Makita L Class Dust Extractor (446L)

The 446L has just about all the features you'd want in a high performance extractor for job site use.

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Makita L Class Dust Extractor (446L)



For job site use, I'm particularly interested in tools that increase my efficiency and productivity, that save me time and money, and that are durable and reliable.

When it comes to dust extractors I look for models that are 
light enough to carry from truck to work site, and up and down flights of stairs. They need to have sufficient power to extract most of the dust at source, so that fine dust isn't dispersed throughout the finished rooms of a client's house or office, and so that clean-up time is minimized. Additionally, I want a long power cord, low noise levels, power tool activation, quick and easy dust bag replacement, and, of course, ample storage capacity.

While no single tool is ever likely to be perfect for every user, I've found that the Makita 446L provides just about everything I want in a high performance extractor for job site use.
 
APPEARANCE/SIZE
 

The 446L is fairly conventional in design, with two separate sections: the motor and filter are housed together in the top compartment while the base of the extractor serves as the waste container. In a design like this the filter hangs below the motor housing and is suspended in the middle of the waste container. The dust bag fits around the filter carrier.

The body of the 446L is made of polycarbonate - a thermoplastic polymer that is super durable, scratch resistant, and, of course, waterproof. It can take a lot of abuse without cracking, and unlike metal body vacuums, it won't rust of dent.

I found the 446L to be one of the more compact units on the market. It measures approximately 15" wide and long, and 22" high. At just under 27 pounds it's also very light. This makes it a practical size for transporting to and from a work site. It's also a good size for use in a small workshop where space is at a premium.

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Lip in top compartment mates with gasket in bottom compartment for a tight seal

Dust and moisture are highly unlikely to seep in between the top and bottom compartments. Along the top compartment is a lip and channel, against which a rubber gasket in the bottom compartment fits. The result is an effective air tight seal.


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Unobtrusive handles flush to the sides

Two side latches hold the top compartment tightly onto the waste container, yet are quick to flip open. I like that they're streamlined, so aren't likely to mar walls or cabinetry as you move the extractor about the work site.
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Convenient carry handle/cord hook
 
There is a large, easy to grip carry handle on the top of the extractor, which has a cord hook on the end, making it handy to wind up and store that lovely 25' power cord. And when it comes to power cords, longer is definitely better.

The flat top surrounding the handle isn't overly large, but it does make a convenient landing place for a random orbital sander. What the 446L does lack is hose storage. When I need to transport the extractor I simply coil the hose, and then attach it to the handle with a bungee cord. Works great.
 
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Swivel front wheels for manoeuvrability; large rear wheels for stability
 
On the front of the 446L are two small wheels that rotate a full 360-degrees, and on the back two large in-line wheels. This arrangement makes the extractor easy to manoeuvre over bumpy terrain or extension cords on a work site or in the shop, and adds a lot of stability to the extractor.

The wheels aren't lockable - a feature that I don't paraticularly miss on a work site. However, when used in the shop lockable wheels would be practical.
 
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Tab for dust wand
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Dust wand neatly stored
There are two small tabs at the back of the extractor that enable you to suspend the wand (or pipes) and floor brush from the optional nozzle set (#P70312, $99). This docking arrangement works well for storing the wand and brush. However, I found that it wasn't overly stable when moving the extractor around the work site, particularly over obstacles. The top part of the wand tends to flop around too much.
 
But, the optional nozzle set is very uselful to have on hand. It's made to withstand heavy duty job site use. The wands are steel, rather than plastic, and the floor brush has a convenient foot switch that lets you raise or lower the sweeper on the bottom of the brush, depending on whether you're vacuuming smooth or coarse surfaces.

ANTI-STATIC HOSES
 
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I don't think I'd ever want to go back to a standard hose. For any task that generates a lot of fine dust - sanding in particular - the flow of dust through the hose generates static electricity, which has to be discharged somewhere. Touch the hose and you can get a nasty shock - not lethal, but startling. The anti-static hose on the 446L conducts static electricity through the extractor to the ground at the receptacle.
 
