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Tool Review: Trend Airshield Pro
By Jeff Fleisher

Click on any picture to see a larger version.

If you use a lathe or router you know that you can generate a lot of dust. I'm not talking about the dust that you see on the top of your tools or flying off of a router bit; I'm talking about the dust that you can't see, the dust that is floating in the air like the dust particles that you see when the sun is shining through a window. Dust that is 5 micron and less in size that you breathe in and can clog your lungs over time. A great defense against this type of dust is the Trend Airshield Pro.

There are many dust mask shapes and sizes on the market but a special class of masks are called Powered Air Purifying Respirators (PAPR). A PAPR uses a fan to pass dust filled air through a HEPA filter, which removes the dust and supplies purified air to a facepiece. In addition to purified air coming into the mask, the positive pressure inside the mask helps to keep contaminated air out. The Trend Airshield is a PAPR-type face shield.

The Trend Airshield is a full-face shield which protects your face, eyes and lungs. It is a little intimidating when you first take it out of the box because of its size and weight. I think everyone's reaction to first seeing it is - “How am I going to wear that on my head”! That was my initial reaction but I was pleasantly surprised how quickly I adapted to wearing it.

The literature states that the Airshield's built-in fan circulates filtered air to protect you from dust particles down to 0.6 microns at a 98% efficiency rate. The literature also states that the Airshield Pro meets ANSI Z87+ standards for eye-protection. The nickel metal hydride battery provides up to eight hours of operation on a full charge. I did not test this but after about two hours of use the fan was still going strong and an air flow indicator that comes with the mask still showed a strong airflow.

The on-off switch is located on the back of the mask along with the charging port. The motor is located in the back of the Airshield to help balance it and to move any vibrations away from your forehead and eyes.

Looking from the underside you can see the soft material that goes around your neck and under your chin to make a comfortable seal which helps to keep the dust out. You can also see the headband which has a ratchet suspension and knob which you press in and rotate to tighten or loosen. It took me awhile to get the headband into a comfortable position. The Airshield weighs approximately 2.2 pounds and when I had the headband completely around my forehead I had to really tighten it to keep it in place. This was a little too uncomfortable for me. I was able to lift it slightly higher, like when you push a baseball cap slightly up on your forehead, and it became much more comfortable.

The Airshield comes with a nice set of instructions on how to use it and how to monitor the filters. I recommend you read the instructions because proper use of the filters is key to keeping the air clean and flowing correctly.

It also comes with an airflow indicator/tester to "measure" the airflow.

The tester is a small plastic tube with a red ball on the inside. You place this over the air supply holes in the front-top of the mask and turn it on. The air pressure will push the ball up and the higher it goes the more airflow. If the ball is not moving up then that is an indication of either clogged filters or a battery in need of a charge.

The first picture is with the fan off and the ball at the bottom of the tester. The picture below shows the ball with the fan on and about two-thirds of the way up the plastic tube. It only goes as high as the small holes in the tube...not all the way to the top. This was after about two hours of constant "on time" but using a battery right out of the box.

Finally, the Airshield comes with a replaceable visor overlay which keeps the view clear and there are optional clip-on hearing protectors available. I did not have the ear protectors to evaluate.

I was pleasantly surprised with the fit and comfort of the unit. I took a couple of "selfies" to give you an idea of what it looks like when worn.

As you can see, I have a beard (which unfortunately is turning gray!) and the wrap-around material made a nice seal. The helmet portion is well balanced and although I knew I had this weight on the top of my head, it was not sliding around due to any imbalance.

I thought the face-piece could have extended down a little further but that may be due to the fact that I had it riding a little higher on my forehead. When the fan is on it is quiet and there is a nice refreshing cool "breeze" on your face. I thought that over time this would become distracting but in fact it was nice because it keeps you cool and also helps to keep the mask from fogging.

Since the Airshield was new to me I was very aware I was wearing it but that soon faded. Once I started turning I had periods where I was focused on the lathe and didn't realize I was wearing the Airshield. I did have to take a break after about 45 minutes. I was not hot but I started to feel the weight of the helmet and wanted to take it off for a few minutes.

It just so happens that my company, Shenandoah Tool Works, is working on an order from Highland Woodworking for some birdcage awls with padauk handles. Well, padauk creates a very fine, red dust when turned. It is not at all unusual to have some fine red powder in my nose after turning this wood but I did not have any of that after wearing the Airshield. I normally have a dust collector mounted near my lathe while sanding but I turned it off for this test just to see if the Airshield would pickup those dust particles. Here is a picture of the filter showing that it indeed captured those dust particles.

As I mentioned earlier, I think everyone is concerned about the size of the Trend Airshield at first glance. That was my initial reaction but I believe the folks at Trend have done the ergonomics correctly to maximize comfort and reduce any noise and vibrations. I was pleased with the performance and am sure the mask would provide added safety as well.

Click here to find out more and purchase your own Trend Airshield Pro from Highland Woodworking.

Jeffrey Fleisher has been a woodworker for approximately 20 years and a professional woodworker for the past 6 years. He is the president of his local woodturning club, the Woodturners of the Virginias and past president of the Northern Virginia Carvers. You can see some of the furniture he has made at www.jeffswooddesigns.com. He can be reached by email at furnmkr@gmail.com

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