Now that the dog houses are built (pictured here), the shop is a mess! All the tools have been put away, but there are scraps of OSB, dimensional lumber, and styrofoam on the floor as well as TONS of sawdust. It’s readily apparent I need some sort of solution for dust collection. By itself, my granddad’s shop-vac just can’t keep up.
What’s all the hype about?
Although our grandparents didn’t concern themselves much with it beyond sawdust being a nuisance, we’ve learned in the past 30 years or so that the very fine particles of sawdust often inhaled in a shop can be detrimental to our health (check out a great article here). In addition, sawdust poses three other hazards:
- On the floor, it can be a slipping hazard. Especially in my shop – with the epoxy floor, even a little water gets pretty slick.
- When left and using metal-working tools (grinders, etc.), a spark can cause a fire
- When left on a tool, the moisture released from sawdust will eventually begin to rust the tool
Figuring out the prototype
** Notice: some links on the site are affiliate links. I may get a small commission from any purchases you make. Thank you for your support!
I’ve looked at the work done by a lot of people to improve their dust collection/separation. It breaks down into two main categories: cyclone separators and Thein baffles. There are plenty of retail/commercial options if you don’t want to build it yourself, but you know I like building things for myself. I’m going to talk here about separators for a small shop, not the big permanently-installed ones with pipe running around overhead.
These separators are pretty cool. These tall, narrow cones typically bolt on the top of a container which is often on casters, and both the collection hose and the vacuum hose plug into the top. While effective, these always seem to be top-heavy, especially if you pull your vacuum around by the hose like I do.
These work on the same principle as cyclone separators, but are typically shorter (half to 2/3 of the height of the cyclone). With the smaller cross-section, they don’t seem to suffer the same tipping-over problem as their tall, skinny counterparts while still having many of the same advantages.
What I need:
- A separator that I can power with my existing shop-vac. I have both a 1 1/4 inch hose and a 2 1/2 inch. I’m not opposed to buying another hose if it will keep things simple.
- Reasonably low-profile to help prevent tipping.
- Something I can put on a cart and roll around the shop
- Easy to switch to vacuum only for the occasional non-sawdust clean-up job
- Somewhere to store vacuum accessories so I can quit LOSING them
- A way to quiet down the noisy old shop-vac. Seriously. It’s louder than the radial arm saw.
- It’s got to be cheap to build in case it’s less effective than I want it to be.
After poking around in the corners of the internet, I’ve decided to try to duplicate the work done by D’Bug’s Life here. I’ll do it in a few phases:
- Duplicate D’Bug’s Life’s work with a small twist. I’m going to run a bead of caulk around under the lip of the separator section and let it cure there as a seal between the two buckets. I won’t put the buckets together until after it’s cured, so I don’t “glue” the buckets together. I’m also going to leave myself the ability to run the center vacuum tube all the way down to the baffle. There are a lot of Thein baffle separators that have the vacuum about 1/2 inch above the baffle instead of right at the lid.
- Phase 2: if phase 1 works, I’ll up-size the collection bucket to a garbage can with a hole in the lid (that’ll be another post).
- Phase 3: using some of the scraps from the shop, I’ll build an insulated box for the shop-vac to quiet it down (that’ll be yet another post).
So, parts and consumables I need for phase 1:
- Two 5-gallon buckets
- One lid for a 5-gallon bucket
- Two PVC 45-degree elbows (I’ll have to test-fit a 2 1/2-inch Shop-Vac hose in the 2-inch 45-degree PVC ; if it doesn’t fit, I’ll have to try the 2 1/2-inch fitting with a short section of pipe)
- One 24-inch piece of PVC to fit the 45-degree elbows
- Two slip unions same size as the elbows
- Three short sections of scrap dimensional lumber to stabilize the baffle below the lid
- PVC cement
If I can’t press-fit the Shop-Vac hose to a PVC pipe or fitting, I’ll get the appropriately-sized rubber flex connector with hose clamps. It’ll work great.
See you when I get back from my local hardware store!