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Along with all the other social media platforms, YouTube is one I occasionally dip into, being particularly valuable for visual information when you want to see something explained. Axminster’s recent 30-second video on their new APF10 Evolution Powered Respirator is a good case in point.

As it turned out, the other day I happened to be watching a turning clip, where a professional turner had a camera mounted over the lathe and was batch producing a number of plates.

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The process in itself was interesting, but as the clip progressed, it gradually dawned on me that he was paying absolutely no attention, nothing, to even rudimentary H&S procedures.

No dust mask, no extraction, no face mask.

Dust, for a woodworker, ‘goes with the territory’  and it’s my own view that we tend to approach this menace from different directions, but however it’s tackled we owe it to ourselves to try and keep down our exposure to the barest minimum. One of the biggest generators of dust and chippings is when they get thrown into the surrounding air from a speedily revolving job on the lathe.

Whenever the spinny urge gets to me, I’m always togged out in a face shield and  FFP2 dust mask, which is effective, but not entirely comfortable. As I’ve been afflicted with poor eyesight since I were nowt but a lad, I’ve had to wear glasses and this is a critical factor wearing any sort of face shield or dust mask. The face shield is good, but cumbersome and the mask means that every few minutes, my glasses get steamed up so I need to go through the seemingly eternal rigmarole of taking them off for cleaning.

The Evolution* APF10 Powered Respirator promises to be a solution to these woes so I’m keen to give it a test drive to see how it performs. Essentially, it’s based on a hard ‘bump cap’ with a battery pack at the rear (which also provides a balancing effect) with the motor and twin filters on top of the peak, onto which is clipped a wraparound polycarbonate visor and close fitting skirt. The battery can be charged ‘in situ’ or in a separate dock and provides 8hrs of use, during which it will power the motor to provide 160 litres p/minute of filtered air.

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One has to tread a little cautiously when reciting information from the H&S executive as it becomes all too easy to be waylaid in a tangle of techno-babble. Put simply, the Evolution is a piece of Respiratory Protective Equipment, or RPE which conforms to EN12941 TH1P and the bump cap exceed the A1 variant of EN812.

Quoting from the same executive..

“Each RPE type and class is categorised by an assigned protection factor (APF). The APF is a number rating that indicates how much protection that RPE is capable of providing. For example, RPE with an APF of 10 will reduce the wearer’s exposure by at least a factor of 10 if used properly, or, to put it another way, the wearer will only breathe in one-tenth or less of the amount of substance present in the air.”

To put the Evolution in context, some years ago, I used a different type of powered respirator and came away distinctly unimpressed. It was heavy, awkward to use and generally uncomfortable, but the most irritating thing was the incessant, high-pitched whine from the motor which sounded like a demented mosquito on steroids! It was so annoying that I eventually had to sell the unit.

The Evolution is physically a smaller, more compact respirator, with only a slight learning curve to master how to fit and adjust it; moreover, when it’s switched on, the motor noise is quite loud, but it’s at a much lower pitch than my other machine making it far less troublesome.

Another crucial factor is that it fits easily over my glasses and I can still adjust their position inside the visor by waggling the arms a fraction outside the respirator.

One of the big issues with these sorts of respirators is the filters. The new Evolution has a pair of twist and lock, sealed filter cartridges which will remove most dust and spores, but they can’t be cleaned or allowed to become wet. However, each filter contains a pre-filter which can be replaced quite easily and if changed frequently, the life of the cartridge can be greatly extended.

The Evolution respirator will not only keep your lungs cleaner in the workshop but will also protect your head from unwarranted collisions with nasty, hard objects that had no business being in the way. In addition, the Evolution is so comfortable to wear, it’s even good when I’m doing a bit of typing!

Why not find out more and read the 5 star customer reviews we’ve received so far!

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* Evolution® is a registered trademark of JSP Ltd, used under licence by Axminster Tool Centre Ltd.

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  • Chris

    How’s this work with ear defenders? Any problems?

    • JiiHoo

      In my case the ear defenders when worn were touching the bump cap and that transmitted some of the noise from the fan to my ears. With different brand of ear defenders this might not happen or you might be able to put something soft where they touch each other.
      My solution was to switch to earplugs. I have a pair of molded earplugs due to my other hobbies and I found out they are also perfect for woodworking.

      I own the JSP Powercap Active IP and the Evolution APF10 seems to be the Axminster-branded version of it. I can heartily recommend it! It is comfortable to wear, does the task for which it is meant and the filters seem to last a long time as long as you clean the prefilters every now and then. I have a beard and this is the first dust mask that works for me (and would of course work equally well for anyone without a beard 🙂

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  • Michael Blackmore

    Please note that JSP do not advise this as suitable for machining MDF as it will not protect against the toxic vapours produced.

    • When MDF is worked by hand only dust particles are produced and in these instances the Evolution Powered Respirator will provide protection against solid particulates only.

      When MDF is machined, extra heat is generated which evaporates the resin used to bind the wood fibres and this can cause harmful vapours to be be released. In these instances we recommend using a respirator with a filter suitable for particles and vapours such as the 3M 7500.

      Health and Safety Executive provides recommendations on which filters should be used in relation to the hazardous substance you are working with. Please download this guide and see pages 43 and 45 for the recommended filter types.

      • Roberto Tyley

        Just to clarify, when you say ‘machined’, does that include using a home router or table saw? ie if I am routing MDF in the back yard, I should use a respirator like the 3M 7500?

        • Rob Stoakley

          MDF is nasty stuff whichever way you ‘slice’ it, but cutting by hand with say, a tenon saw or even cutting with a band saw will produce dust rather than toxic vapours as no heat is generated. Whenever a high speed cutter comes into contact with the material, the frictional heat generated will produce noxious vapours from the bonding resin, so the 3M 7500 would be a suitable respirator to use. That said, if the machining were done outdoors, in a well ventilated area, my guess is that the risk would be substantially reduced, in much the same way that it’s far better to use impact adhesive outside than apply the stuff indoors in the workshop over a workbench. To summarise, if you were machining outdoors, in a well ventilated area, the APF 10 ought to provide adequate protection.

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