Woodworkers have different needs to those who just want to suck up muck and spills. A woodworkers shop vac will need to have fine dust filtration or a dust deputy inline.
Alternative shop vacs
There are some very good machines that are good for woodworkers but some are priced a bit on the high side.
I have put together a few shop vac options starting with the lowest priced shop vac that has synchronisation. This list is based on mine or fellow woodworker experience with these tools as we believe in offering genuine information. If I have listed a machine that I have not had experience with personally I will tell you. The affiliate links you can see are for Amazon and we receive a humble commission for anyone who supports our efforts and purchases their new tool via those links.
Festool 574938 CT 48 E HEPA Dust Extractor
Festool 574938 CT 48 E HEPA has received a lot of great reviews online and like a lot of the tools from Festool the commonly agreed analysis is ‘You get what you pay for’! Yes pretty much anything made by Festool is not going to be cheap but I have to admit the quality is great.
Festool 574837 Ct Midi I Hepa Bluetooth Dust Extractor
CT Midi is the mid-size shop vac and is the most popular in my opinion. A highly capable vac with a 130 cfm that are super quite with sound levels starting at 62 db. These Festool Shop vacs are excellent and have superb durability so I am told. I don’t own this machine but another Festool Domino user friend of mine swears by it and particularly like the adjustable vacuum. If he had anything he would say is that he wishes he had the Bluetooth model.
This Festool Vac is a great machine but could be considered a little underpowered for sanding or routing considering to some of the online reviews. One great feature of this portable shop vac is the Bluetooth controller.
Makita VC4710 12-Gallon Wet/Dry Vacuum
This Vac has been in my possession for a few years now it is a brute. In comparison I find this Makita VC4710 a better machine than the Festool although not as refined. It has better suction and the hose is more flexible which is a great asset.
The one thing I would say is that if you are a die hard Makita fan then this machine is actually a rebranded Nilfisk. This should not put you off as Nilfisk are very good vacs.
Makita VC471 shop vac VS the Festool shop vac
If you need a shop vac and do not have the money then the Makita / Nilfisk is a great option as it is a powerful and straight forward quality product. The negative would be the profile of the Makita as it is tall although the capacity is large whereas the Festool has a lower stature.
Makita VC4210L 11 Gallon Wet/Dry HEPA Filter Dust Extractor/Vacuum
Another rebranded Nilfisk which can be found under the Flex name with red and black livery. I know it sounds that I am being critical but Nilfix is a vac designer and builder of industrial vacs of great breeding.
Makita VC4210L VS Festool Shop Vac
This machine is a little more like the Festool offerings with it’s lower profile. The Festool is a nicer design with some cool features but if you want a durable tool without the Festool cost then the Makita VC4210 is a good choice
My father owned this machine before he died and it worked well for him but on inheriting this machine I was oddly thankful. He used it for fine dust collection when diamond cutting fibreglass. I have to admit that if I had a choice I would buy the Makita branded Nilfisks as they are in my opinion a simpler yet sturdier tool. Another thing I felt was unforgivable was the two small plastic casters, unlike the Makita which has strong metal casters. The AFC auto clean filter was effective yet noisy.
Bosch VAC090AH VS the Festool equivalent
Personally I prefer the Festool but if the cost of Festool vacs is too rich for you then buy the Fein or the Makita as I believe they are better than the Bosch.
Bosch 14 Gallon Dust Extractor with Auto Filter Clean and HEPA Filter VAC140AH
Just a larger capacity version of the 9-gallon model but the Bosch 14 Gallon VAC140AH version does have metal casters.
Bosch VAC140AH VS the Festool equivalent
The same verdict to the 9-gallon version Personally I prefer the Festool but if the cost of Festool vacs is too rich for you then buy the Fein or the Makita as I believe they are better than the Bosch.
FEIN Turbo II X Vacuum Cleaner, Wet/Dry, 9.3 Gallon, 1380W
These Fein tools are on par with the Nilfisk clones but are a little cheaper. A good solid tool that should last a long time. Filters are similar to Nilfisk. Some have said the hose is poor quality but frankly I have not had a problem with any Fein vac hose. Fein vacs have an auto-clean version like the Bosch but you cannot disable it, be warned AFC is noisy.
FEIN Turbo II X VS the Festool
Almost half the price of the Festool of equivalent specification. We are using Festool as our Control Product as they have set the bar very high.
Best Value to Performance Shop Vac with Power Tool Synchronisation
This little shop vac is big in stature and should not be underestimated. I have this orange shop vac in my sucking arsenal and ikt is brilliant good filtration without the fuss of the Festool. The cheapest tool here and by no means the worse. The hose and tools are well made and solid and mine is still going strong after lots of dry concrete cutting and it performed surprisingly well. A really handy vac for site work or in the shop.
Fein VS the Festool
The Festool is a well-refined shop vac but the Fein is better value if we consider durability and performance. Fein shop vacs are great vacs for portable electric tools.