by Tamra Gentry
As a jewelry artist and metalsmith with a relatively small studio, I was concerned with two issues that have the potential to cause respiratory problems for meâ€”inhalation of metal dust generated from fabrication processes, and inhalation of fumes from soldering.
Of course there is dust from the polishing lathe, but I do not use it as much, so spending money for a ventilation system for that, too, was not an option.
In seeking out a solution, I did a lot of research in an attempt to figure out whether I needed one system or two for the separate operations.
Many people suggest simply opening windows, but opening windows to ventilate is not an option for me because I have asthma along with very bad year-round allergies to seasonal pollens and mold.
Additionally, it is an energy drain to have the windows open during winter. And most importantly, opening windows might provide a way to help dissipate fumes, but it does nothing for the dust generated from metals, filing and sanding equipment, etc.
There are a ton of recommended DIY ventilation solutions suggested on the Orchid forum and elsewhere, but I really wasnâ€™t interested in trying to construct my own system.
I know me, and I would end up taking forever to research the â€œbestâ€ DIY setup, and then it would take even longer for me to actually sit down and put it together because I just simply didnâ€™t have time or the interest. As such, I knew that I needed something reliable, something that would work immediately, something that was quick and easy to put together, and something that is easy to use and maintain.
The Van-I-Vac for Dust Collection
The system I chose for handling the material particles generated during fabrication is the Van-I-Vac, manufactured by Vaniman. It is a â€œsingle-stationâ€ systemâ€”that is, it is not expandable to multiple bench stations; however, they do have a second model that is, called the Voyager.
The intake hose is mounted on my bench through an attachment called the Jet Port bench-top adapter, where I do a lot of my filing and sanding.
The clear plastic shield of the Jet Port is situated directly between me and whatever I am filing, with the intake suction hose directly in front of the work surface. It is not the most convenient arrangement, but it does its job and I work around it, literally. I still must do my sawing and some filing at the bench pin.
I also chose the Van-I-Vac because it is a lot easier to recover metal dust particles for refining once the accumulator is full. Vaniman claims that the system collects 95% of all dust, and they claim it is â€œ100% efficient in salvaging gold dust.â€ The system uses a HEPA filter that collects particles larger than .3 microns.
I purchased mine from Rio Grande, and in doing a cross-comparison on pricing, the entire system runs in the neighborhood of $1000â€”this includes the motor, accumulator, bench-top adapter and shipping.
When to change filters depends on frequency of use; however, they should be replaced at least once yearly and are relatively inexpensive.