when I did the test on the table saw.

Surprisingly, the airborne dust with the dust collector running was only half as much. So sucking on the dust port on the miter saw does make a significant difference.

Miter saw dust collection is a challenge. Some people build a big box around the back of the miter saw, with a sort of curtain left and right of the saw and pulling dusty air out of the box. I'm sure that works much better than connecting a hose to the miter saw's dust port.

Out of curiosity, I also made the same ten crosscuts on my 16" bandsaw, without dust collection (this saw doesn't have a dust port).

The increase in dust levels was hardly noticeable over ambient levels, certainly much lower than my table saw with dust collection. I was surprised at this. The added particle count was considerably less than the ambient particle count before I started this series of experiments.

I should point out, my table saw is by no means a sealed cabinet. There is a slot on the front for the crank, and some gaps between the table and the enclosure.

But I suspect if your saw is the style that has a small dust port for a shopvac on the back, the kind that tilts with the saw, then, without dust collection attached, your saw probably won't do much better than a miter saw.

Having the bottom enclosed make a big difference. On my old table saw I enclosed the bottom and closed the back of it off as much as I could.

But what makes the bandsaw emit so much less dust? I think the slow cutting speed creates far less fine dust in the first place. The blade on this one moves at 1400 fpm (7 m/s), whereas the table saw's teeth move at about 9000 fpm (45 m/s). The enclosure around the blade guides and bottom wheels is fairly tight, so the dust is well contained inside the saw.

And here's a bar graph summary of all my experiments, shown in the same order as I did them.

Given the results, I will happily keep using table saw for crosscuts, feeling even more justified to spurn the miter saw.

For crosscutting longer workpieces, I have a one-sided crosscut sled which I have used for pieces as long as 8' (2.4m), or even a whole bookcase.

More about dust collection on my woodworking website.