DIY Workshop Dust Collector: In Dust We Don’t Trust.

I wasn’t pleased with the commercial options I saw for dust collection. Anything with some modicum of function was too expensive ($300+network piping), or too big (4″ piping + large vacuum motor, prudent enough but take up a lot of space) or both.

Problem:

I built a bed recently and I was ankle deep in dust. I wear a respirator, but still, it was pretty over the top and I’m still blowing sawdust out of crevices. I want to create a compact, economical dust collection system using as many traditional vacuum/shopvac parts as possible.

This was just the beginning.

Environment:

A one-car garage with the following devices that I want to have dust collected from:

  • A jobsite (read: portable) table saw with a 2.5″ vacuum output at the foot of the blade (bottom) and a 1.5″ output on the blade guard (top)
  • A miter saw with a 1.75″ vacuum output on the swingarm
  • A full-size drill press (no output)
  • various power tools with 1.5″ outputs
Table saw with the optional top attachment attached to the portable Shopvac.

Goals:

  • 2.5″ collection system will service all my dust emitters. (4″ is common, and larger than I can imagine needing.)
  • A vacuum system powerful enough that will not put dust back into the air (i.e. a shopvac without a bag/filter.)
  • A cyclonic collection system to reduce the frequent filling and changing of filter bags.
  • Salvage and reuse anything possible to make the system viable.

Solution:

That’s about a quarter of a 5 gallon Home depot bucket in a full 5 gallon home depot bucket. The vacuum is wall mounted behind it with nearly everything removed.

A few things didn’t seem prudent/possible to salvage, starting with the network piping/hoses:

  • Powertec had the best deal on hose – transparent so you can see if it’s working and if there is a clog: POWERTEC 70144 2-1/2-Inch x 20-Feet Flexible PVC Dust Collection Hose, Clear Color. The table saw gets directly connected to this tubing.
  • And on piping for the network – also transparent – very cool to watch the bits of DIY fly through: POWERTEC 70213 Dust Collection Network, 2-1/2-Inch
  • I was able to get a few 6-foot-ish lengths of 1.5″ hose (very typical vacuum cleaner hose) from the local thrift store for a few bucks to use as hookups for the miter saw.
  • I ended up getting a 2.5″ to 1.5″ adapter from Powertec as well: POWERTEC 70138 2-1/2-Inch to 1-1/2-Inch Reducer
  • And some of their hose clamps – I discovered these are nice, but any clamps will do: POWERTEC 70223 Keyed Right Hand Bridge Hose Clamp (5 Pack), 2-1/2″
  • I had some PVC piping and matching junctions, an old radiator hose, and a few other cylindrical objects and fittings laying around that I used as needed – i.e. the radiator hose happened to be a perfect way to join two 1.5″ plastic nozzles. The PVC junctions (1.5″ I think?) I was able to use as a reducer.
  • I tacked it up all over and put blast gates where I thought it made sense.
The vacuum is located off-camera right and the system ends with one final blast gate off-camera left.

Vacuum Motor:

  • I tried a leaf blower with a vacuum function that was rated at 14 amps, but the performance was not as good as I expected. Some have reported this works well, but this was not my experience. Also I would have had to engineer a way to keep dust from traveling through the catch bag; it was designed with leaves in mind, not fine shop dust particles.
  • I thought about getting a Harbor Freight Shopvac, as some have found them to be of suitable sucking power, but I had one more card up my sleeve before resorting to that.
  • I had an old 12 amp dirt devil vacuum cleaner that had been retired from the household recently due to the rollers having some broken parts preventing them from transitioning to carpet. I also had several bags for it. It seems to make better power than the leaf blower and was designed to keep fine dust in the bag – it’s meant to be used in your house after all. I removed the chassis, the roller motor, pretty much anything I could get the screws out of. I reclaimed the tubing and tools too to absorb into the system. I hung it with a screw in the corner along with the….

Cyclonic Collection Bucket:

The Dust Deputy is way overpriced. Actually, I don’t know if it’s overpriced – that’s a judgment – I know they’re making a big profit given the materials needed. A beautiful, effective, expensive, fancy, bucket is what it is. It’s also very tall. The concept of this is great though, what’s better is J. Phil Thein’s Cyclone Collection Lid design – known as a Thein Baffle (Credit J. Phil.)

  • I adapted the Thein Baffle concept to two 5 gallon Home Depot buckets reclaimed from brewing and put it right in front of the vacuum. It’s doing a great job – and this is what allows us to use a vacuum with such a low capacity (and a low resistance to sharp solid objects entering it’s delicate bag that is designed for pulling dust from your carpet!)

The Drill Press (and other items without a vacuum port:)

  • I built a little stand which the 1.5″ tubing end can be placed into and aimed at your work piece. This can be used with the auxiliary Shopvac too as it is also 1.5″ output in case you want to also run the dust collection system separately.


 

Result:

Success! The Thein baffle bucket is collecting 90% of the matter, keeping the vacuum bag fairly empty. Time will tell if the 12 amp vacuum motor is enough. I think I will get a Harbor Freight Shopvac or something similar if it doesn’t do the job in the long run. The only thing I needed to buy for this project that I didn’t already have was the network piping / hoses.

Total Cost: Approximately $120 with hose/adapters/everything.

More Photos:

To Do:

  • Remote switch for vacuum motor (or a load-based switch to automatically power it on!)
  • More power vacuum? With better fine dust filtering?