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Keeping Shop clean

Swarf Control

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Jeremy Smith 207/06/2020 01:07:40
53 forum posts
8 photos

I tend to do a little bit of everything in my shop, everything you can possibly imagine ( not just machinework). Controlling the swarf on my myford ml10 has been challenging, as I like a really clean workshop, as different projects require different environments (you don’t want to assemble a v8 with metal shavings hanging off of tool boxes).

I use a vacuum quite a bit in the shop. Do any of you here have a system for keeping the shavings from landing all over the place? Like shower curtains or something to that affect? I know it sounds weird, but I feel it is something that has posed a challenge to others in the past besides myself.

Hopper07/06/2020 07:26:58
4553 forum posts
94 photos

There are various chuck guards that can be fitted and you can rig up little perspex shields on the tool post to catch flying chips but no way to stop it all really. Curtains might be a good idea as you suggest, or concertina doors used as room dividers etc. Might be easier to make a clean engine assembly area closed off from the rest of the workshop rather than try to contain the swarf to the lathe.

I manage ok in a two car garage with the lathe placed at the back of the shed and the clean engine assembly area on the side near the front. Parts cleaner is outside on the side and welding and grinding out the front with the door rolled down. I just use a large stiff yard broom on the floor. No vacuum. Special brush and dustpan for the lathe, which is cleaned down at the end of each use, or the end of each day, whichever comes first. My biggest headache is the drill press that flings more and bigger swarf about than the lathe. It too gets cleaned immediately after each use so the mess can't spread.

Edited By Hopper on 07/06/2020 07:31:49

jimmy b07/06/2020 07:38:58
639 forum posts
38 photos

I've only got a small (8 x 10 foot) shed that is filled with stuff. I just accept that the mess will happen and clean up after!


Paul Lousick07/06/2020 09:13:00
1418 forum posts
542 photos

A machine shop with a clean floor ! I don't think they exist. Especially when cutting brass.   The only option to keep the floor clean is a totally enclosed cabinet for your mill or lathe like they have on a CNC machining centre.


Edited By Paul Lousick on 07/06/2020 09:16:45

Colin Heseltine07/06/2020 09:24:39
409 forum posts
110 photos

I vacuum around mill and lathe, sometimes after each step/action on a job. A) to try and prevent going in house when forget to swap shoes, and B) so that the cats who wander around garage/workshop do not get it in their paws.


James Alford07/06/2020 09:38:51
377 forum posts
73 photos

I had always thought that using a vacuum cleaner to clear up swarf and filings was a to be avoided because the flow of air through the machine allows metal to get into the motor. Is this just one of those ill-thought-through assumptions or an geneuine concern?


SillyOldDuffer07/06/2020 09:43:29
5798 forum posts
1235 photos
Posted by Jeremy Smith 2 on 07/06/2020 01:07:40:

I tend to do a little bit of everything in my shop, everything you can possibly imagine ( not just machinework)...

I have clean and dirty hobbies too. It's a major problem. I like the idea of shower curtains even though this form of decor is favoured by Serial Killers!

Fortunately I have space to separate my hobbies. Metal mangling in my single-garage workshop, and clean work like electronics in a Hobby Room. Most thinking and computer stuff is done from the comfort of my Dining Room.

Of course these luxuries were out of the question when I was a family man with a busy job. Back then I yearned for a shed, and although I converted a loft it wasn't satisfactory, not least because She Who Must be Obeyed demanded adult conversation about soft furnishings and relationships, rather have me waste time tinkering.

I had to wait for the kids to grow up and retirement age, ie officially Ancient. Getting divorced helped enormously too...

Plenty of people do excellent work in tiny spaces; I suspect the answer is sheer determination and constant cleaning. I don't have the patience for it!


Bo'sun07/06/2020 09:46:01
144 forum posts

While they might not trap fine wood dust, etc, I would have thought the filter(s) in a shop vac to be fine enough to trap metal filings and dust.

jimmy b07/06/2020 09:54:54
639 forum posts
38 photos

I use a Henry hoover, not any problems in 9 years of use.


ega07/06/2020 09:55:54
1716 forum posts
150 photos

I have successfully used a budget Wickes brand shop vac for several years to clean metalworking machines and also as a way of capturing chips at source; the vac has a cloth filter which in turn is protected by a paper one.

