Instructables

Cyclonic Dirt Separator Using Off the Shelf Parts

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Picture of Cyclonic Dirt Separator Using Off the Shelf Parts

Whether or not I need something is beside the point. The question is 'Do I want it?'
While in the process or setting up my workshop, I read quite a bit about the Cyclonic Dirt Separator - a device that allows the heavier particles of debris, such as wood shavings or sawdust, to settle to the bottom of a container, while the finer particles go into your vacuum's filter.
I had to have one.
But I didn't particularly want to spend a load of money or fabricate individual pieces. So this Instructable was born, using (almost all) store-bought parts.


 

 
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Step 1: First - A Container

Picture of First - A Container
The container was no big deal - I merely used a couple of five gallon buckets I already had. If I had to buy them, they would have cost about $5 or $6. I did have to buy the two lids, at a mere $1.25 each.

Step 2: The Input

Picture of The Input
The cyclonic action begins with the dust being sucked in the top container through a hose connected to the sice of the container, giving it a spin. I already had the rubber boot from a whole house vac, but I wouldn't recommend buying one for several hundered dollars and throwing everything away but the boot. Just select a piece of PVC pipe your vacuum hose will fit into or around and cut the end on a 45 degree angle.
Using the pipe as a guide, trace an oval outline on the bucket that the pipe will slide tightly into. Drill a hole through the bucket and pipe and insert a screw of the minimum length necessary to connect the two together (with the pipe slid inside.) Use silicone caulk to seal the joint.
RadioFreeRich7 months ago

Very nice, simple design! Where did you find the black, hose fitting mounted to the side of the bucket...that's an especially nice detail.

RangerJ (author)  RadioFreeRich6 months ago

Rich:

I got the fitting off of a whole house vac that had kicked the bucket. It does make it a lot nicer. I haven't found any where to get a similar fitting, sorry to say.

"I already had the rubber boot from a whole house vac, but I wouldn't recommend buying one for several hundered dollars and throwing everything away but the boot. Just select a piece of PVC pipe your vacuum hose will fit into or around and cut the end on a 45 degree angle."

whitewb181 year ago
A cyclonic separator is a huge improvement for any shopvac, and it really saves the filter and prolongs it's life. One thing I added to mine is on the bottom bucket, I cut a slot app. 2" wide and from app. 4" up from the bottom to app. 6" from the top, and added a clear plastic window to the inside, using # 10-32 round head screws with flat washers. I also sealed the area where the clear plastic and bucket meet with clear RTV. You then can keep an eye on the level of debris and dump it before it gets too high. You are to me complimented on what you built, and I hope to see more of your suggestions and projects. Good job.
thanks for posting this. I like it. A lot. See if I can go pickin for some parts.....
heelercjwww2 years ago
I wonder if adding an elbow to the input side pointed downwards to put more distance between the input and the suction. Maybe giving gravity more of a chance to work on the debris.
The inlet isn't aimed at the outlet, it's aimed into a spiral to create a vortex.
RangerJ (author)  heelercjwww2 years ago
It wouldn't hurt to try, but it works pretty well as it is. Unlike some of these devices I have seen the top (to the vac) side doesn't have a pipe running very far into the top bucket, so there is some separation anyway.
n0ukf2 years ago
we took a second shop-vac that had a burnt out motor and converted the top to use the same way as this. Less work, and it had casters on it
cool thing about this design though is you could use the upper section and adapt larger containers for the bottom also you could use it both as a wet dry vac without having to change the actual vacuum over to wet dry. this is AWESOME and i do believe i will make one soon as i love to make stuff and always have a large mess.
RangerJ (author)  FALLEN EAGLE2 years ago
Thanks. I think it would be better to have a larger bottom drum. I mainly wanted to see if the off the shelf components would work, and they do.
heathbar642 years ago
Nice and simple. I like it.
From what I've seen in other cyclone separators, I think the suction pipe step 3 should extend down into the bucket several inches.
I'm thinking that this might work great for the new lead paint requirements the epa has place on remodelers. We now have to clean everything up with a hepa vac. the problem is that these things don't have much volume for debris as they are mostly focused on the fine dust. so with something like this, you could capture all the construction debris and without filling up the expensive hepa filter.
ironsmiter2 years ago
mix a small batch of concrete or plaster in the bottom bucket.
let cure.
Instant fix to the low weight problem, without making it unmovable
(10-15 lb free-weight plate should work ok too.

An unintended benefit to this design is, it makes your standard shopvac into a high-class wet/dry shopvac!
good idea.

I'd probably just get a small import brake drum from the scrapyard pile, but even some round smooth rocks would work.
RangerJ (author)  ironsmiter2 years ago
That's a good idea. I probably have an odd weight I could use. I had also thought of doubling up on a triangle or square of particle board and using wheels on it.

You are right about the wet/dry benefit. I haven't tried it, but I would think it would keep your shop vac dry while sucking up spills.

Thanks.
rimar20002 years ago
Interesting. Can you estimate a percent of solid that go into the filter?

A device as this would be a good thing to my wood lathe. I did a homemade design, it was almost a complete failure: the container collapsed, the tubes rang horrifying, and then I abandon the project.
RangerJ (author)  rimar20002 years ago
I would say perhaps 90 percent of the heavier material winds up in the bottom bucket, maybe more. I haven't tried it with a lathe, but I would guess the majority of it wouldn't make it to the vac. Same with the shavings from a planer. Those would be ideal situations for using a larger bottom container.
Thanks, you've convinced me. Soon I will have "my" workshop, today I work in the back balcony. Then I will make one od these contraptions.
wilgubeast2 years ago
This is absolutely awesome. Wish I had one of these when I was vacuuming out our sump. Might be nice to just toss the bottom bucket if you vacuum up something nasty enough.

(Though I know that almost nobody who would do this would ever throw a five gallon bucket away.)