Is particle mask necessary while cutting?

I’m interested in general feedback on whether anyone else wears a particle mask while cutting with an unenclosed CNC machine.

My workshop is enclosed (part of a 3-car garage), machine is unenclosed, I use a shop vac with a cyclone separator that are about 10ft away from the cutter and there is very strong suction through the Sweepy. I always wear a particle mask while cutting, but I’m not sure it’s necessary. If I’m painting, cutting or sanding it’s obviously necessary, but I feel like my dust mitigation is pretty good on the Shapeoko and the mask may not be necessary.

I know, safety first, but I’d sure like to not wear this for several hours a day some days.


I am sure better safe than sorry, but I do not wear one unless I am having a lot of visible dust in the air like from a sander. I don’t feel the need with the CNC.

Maybe it depends on material as well. The glue in MDF is more offensive than maple.

Call me a rebel.


I use a Festool CT Midi w/ an Oneida Ultimate Dust Deputy and a HEPA filter.

After a cut, I vacuum up the surrounding area (the floor in front of my machine is probably the cleanest surface in the house), then leave the vacuum running for a while as I tidy things up — one of these days I’ll get an air quality/particle tester and an air cleaning system so as to save the HEPA filter on the heat pump.

Any tropical woods are cut outside w/o any sort of vacuum, sitting up-wind w/ a filter mask, and the debris from them thrown away or swept into garden paths/rock walkways.

1 Like

I have the cyclone separator and now the Dewalt Stealthsonic which does great. I bought the HEPA filters for it but have not installed yet.

I hate to admit but I think the Dewalt is doing a better job than my larger ClearVue cyclone main dust collector for the CNC. The big one is great for table/bandsaw/planer and jointer though.

I should have also mentioned in the post above that I have an overhead JET dust filtration system to help with the particles floating in the air. Of course my filter doesn’t always get changed when it should.


I don’t have a filter system or anything additional on the shop vac exhaust, so while the doors are closed during the summer I guess I’ll keep wearing it, so I don’t end up with the breath of a termite at the end of the day. Once it cools off a little more here I’ll have the door open and fan going (sorry neighbors) and see if I can relax my health and safety regs a little.

Thanks for the input!

The Jet got stupidly expensive and there are plenty of other expensive ones out there. But also some reasonably priced ones:

Thanks for that link! I had looked at that one when I was first setting up my workshop, but wasn’t sure how necessary it might be for what I do or even how good Wen would be (familiar with a couple now and think they are okay). Thanks again.

My Jet is plugged into a ceiling box and over the years has developed a habit of wanting to start even when it’s off. There is some low current draw and the motor groans and spins super slowly. No idea why, but I have gotten into the habit of throwing the breaker when not in use.

I doubt the Wen would have that stupid problem.

1 Like

I don’t typically wear a mask when running my machine as I have a vacuum and cyclone which does a really good job keeping the dust down. I do wear a mask when cutting into some exotic woods like Padauk as it can have some really fine dust. I am allergic to a lot of hardwoods… I know… So masking is necessary for me with most operations.

1 Like

Shop vacs have a filter for the incoming air. However whatever goes through the filter is exhausted into the shop air. So the answer to your question depends. It depends on your current health. If you have lung problems or asthma you should wear a dust mask. The mask should be a N95 or equivalent. Most dust masks for general woodworking do not filter out fine particles. It never hurts to wear a dust mask but it has its own problems. There were many studies that both confirm and deny effectiveness during the Covid 19 problems. So it is confusing if a mask actually works. I will leave the effectiveness up to each person but breathing in carbon dioxide you exhale is not good.

Another option that is not too expensive is an air filter. I have a Jet air filter suspended in the shop. When sanding I turn it on and it helps keep the fine dust down in the shop. So if you are really concerned about dust check out the Jet and/or Wen dust filters. Overall they are not that expensive and if placed near your CNC or workbench it would help keep the air clean. However you can buy a lot of dust masks for the price of an air cleaner.

All of the air filters are essentially the same. They have a squirrel cage fan that pulls air through the filter and blows out the filtered air through the back. The real difference is of course the quality of the filter and the CFM of the blower.


Many years ago I bought one of these for work on the lathe. I wear glasses and the regular masks drive me nuts. This has fans in it for forced air to keep you a little cool and the shield from fogging up.

It is pretty comfortable but they are pricey.


I have looked at a bunch of those forced air masks. The problem for me is I have a long beard. When I turn I put a pony tail band around my beard and tuck the beard inside my turning jacket. I do have a simple air filter that you wear like a scuba mask. You clip your nose and the air filter is behind you. It works but is a pain to have your nose clipped.

It is called a Resp-O-Rator


The above picture is not me but from their website. Not sure this is still available.

I also have several of these. I like them because they have a check valve to exhaust your breath. They have a variety of types of filters. The reason I several is I have bought some of them on clearance and they come with several filters which was cheaper than just buying the filters.

1 Like

I’ll throw on my 3M respirator if I’m close to the work piece while cutting for certain materials.

Otherwise, I turn on my “Corsi–Rosenthal Box”. Basically a DIY air filtration system with 5 MERV 14 filters in my case taped to a box fan and mine is on some feet to elevate it.


All great info, thanks everyone.

No current lung issues and would like to keep it that way. I currently wear a 3M cartridge respirator when doing anything, spray painting, CNC, sanding, sawing etc., so some days it gets a little uncomfortable.

The air shield mask is pretty cool, but I think one of the suspended filters may be the way to go for me when doing CNC work and continue with the mask with the other stuff where I’ve got my face stuck in it. That Corsi-Rosenthal Box is an interesting alternative I’ll have to think about too.

Thanks again everyone.

I use a fresh air hood with a Cooler/Dryer attached while painting. Not too worried about cnc dust. The collector/ Seperator does a good job. But several options of fresh air hoods these days at affordable rates and they feel good in the summer as well.

1 Like

If there’s any wood or engineered wood at all in the air, I’m wearing one of these 2:


For longer sessions:

Neither of them come off until I leave that room, or this registers that the 0.5 micron particles are gone:

If you can smell wood dust, you can be sure that there are even smaller particles are getting past your defenses and into your bloodstream. Microscopic silica knives digging into your lungs.

Many folks think it’s overkill - that’s fine, they can pay for lung cancer in 20 years. I recently purchased a used jointer from a woodworker who was selling equipment to pay for his stage 4 lung cancer treatment. I asked him if he had the dust port, and he looked at me like I was crazy for worrying about such a thing. He didn’t seem to make the connection.

Those ceiling mounts are reasonable for cleaning up over time, but you gotta keep in mind that they’re pulling the dust up, right past your face. No substitute for staying fully masked until you know for sure that all dust is gone.


Excellent points and recommendations! Thank you!

It all depends on what you are cutting. So NO but maybe YES.

1 Like

LOL, well-said and true. Thanks

This topic was automatically closed 30 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.