Attempting to sweep up chips with a soft broom results in them embedding themselves in the head so I now use a deck scrubber with hard rubber bristles on one side and a squeegee on the other.

coggy07/06/2020 10:00:15
14 forum posts

I had to show this post to my wife who often comments that I keep my workshop cleaner than I do the house. My reply to her points out the importance of having a clean build environment and I offer to be as diligent with my house cleaning efforts if I could build engines etc. in the house. I'll leave you to guess at her response to that.

I tell her she is lucky as a late friend of mine use to keep and work on his motorbikes in his kitchen, needless to say he wasn't married.

As for keeping the workshop clean I have the same problem, especially when it comes to grinding and wood dust. I do have a 8" industrial air removal fan which helps with fine wood dust but not grinding dust. The problem with that is it quickly sucks out all the heat in winter time.

The best way I find to remove dust is by using a mobile dust extractor. I have attached 40mm waste pipes in strategic places on various machines I then plug the extractor into each machine as i use it. I made a free standing stand which basically is two pieces of wood fixed together at 90 degrees the up right has a large funnel mounted in it at bench level and the dust extractor plugs into the back of the funnel via a pipe. The stand is weighted to keep it up right and I move it around to where I'm working. It works well but the constant noise of the extractor running can be tedious at times.

I also bought several welding blankets and fitted them to the workshop roof on curtain poles. I can then pull them around my metal working bench when welding and grinding to help contain the muck. The blankets can then be pushed back and tied to the wall when not in use keeping them out the way.

My lathe has a splash guard at the back and guard over the chuck which helps and I have a large old grill pan from an old cooker under the lathe. It works to some degree.

My bench grinder has a guard around half the sides and the back, it was the outer cover of a microwave with the vent holes hammered flat, there is a hole cut in one side that the dust extractor pipe fits through, it helps reduce the dust expelled pretty well.

At the end of the day I find the best way to keep the workshop clean is to clean it up as you make the mess and not let it build up. Unlike my wood turner grandfather, I remember going into his workshop as a child and seeing my grandfather ankle deep in shavings and a woodbine hanging from his mouth. He never burnt it down but there must have been a few close calls.

Chris Evans 607/06/2020 10:06:47
1669 forum posts

I tend to have a regular sweep up and odd session with the Henry vacuum. A really good clean down and wash down of bench coverings before engine or gearbox assembly. I do admire the folk who keep their machinery clean, mine tend to get a brush down/wipe over and oil when it is time to empty the chip tray.

not done it yet07/06/2020 10:34:31
4662 forum posts
16 photos

I don’t, but heavIly flooding the cutter with coolant would keep most potentially flying shards from flying? Maybe not so good (or not required) for brass and cast iron but should be effective, so only needing to scrape up metal ‘mud’ within the ‘splash’ range of the machine?

Again something I don’t do - you could stand directly in the line of fire, which might stop most being distributed further afield?

Me? I clean up very occasionally - magnet in a plastic bucket first, then pick up spirals of aluminium while wearing a thick welding glove, then hope the vacuum hose does not get blocked up (invariably does☹️ ) when making a half-hearted attempt to clear up the rest - well most of it, because it won’t be long before the cycle starts over... I just accept it as part of machining, whether metal, wood or plastics.

IanT07/06/2020 11:07:48
1536 forum posts
144 photos
Posted by James Alford on 07/06/2020 09:38:51:

I had always thought that using a vacuum cleaner to clear up swarf and filings was a to be avoided because the flow of air through the machine allows metal to get into the motor. Is this just one of those ill-thought-through assumptions or an geneuine concern?


I didn't use to James - but I've now got a 'Cyclone' filter fitted to my shop's Henry and this seems to catch pretty much 99% of everything sucked up - wood and metal. Really helps keep down the number of Henry bags used too.