The 446L comes with a 1" (inside diameter) x 11-1/2' anti-static hose, which is good for fine dust, the kind you get from sanding drywall or wood. I found the hose to be fairly durable, and about as flexible as other hoses I've used. If you step on the hose it has a tendency to deform slightly - though not enough to affect the dust flow. However, repeatedly crushing the hose might affect it's long-term integrity.

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Swiveling push and pull connector
 
The extractor end of the hose has a 'push and pull' style of connector with an integrated swivel coupling that allows the hose to rotate 360-degrees. The swivel feature makes the hose a lot easier to use, and practically eliminates kinking.

Moderate hand pressure is all it takes to securely attach the connector to the extractor. A slightly harder pull with a twisting motion easily removes the coupling from the extractor.

Connectors can be easily replaced

The tool end of the hose has a flared press-fit connector that attaches to power tools with a 1-3/8" to 1-1/2" port. l like this style, as it's super quick to attach and holds securely. If the connector becomes damaged and you need to replace it, or you want to exchange it with one of the optional connectors that Makita sells, all you need to do is unscrew the connector from the hose.

I generally use the smaller diameter hose, but i
f you intend to use the extractor for larger debris, for example connected to a router table, band saw, or mitre saw, then the larger diameter 9-1/2' long anti-static hose (P70362, $114.99), which has a 1-1/2" inside diameter (1-3/4" o.d), is a better choice.
 
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Adapters extend the functionality of the larger diameter hose
 
Makita has several optional adapters that enable easy connection of the larger diameter hose to all their power tools, as well as to bandsaws, router tables and the like. These adapters also fit a variety of power tools from other manufacturers.
 
FILTER
 
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L-class filter

The 446L comes with an L-class PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) fleece filter that has a high, 1.0 micron, filtration rate and an efficiency rating of 99.97%, making it suitable for for wood and drywall dust. The L-class designation means that this filter is suitable for use in environments with a maximum exposure of 1 milligram of dust per cubic meter. And, because the filter is washable, it provides a long service life.

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Filter choices: PET fleece, HEPA, Wire mesh

If you use the 446L with liquids or wet materials, then you'll need to purchase the optional metal wire mesh filter screen (P-80002, $73). Don't leave the PET fleece filter installed when extracting wet material or liquids, or the pleats will gum up with crap and air flow will be quickly compromised.
 
There is also an optional washable HEPA filter (T-01806, $179) that captures particulate material down to 0.3 micron and has an efficiency rating of 99.99%. Depending on the work site, for example, if you're working in a finished home, or in a small enclosed area with no air circulation, you might want to switch out the PET fleece filter for a HEPA filter.
 
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Dust that builds up on the filter reduces its efficiency, and reduces suction performance. Makita's semi-automatic 'Push & Clean' system enables you to quickly clean the filter, without having to remove it from the extractor. To use it you simply block off the intake end of the hose with your hand, or by pressing the hose against a pant leg, and then push the filter cleaning button on the top of the extractor a couple of times. This causes the direction of air flow to reverse into the extractor, effectively blowing the dust off the filter. I found it pretty easy to get into the habit of cleaning the filter periodically when using the extractor, particularly as it only takes 10 to 15 seconds.
 
DUST BAGS
 
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Paper bags for dry material

The 446L uses standard paper bags for material storage. They run about $45 for a set of 5, which makes them comparable in cost to bags on other models. You can use these bags for wood chips, drywall or just about any dry material.

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Flexible rubber seal and lock-out tab keep dust in the bag

What's nice about these bags is that they have a rubber seal around the opening, that fits snugly over the inlet pipe in the bottom compartment. It does an excellent job of preventing dust from seeping out of the bag. Installing the bag is straightforward. Once the bag is full, there is a 'lock-out' tab that you pull to close the mouth of the bag. You can then dispose of the bag without any of the dust escaping into the air. The whole system is both effective and practical. 

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Filled dust bag

The waste container itself is rated at 7 gallons, however the dust bag doesn't hold a full 7 gallons. You'll find this common to all extractors that have the filter extendng into the container. You can expect to extact about four gallons of dust per bag.

