When it comes to dust-making power tools, my table saw is probably the biggest culprit. Besides being a nuisance, dust poses a health risk. The large openings and gaps found in table saws make corralling dust and chips a challenge. These handy tips can quickly improve the dust-collection capabilities of your table saw without spending a lot of money. The best places to start is by sealing off the large openings in the saw. For a contractor-style table saw, that means the big opening in the back of the cabinet. Since the motor, belt, and blade guard extend from the back, closing it off isn’t easy. Here's my solution: I cut a 1⁄4" plywood panel to size. Notches and openings wrap around anything in the way. The panel is held in place with strong rare-earth magnets recessed in each corner. This panel only works for cuts when the blade is 90° to the saw table — which accounts for most of the cuts that I make.
Once the large openings are taken care of, you can look for smaller gaps. The blade height wheel of the table saw rides in a curved slot to follow the blade tilt. To narrow the opening, you can apply a sheet of self-adhesive foam to the inside. A slit in the foam allows the mechanism to move. (You can find the foam sheets at an office-supply store.)
One final gap to close is where the saw cabinet joins the table, as in the lower right photo on the opposite page. To close off these narrow, irregular openings, I use foam pipe insulation and backer rod. These are easy to cut to length and stuff in place.
Closing up openings and gaps only contains the dust and chips. You still need a way to get them out of your saw. There’s another large opening found on contractor and benchtop table saws I haven’t mentioned, up until now. And that’s the one at the bottom of the saw cabinet. Out on a job site, dust and chips can simply fall to the ground — no big deal. In the shop, this isn’t the best option. Here's a better way. You can buy an inexpensive plastic hood that rests inside the saw cabinet. A fitting in the middle allows you to connect a 4"-dia. dust-collection hose. At least one of these low-cost solutions is sure to reduce the amount of dust in your shop. And it will make the time you spend there more enjoyable.