However, a gloved hand is better for picking up the long swirly stuff (machine is stopped of course) which goes straight in the swarf bucket, followed by a brush and pan, which simply sweeps up much of the bulk swarf - and then a vacuum around really gets all the small bits that get everywhere and can cause problems. If I've used a lot of cutting oil then old newspaper will sop up oil/swarf mix and this goes straight in the rubbish bag I've got hung up on hooks (much simpler than a bin and it's changed weekly).

In my inside workshop, where the floor (carpet tiles) is more an issue - I have a sliding Perspex screen in front of the lathe, use a 2" paintbrush & pan frequently to keep the table area clean and a magnetic toolholder (about 14" long from Lidl) wrapped in plastic to collect ferrous stuff that does reach the floor, followed by an electric 'broom' (kind of mini Hoover) afterwards. Seems to work to the required standard (e.g. the one set by 'Herself' )

For Shaper users - an Amazon cardboard box taped to the front of the table when machining larger surfaces really helps catch the flying bits...




Edited By IanT on 07/06/2020 11:08:55

Georgineer07/06/2020 11:11:54
361 forum posts
16 photos

I would have concerns about fire safety with plastic shower curtains. The welding curtains sound much safer. Father had a curtain made of glass fibre fabric for that very reason - I don't know if it still available.

I knew a chap once of whom it was said "He spends so much time cleaning up, he never has time to make a mess". I'm still looking for the happy medium between the two extremes - I'll let you know if ever I find it.

George B.

larry phelan 107/06/2020 12:14:29
726 forum posts
14 photos

An old turner I knew always maintained that if you have time to clean up your workshop, then you are not busy.

When I asked him how he managed to find anything, he said that it was simply a matter of remembering where he last dropped it Sounds like a very logical approach !

Every so often I have a major clean-up, mostly after I have mis-laid so many tools that I am unable to carry on, then it,s like a reunion of old friends, never know what might turn up.cheeky

Dave Smith 1407/06/2020 13:40:05
105 forum posts
13 photos

All modern cleaners have some form of filter between the dust collection and the motor. It is not just swarf that would kill the motor, the dust would as well. I use a Henry that was a cast off from my son. I do not use bags just let it accumulate in the drum and empty it when it starts to get ful, it saves a fortune!. You alsoget better suction not using the bag because the motor does not have to overcome the additional pressure loss.


Pete Rimmer07/06/2020 17:00:43
720 forum posts
49 photos
Posted by larry phelan 1 on 07/06/2020 12:14:29:

An old turner I knew always maintained that if you have time to clean up your workshop, then you are not busy.

I hear this a lot (usually online). I always refer to my friend's (very busy) engineering/light fabrication shop which is always, always spotless. They cut something on the guillotine - the scrap bits go straight in the bin right at hand. They use the grinder - they sweep up right away. Every punch press has a bin under or next to it. Every single last tool has it's place and its always there.

Once you have it instilled in the workforce as a culture it's easy to maintain because they tidy up automatically and the productivity goes right up because there's no reason to ever have to stop work to clean up or look for a something.

Howard Lewis07/06/2020 18:50:26
3288 forum posts
2 photos

Impossible to have a completely clean shop, despite using pastry or paint brushes to clean the machines, magnetic swarf pick up tools, dust pan, brush and handheld vacuum cleaner!

At regular intervals, there has to be a "Mucking of Geordie's byre" when various items are removed form the floor to allow the plastic mats to be taken up and the actual floor swept to remove as much swarf and dirt as possible.

And I clean the machines during or certainly at the end of every machining session!

No swarf equals no work done. (Remember Mrs Beaton's advice on making an omelette )


Samsaranda07/06/2020 19:07:39
934 forum posts
5 photos

I like to keep my workshop reasonably clean and tidy but get so frustrated with my vacuum, it is a Karcher industrial cleaner, the problem is blockages in the hose. It has very strong suction but the design of the hose appears to be sadly lacking, the hose is corrugated plastic but the end fittings have a solid shoulder and reduction of diameter, consequently sawdust ,swarf etc builds up against the shoulder and then blocks the hose. Surely it is not impossible to design an end fitting that gives a constant diameter matching the internal dimension of the hose thereby ensuring free passage of the debris without building up on a shoulder and clogging. Dave W

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