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Contents of dust bag emptied into container

In the photo above you can see just how much dust a typical dust bag can hold. 

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You don't have to use a dust bag,but...
 
Of course, there are no steadfast rules that say you absolutely have to use a dust bag - and I know of a number of woodworkers who don't. The problem, as you can see above, is that the filter gets completely clogged with debris, and the 'Push & Clean' system won't be any help keeping the filter clean. Cleaning the filter and emptying the container present their own problems. 

For wet materials you have two choices. Since you'll be removing the PET fleece filter (and installing the wire mesh filter), you can extract right into the waster container. The problem with this is that you have to then dispose of the crap in the container, and deal with cleaning the container. The better option is to install a plastic bag (P-70297, $57/5-pack), which makes disposal much more convenient, and considerably less messy.

MOTOR/POWER CONTROL

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Clean, uncluttered control panel

The 15-amp motor on the 446L delivers 113 cubic feet of air per minute, and has a water lift of 93". This is comparable to what you'll find on other high performance extractors. The higher the air flow the better the extractor will be at moving lighter weight dust. Likewise, you want a high water lift value, which describes the amount of suction the extractor can develop - having a lot of suction is especially important for moving larger wood chips.

There is only one switch, which turns the extractor on and off, and controls the level of suction. There is also a power tool activation outlet to the left of the switch. You can plug just about any hand power tool into the outlet. With the control switch in the 'auto' setting, any time you activate your power tool the 446L starts up automatically. Of course, you can still turn the extractor on and off manually. While this might have been a novel feature only a few years ago, the power tool activation feature is now found on quite a few high end extractors. And rightly so - it's super convenient. I'd never buy an extractor that lacks this feature.

You can control the level of suction by rotating the control switch. I normally leave the switch at it's maximum setting. Occasionally I'll tweak the setting when using a random orbital sander, as too much suction can sometimes pull the sander down too tightly against the stock.

PERFORMANCE

I think of the 446L as the Mighty Mouse of dust extractors. It has sufficient power to extract most of the dust at source for the majority of tools I use it with. And, it does so quietly. At around 60 decibles, It has to be one of the quietest units I've used. The filtration system is very efficient, and the dust bags offer good storage capacity. The long power cord means that I can usually dispense with extension cords. While the dust hose could be longer, it is anti-static - a feature, along with power tool activation, I won't do without. Plus, it's compact design and light weight mean that I can move it around the work site without getting a hernia.

While I found the 446L outstanding for use on a job site, it also makes a good extractor for use in a small shop. My only caveat is that if you intent to use it with machines that produce a lot of wood chips, as opposed to fine dust, be prepared to go through a lot of dust bags. This isn't unque to the 446L - it's common to all extractors with filters that extend into the waste container. The alternative is to purchase an Oneida Dust Deputy to use with with the 446L. The Dust Deputy separates out the larger dust chips into a secondary waste container that can be easily disposed of. 

You'll see a lot of Makita brand tools on renovation and construction sites, and with good reason. They live up to their reputation of durability and performance, and deliver an excellent return on investment. If you're considering a compact extractor for the work site then you won't go wrong with the Makita 446L.
 
SPECIFICATIONS:
 
ManufacturerMakita
Model446L
Amps15
CFM113
Water Lift93"
Tank Capacity7 gal
FilterPET fleece, 1 micron
Dust BagPaper
Delay Shut-OffNo
Power Tool ActivationYes
Variable Suction ControlYes
Noise Level59 dB (min)
Hose1" (I.D.) x 11-1/2' anti-static
Power Cord25'
Weight26.8 lbs
Dimensions15.5" L x 15" W x 22.5" H
SourceHungary
Warranty1 yr
Price$499
Where to BuyDealer Locator
IncludesPaper Filter Bag (P-70194), Plastic Disposal Bag (P-70297), PET Fleece Filter (P-70219), 1" x 11-1/2' Anti-Static Suction Hose (P-70487)
Carl Duguay, August 2013

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