WHAT constitutes harmful dust on site (and in general) can still be a matter of opinion for some. Although a careful read of the relevant documents from the HSE should make it clear that most dusts should be treated with due care, fine wood and silica dusts – the ones most common on building sites, are considered very dangerous, writes PETER BRETT.
At the very least, workers should be protecting themselves and their clients by wearing appropriate dust masks and cleaning up and collecting dust at source (eg, from power tools) using at least an M-Class extractor.
I know from experience that it is easy to overlook dust collection, and have only relatively recently invested in good enough extraction for my workshop and site needs. But I have spent a small fortune on dust masks!
The V-Tuf Mini Plus is recently launched and is a considerable upgrade on the original V-Tuf Mini, which was a great entry level machine and very compact. Not to mention it was well within budget at around £80 - £100; not bad for an M-Class rated machine.
The Mini-Plus ups the budget to about £270, but the extra capacity and refinement are, to my mind, worth the extra money. It is bigger, has a 20-litre tank capacity and has more refined features - which explains the extra cost - but it is also a genuine M-Class extractor that has all the features needed to collect the 99.9% of dangerous dusts that characterise the M-Class rating.
Value adding features
When looking at the new machine straight out of the box, it is clear that the machine has benefited from having a set of four wheels that enable it to sit stably on rough surfaces. The rear 130mm diameter wheels are fixed on an axle while the smaller front wheels are casters, making it easy to tow the vacuum around by its hose when it needs moving.
The bright yellow features like the quick-release cable cleats, the three metres of anti-static hose and the five-metre-long cable really stand out as hi-vis, which enables users to easily avoid them. Of course, all the hose and cable also mean that the work radius is effectively around nine metres which is enough to clean up quite a large area without having to change mains plugs or rely on an extension cord.
I was quite taken with the cable cleat because it is well placed at the top of the machine where it is very easy to wind the cable around the cleated ends. By simply pulling the cleats upwards and moving them sideways, the cable is quickly released with less danger of it being coiled and tangled.
The hose can be stored by winding it round the body, but it is true to say that most extraction vacs haven’t yet sorted out a good way to store the hose when not in use. At the back of the body are a series of lugs where the collection of supplied tools can be stored. The tools cover a useful range to include a very effective smooth floor and carpet head and brush, a small round brush, a crevice tool and a power tool adaptor.
These tools all work well (especially the floor cleaner head that I used on some shaving and sawdust in my workshop) leaving a clean and dust-free surface.
The 1200W motor is powerful enough and reasonably quiet – certainly not loud enough to upset a client at clean-up time - and is available in 240 and 110 voltages.
The all-important suction lift power is 2400mm or 18KPa and has an M-Class H13 HEPA filter. The supplied filter bags have a capacity of 18 litres and are really easy to install and dispose of without spilling out dangerous dusts.
The plastic tank is rugged enough for site use and is also corrosion free, so it is possible to use the vac to pick up liquids as well. I liked the touch of the drainage stopper on the base of the tank to make emptying less difficult than having to up-turn the machine to tip a large quantity of weighty water down a drain.
To use the vac in ‘wet’ mode, the user needs to remove the filter bag and filter. Two yellow clips, one on each side of the body, are simply released to allow the filter/motor head to be removed. The washable filter is held in with a quick-release system that takes just half a turn to enable it to be lifted out.
A protected on/off switch on the front of the vac is big and easy to use even with gloves. Underneath the cable cleats are the filter cleaner and the all-important extraction velocity warning light which shows when things are getting too clogged for efficient extraction. There is also a small external outlet filter that can be quickly removed and cleaned to prevent collected dust from being blown back out.
Using it in a variety of cleaning scenarios like cleaning up shavings from under my wood lathe, general workshop cleaning and then picking up the leftovers at the base of a wall that had been recently repointed, the V-Tuf did a very good job. Like any vac, when it is clogged or overloaded, efficiency tails off, but kept within the working parameters it kept up with the competition. I was actually amazed that it picked up lumps of discarded pointing mortar up to 3cm long and sucked them right through into the filter bag.
My overriding impression of the V-Tuf Mini Plus is that is an extremely practical no-nonsense machine that has a lot of appeal, not only because of its very competitive price but also because it just works in a simple and straightforward way to pick up and contain dangerous dust. It is quiet, powerful and easy to operate with simple controls. I guess some users might like to have a power take off socket to connect corded power tools to automatic extraction, but at the last count my corded tools are outnumbered by my cordless tools by about 4 to 1.