Portable M Class Extraction for Improved Dust Safety
Cleaning up on many worksites and workshops still consists of a sweep round with a broom, thus actually raising the dust levels considerably. More recently, trades have been adopting vacuum extraction for power tools and then for the final clear up of the client’s floor. Vacs are a great improvement, especially for the lungs of the end users, but even more recently, the rules and our knowledge have changed. Vacs that were considered good enough (L class machines) are now thought to be failing.
What we need are M or H class vacuum extractors if we really want to do a good job of cleaning up dust from source. According to the EC regs, an M Class machine should filter out 99.9% of all non-carcinogenic dust, while H class vacs should filter out 99.995% of health-endangering dust, including dust with germs and bacteria, and asbestos.
But the cost of the extra dust protection is high. A simple L class vacuum cleaner can cost less than £70. A typical good M class machine is more likely to be in the £4-500 price bracket, while H class machines can be over £1000 depending on capacity and function. Healthy breathing is as essential to life as eating – we have a responsibility to ourselves and others to control, capture and minimise dust wherever possible, especially the silica and wood dusts most associated with building sites.
Being mainly a woodworker I try to capture wood dust straight from the power tool concerned – some are easier than others. But it really helps if you have a vacuum extractor that is flexible enough to use in a workshop or on site, with all the fittings needed for cleaning a floor as well as extracting from a variety of machines. Enter the Fein Dustex 35MX AC – a machine that I will be loath to say goodbye to at the end of my tests. There are many things to like about it, so let’s start with a few features.
For ease of handling the Fein is up there because it has 5 metres of ‘proper’ tough 35mm diameter corrugated hose. It also has about 7 metres of heavy-duty rubberised electric cable, making the ‘working circle’ about 12 metres – enough for much site work. These also make it easy to position the vac out of the way for avoiding trip hazards.
Movement of the machine is pretty easy on its four wheels (front wheels are braked) and the 18cm diameter back wheels are big enough to run over rough stuff and be easier when going upstairs.
Controls on the 35 MX are easy to understand and operate. The auxiliary power take off takes a standard plug and when a power tool is plugged in there is a decent run-on time after switching off the tool to collect any dust remaining in the hose. There is also a dial for adjusting the hose diameter if needed - up to 50mm diameter down to 15mm for use on small hoses needed for smaller power tools. The suction rate can be adjusted too – some things don’t need full power to extract properly.
There is also a switch for auto cleaning. Once engaged this allows the machine to unclog the filters while in use and this is when you will hear a sort of ‘boomp boomp’ sound as it clears.
I really liked the short tubular metal push handle that makes moving the Dustex easy. If you don’t need it, it can be unscrewed via two knobs on the base.
Much provision is made for storing the various accessories that come with the machine. The cable can be wound around the handle and the hose around the body so that it is fairly compact to move. Rubber bungees are provided to help hold things in place in transit.
Another little touch is that the top of the filter housing is shaped flat to hold a typical Fein toolcase so that tools and extraction can travel together.
Inside the large, 35l body the pleated box filter is tucked away so as not to interfere with space for collecting dust. This is easy to replace, provided you protect yourself from the inevitable dust on the filter. Simply lift the back part of the top of the casing and the filter is pulled out with two fingers.
Accessories are generous and suitable for workshop or site use. The two-part tubular pole can have a floor cleaner, nozzle or brush fitting on it and all the press fits are safe and secure, and dust free. The base can be lined with a plastic bag or paper dust bag for safer emptying and disposal of waste, and of course you can collect water with it straight into the base.
What impressed me with the Fein Dustex was the power of its suction. It really is an efficient machine with lots of airflow to keep the work area clean – whether it is from a circular saw or a static machine like a router table. It is also remarkably well behaved and easy to use because it has been well designed and thought out in the first place. It is the sort of machine that will be used because it is not a hassle to get it connected, or change from one function to another.
I used it both on site and in my workshop. In the workshop it kept the router table surface clean and dust free despite having to be connected via an adaptor. The noise levels are not bad and cleaning floors at the end of the day was a doddle. On site the client asked to have a go with it because her domestic cleaner was making no impression on the dust left by the decorators and their rather pathetic vacuum cleaner. Even the decorators asked about it once they noticed how efficient the clean-up was and it gave me an opportunity to tell them a bit more about adequate dust protection. A paper mask won’t always cut it!
There are lots of things to like about this machine and in my view it should definitely be on a shortlist of M class vacuums - now that we should all be doing something about workplace dust.