Introduction: Win-Win-Win-Win: Enjoy Woodworking, Look Manly, Save Money, AND Continue to Enjoy Functioning Lungs!
Remember that old riddle of the farmer that needs to paddle his bag of grain, chicken and fox across the river? No one ever questions why this farmer is raising foxes (you know, that classic staple of barnyard livestock?). Not to mention the fact that he's simultaneously raising a bunch of things that naturally want to eat each other. This is the farmer who invented "vertical segregation." One assumes his farm failed spectacularly, and that this is a cautionary tale as much as anything. But I digress. Here's a much more convoluted version of that riddle:
I really enjoy woodworking. I also really like my beard (it fools all you suckers into thinking I have something resembling a chin and jawline). I also enjoy not being broke. And finally, I enjoy being able to oxygenate all the tissues in my body so that I can do stuff and continue not dying. And thus, our predicament: you participate in woodworking, which creates microscopic airborne dust that over time causes permanent damage to your lung tissue. So you get a reasonably-priced respirator. And then you realize that your thick, lustrous curtain of masculinity is betraying you, breaking the seal on your respirator and allowing dust in around the sides. And your pink, dainty lungs can't grow a beard to hide their fragility, so something must be done. So you research full-face respirators, only to find that they're an order of magnitude pricier than your current respirator.
Luckily, my instinct to be a cheapskate is strong enough to warrant a half-assed attempt at creating my own safety equipment instead of shelling out the big bucks, so here's this instructable.
**Let it be known that I am in no way qualified to manufacture or give advice on safety equipment, and that even though I feel like what follows is a workable solution, this instructable is just as likely to be submitted as future evidence to deny my family a life insurance payout when they find me stuffed full of inhaled sawdust, a "taxidermidaddy," if you will. So don't go out and use this method on my advice. In fact, you should probably forget you ever saw this. Close this browser window and hunt down a box set of The Wire and watch it instead. Seriously, why haven't you watched that yet? It's incredible! What was I talking about? Oh yeah, disclaimer, disclaimer, blah blah.**
Step 1: Materials Needed
Step 2: Test Fit Your Shower Cap/Respirator
Pull the shower cap over the bottom half of your face. Hook around both ears, across the bridge of your nose, and all the way under your chin. Then place the respirator on and hold it tightly against your face. Try to take a breath or two. If drawing a breath is very difficult or impossible, you should be good to go.
Step 3: Cut Breathing Hole in Shower Cap
This is the only marginally tricky part, since you need to get the breathing hole in the right place so that the plastic's not covering your mouth, but you also don't want it to be too big, as it may not get covered by the respirator.
I achieved this by simply sucking in the shower cap while test fitting, then holding my mouth closed as I doffed the respirator, then tightly grabbing the shower cap right where it exited my mouth, then cutting off what remained.
Step 4: Do Another Test Fitting
Again, put the respirator over the shower cap and try breathing normally. Wet the back of your hand and move it around the borders of the cap while you're breathing to check for air escaping. It's actually not a huge deal if some does escape, but air escaping would be a sign that some air could possibly get in, which would negate the purpose.
The reality is that this won't be totally air-tight, but by my estimation that shouldn't be a problem. It's going to be much, much easier for air to come in through the filter cartridges, since the shower cap should be acting as a kind of one way valve (i.e. when you inhale, it sucks to your face to form a tighter seal). The idea is that air will take the path of least resistance when you're inhaling, so none should be coming in around the sides.
Step 5: Success!
Now you can have your cake, eat it, and also avoid chronic pulmonary scarring too!