Tool Test: Shop Vacs
Only the best vacuums can handle both fine dust and heavy pickup.
Synopsis: Portland, Ore., carpenter Paul Johnson put eight shop vacuums through their paces to determine the one he finds best overall. Johnson established a series of tests, including vacuuming up concrete mix, powdered drywall compound, and then wood shavings that contained nails and screws. When the dust settled, Johnson rated the Makita VC4710 as best overall and the Ridgid WD1450 as best value. He also tested tools made by Bosch, DeWalt, Fein, Festool, Milwaukee, and Shop-Vac. This article includes a sidebar on vacuum filters.
In the past several years, the lowly shop vac has transformed from the dull canister brought in to clean the floors after a day of work to an essential, often high-tech tool found on job sites and in shops. An increased understanding of the health benefits of keeping dust out of the air helped to spark this transformation. Nowadays, most tools are designed with dust ports to connect to vacuums, and adapters are commonplace for retrofitting older tools. Features such as tool activation and self-cleaning filters are becoming more common and have greatly increased the versatility of the traditional shop vac.
How we chose
There are a host of shop vacuums on the market, so choosing which to review was a challenge. Rather than focusing on any specific size or feature, we wanted to identify vacuums that would work well for general job-site and shop use. Beyond that, we looked at cost, availability, capacity, features, and functionality. In the end, we chose eight vacs that met our criteria and that we felt would be the most versatile.
All of these models can be fitted with HEPA filters if they don’t already come with them, and all can be fitted with disposable filter bags. Likewise, all are on wheels and can be lifted or pulled around easily.…