Shop vacs are essential tools at any workshop or garage, where they’ll suck away all kinds of dirt, dust, and debris.
Whether you’re running a woodworking shop, work as a contractor, or take on DIY tasks at home, you need a proper shop vacuum to suck away the sawdust and keep your workspace as clean as possible.
Not all shop vacs work equally well for woodworking because of the fine sawdust being produced by your machinery, so you want to make sure you pick the right one for the job.
The best shop vacuum for the job
Ideally, all shop vacs work well for any workshop environment. That isn’t always the case though.
There are a lot of options, and based on our experience not all of them are equally good at sucking away wood shavings and saw dust.
In order to identify the best shop vac for woodworking, we interviewed woodworkers and reviewed dozens of vacuums.
According to our experience and research, these are the factors that are generally considered when choosing a shop vacuum for woodworking:
- Suction power
- Hose and attachments
Best overall shop vac: DeWALT DXV12P 3-In-1 Wet/Dry Shop Vac
- 3-In-1: Wet, dry, blow
- Large 2-1/2″ hose diameter
- Excellent onboard storage
- Rubberized casters allow ease of movement
The DeWALT DXV12P is a fantastic shop vac for woodworking. Everything from its 12-gallon dirt/water tank to he powerful motor make it one of our absolute favorites for a workshop or garage.
This shop vac has no problems picking up anything from sawdust to wood shavings as well as liquids and other stuff that spill onto the floor while you’re taking care of your business and getting work done.
One of the things we really like about this shop vac, are the four rubberized casters. They enable smooth movement across all surfaces, and you can easily move it around as you clean up your work space.
The 5.5 peak horsepower motor packs enough power to get most jobs done efficiently, and the 2-1/2″ hose fits well on most table saws and other tools for proper collection of sawdust.
- Easy to move around.
- Powerful suction.
- Great onboard storage bag for attachments.
- Durable design.
- Filter needs frequent cleaning for the vacuum to work properly.
- The hose is a bit hard to secure in the rubberized mount.
Best high-capacity shop vac: Craftsman CMXEVBE17596 20-Gallon Heavy-Duty
- Very high capacity – up to 20 gallons
- Heavy-duty design and accessories
- 6.5 peak horsepower motor
If you’re shopping for a large, high-capacity shop vacuum for woodworking, consider the Craftsman CMXEVBE17596 shop vac. Boasting a 20 gallon tank capacity, this will definitely not disappoint by any means.
Besides the high capacity, it is also quite powerful. And considering the price, you’ll actually get quite a lot of power at a very reasonable cost.
With the Craftsman shop vac you’ll also get a good amount of useful attachments bundled inside the package, and it features a 2-1/2″ hose that fits onto most table saws. It might need an adapter to do so, but it’s usually not more than a piece of plastic tubing.
Considering its sheer size, we were pleasantly surprised with its noise level too. It doesn’t make as much noise as other shop vacs, yet it’s still quite loud.
- Very powerful suction.
- Works for many purposes.
- Great accessory package included.
- Blower port allows you to blow dust off your tools and machinery.
- Very large tank capacity.
- Big and bulky because of the capacity.
- All plastic design.
- Not all of us like how the hose is attached when not in use.
Best compact shop vac: Armor All AA255
The Armor All AA255 is a great little shop vacuum for woodworking. Especially for fine woodworking, because of its small footprint and how easy it is to carry around inside a workshop.
It doesn’t take up much storage space either, and its easily plugged in and ready to use whenever you need it.
Don’t expect it to work wonders if you’re in a large workshop though, because the capacity just isn’t there. For home use and DIY’ers this is a great addition to a regular vacuum cleaner though, and it cleans up all sorts of messes in no time at all. We do also agree with TopTenReviews on the suction, as it isn’t the most powerful of the bunch.
It is easily stored between use due to the onboard accessory and hose storage features, making it the perfect choice for those with limited storage space.
- Great little shop vac for woodworking.
- Easy to carry around in a small workshop setup.
- Durable, 2.5-gallon polypropylene tank.
- 2 peak horsepower motor packs enough power for most tasks.
- Doubles as a blower if needed.
- Filter needs frequent cleaning when used for fine dust.
- Weaker than regular-sized shop vacs.
- Cord is only 10 feet long.
Best portable shop vac: DeWALT DCV580H 18/20V MAX Cordless
- Cordless – use it anywhere
- Works with DeWALT MAX battery series
- Great shop vac for job sites
The DeWALT DCV580H is a genius little shop vac, that works great for sucking away sawdust and wood shavings. If you’re a woodworker and/or often find yourself on different job sites, this is a great purchase.
It isn’t the most powerful shop vac, but that’s not always the number one criteria. With the DeWALT DCV580H you never have to worry about having access to a power outlet at a job site, as you can simply plug in a battery and turn it on.
In order for you to not waste money on getting expensive rechargeable batteries for all your tools, DeWALT designed a universal battery pack that fits right into multiple tools with no adapters needed. Simply slide it in and you’re ready to vacuum.
One of the things we really appreciate with this shop vac, is how easy it is to empty after use. You don’t want your sawdust and wood shavings to fly anywhere when you’re emptying the tank, but with this model it’s easily done without causing a big mess.
- Compact and lightweight.
- Powerful suction despite its size.
- Battery powered – no cords needed.
- Great range of attachments included.
- Battery packs fit other DeWALT tools as well.
- Batteries are expensive.
- You’ll only get 20-30 minutes of run time on a fully charged battery pack.
- Not as powerful as regular shop vacuums.
How to find the best shop vac for woodworking
Below is a general buying guide for those who want to look for themselves and find a shop vac that hasn’t been mentioned in this buying guide.
We mentioned above what criteria is weighed by experienced woodworkers as well as ourselves, and below we’ll walk you through our thoughts and recommendations on each of these important factors.
Suction is the main issue when it comes to getting a shop vac that gets the job done.
You definitely want to get one with a powerful suction, but it isn’t always enough to look at the numbers. A shop vac could have more than 6 peak horsepower yet still be too weak to pick up anything, so you have to look around and see what buyers think of the suction for the vac you’re interested in getting.
Hose and attachments
Different shop vacs come with different hoses and attachments. For woodworking you want to make sure the hose fits the dust port on your machinery, or at the very least is bigger than your machinery in order to create proper, powerful suction.
Another thing is the attachment kit. Most often you’ll get a range of attachments bundled with the vacuum, and you have to choose one with the attachments you know you’re going to need on a daily basis.
This is somewhat related to the attachments included with your shop vac. Although this buying guide is specifically for woodworking, you might want to consider getting one with additional attachments that come in handy for other tasks as well.
Since most shop vacs are able to suck away liquids as well as dry materials, you can indeed use them for many purposes around the house.
Let’s say you’re a finish carpenter, a joiner, or a cabinet-maker that often travels to customers to work on-site with various tasks. You would most likely want to bring your shop vac too, and therefore it has to be durable enough to be loaded into your trunk and out again multiple times every day.
Most shop vacs have a plastic tank, and this is actually great because plastic can bend a little and it won’t break or dent if you’re being a little rough with it.
Finally, there’s the portability. If you want to bring your shop vac to different work sites, you want it to be as lightweight and compact as possible without compromising performance.
There are a few compact and portable shop vacs on the market, and some of them are quite good. Make sure you pick one that fits your needs, and if you’re often on the road, pick one that suits this exact purpose.