Introduction: DIY Dust/Wood Chip Collector

Picture of DIY Dust/Wood Chip Collector

This is a super easy way to build a dust/wood chip collector for your shop. Basically, this uses two buckets, two feet of PVC, some clamps, and some scraps laying around in most garages or basements. Very minimal cutting is required to create the cyclone effect.

I've been surprised at just how well this works. It can greatly extend the life of your Shop Vac motor and at the same time keep the suction consistent rather than declining as the Shop Vac filter clogs.

The video shows the full build.

For mobile devices - here is the link to the video:

After the unit was built I made a small cart to hold the vac and collector. It has been an awesome addition to my small shop.

Thanks for taking a look.


ToolboxGuy (author)2014-11-18

Clamping seems to be rather inefficient. Here is a possible improvement:

We all know how these buckets stack well inside one another, just try pulling one out of another when trying to buy one....

Cut a 3rd bucket in half (horizontally!), using the top 1/2 of the bucket as an extension to the top bucket. (Turn the other half into a neat bowl for parts bin.) Clean up the outer edges along the cut with a box knife and carve it a bit inward as you go. Next, PVC(or ABS?) glue that "ring" onto the top bucket, lip to lip, and add some other method to strengthen the overall connection (a few "C" shaped blocks of plastic perhaps?) Now when you connect, you simply insert the top "into" the bottom, removing the need to use any gaskets or clamps. The vacuum pressure should hold them together quite well. I'd also add two "feet" onto the bottom bucket - to step on when pulling the top back off of the bottom. Simple angle brackets should be more than sufficient. Grips/handles on the top bucket would also be helpful.

stangtime (author)ToolboxGuy2014-11-18

Another good suggestion. Thanks. Using the clamps was just very quick and simple. The seal is rather tight and plenty good for my purposes.

another option is the gamma lids You could glue the top bucket to the lid portion and cut out the middle. These lids seal really well.

This is exactly what I did to make mine. I just need to re-glue and seal the bottom of the cyclone bucket to the screw off lid... I didn't do a great job on the first attempt. Other than that, it works great.

Sean_Anderson (author)2016-03-01

Could someone confirm my thinking that the very basic principals for these is what I have sketched up? A feed hose from the top of the cylinder/cone connects to a hoover (or similar) with a feed on the side connected to the power tool(s). Presumably, the feed to the hoover need to extend into the cone far enough to limit the amount of dirt going straight up it ... and the feed from the power tool is best positioned at an angle to 'encourage' spin .... with everything mounted on top of a 'bin' letting gravity take care of dust removal.

Does that sound about right?

No sooner do I ask the question and I find a great picture which really shows how it works.

chrisbaker (author)2015-12-30

Have you tried this with drywall sanding dust?

jasonlc13 (author)2015-11-04

I think I posted an identical comment in the wrong place...sorry tomx63!

I built this as exact to yours as I possibly could. From the 5 gallon buckets from lowes, to the seal, clamps, same size fittings and PVC, everything. It worked great for about 2 min. then both buckets collapsed!! Any Ideas whats going on? How to fix this?

tomx63 (author)jasonlc132015-12-21

Really? The bucket collapsed? How powerful of a vac is it? I don't notice mine being pulled from the sides even a little. And the vac has lost very little suction with the dust collector sitting in front of it.

palandaeb (author)jasonlc132015-12-03

I was using a few of these blue Lowes buckets with my bucket topper shop vac when I plugged the filter and the increased suction collapsed the bucket. I went on to the next bucket and no problems, went back to the first (which I had collapsed) and it immediately collapsed again. I think my newly collapsed bucket is good for being a bucket only and not a bucket and shop vac catcher. My thoughts.

stangtime (author)jasonlc132015-11-04

Not sure...hmmmmm. Mine has worked perfectly with somewhat heavy use. No collapsing or even bending in. Did you use the blue buckets? I think the white ones of the same size were thinner.

tomx63 (author)2015-10-30

Really great instructable! thanks for posting. cheap
solution for the bucket tipping issue, assuming you've not already addressed
it. Buy a third bucket and fill a 3rd of it with something weighted like crushed rock, pea gravel. anything that will provide a relatively
flat bottom, and set the dust collector in that to stabilize it.

pddonovan2011 (author)2015-03-10

I am able to procure 55 gallon steel drums where I work. I built something exactly like this and with 6" ducting, remounted the vacuum head directly to the top of the drum to which I welded another drum below. This is the best dust separator I have ever had, it replaced the industrial unit I bought and grew sick and tired of constantly emptying/cleaning. The dust bag, over the air filter, stays clean and my work area is always clean. This the best thing anyone can build for their wood shop. This is a fantastic Instructable!!

stangtime (author)pddonovan20112015-03-10

Thank you for your time and comments. This little dust collector has been extremely helpful in my small shop and should have been built years ago.

natedgreat (author)2015-02-21

What a great and easy tutorial! My only question is I know you used 2 inch PVC pipe and coupling but what size is in between the 90 degree elbow and the shop vac's attachment?
Also, I was watching this and my wife commented how relaxing and nice the music was...then we saw it was you! Very nice indeed!

stangtime (author)natedgreat2015-02-22

Thank you for your comments. The connector pipe between the 90 degree elbow is just another small section of 2" pipe. I put a circle or two of duct tape to hold it a slight bit tighter. The black part at the Shop Vac is just part of the Shop Vac attachment. I'll attach some pictures that might help.

natedgreat (author)stangtime2015-02-22

Perfect! Thank you so much for the reply/pictures! Looking forward to doing this! Thanks again!

hhnewman (author)2014-12-04

a really practical, simple project. Thanks!

skab (author)2014-11-24

I'm thinking of making a leaf vac using this setup! I came across an old electric weed-eater that I'm thinking of putting in the bottom of the bucket.

jimdkc (author)2014-11-22

Firehouse Subs sells their red 5-gallon pickle buckets for $2.00 each with the proceeds going to the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation. My Dust/Chip collector is going to be red!

adam.brischke (author)2014-11-17

okay, is it just me or did he just make a vacuum extension? cut out the middle man and just hook up your vacuum directly to the tool being used?

The point -is- to create a middleman. The fine particulates in sanding/routing/grinding destroys shopvacs - this just extended the life of his by a decade. Even modern filters don't effectively prevent the particulates from entering the motor assembly, so this creates a 'settling zone' for the material (check near the end of the video where his shopvac is nearly new/clean inside after cleaning up the pile)

stangtime (author)adam.brischke2014-11-17

The reason people use dust and chip collectors is that when doing woodworking Shop Vac filters clog extremely fast. If you're doing heavy sanding it can clog in 10 minutes and then the suction falls off drastically. Using a bag in the Shop Vac can help but then new bags need to be replaced regularly at more cost. An additional problem with clogging filters is that the motor in the vac burns out much sooner. A dust collector keeps the vac filter clear, extends the life of the vac tremendously, saves you from having to replace bags, and makes it very easy to take out and throw away the chips and dust.

Cueball21 (author)stangtime2014-11-18

Using a shop vac alone also allows a great deal of fine dust particles to be blown outside the vac. This set up using centrifugal force and the filter on the vacuum inlet solves that problem.

I've seen dozens of cyclone chip collector designs and how-to's. None were as simple and elegant as this. Others might be more effective for specific jobs, but this one seems perfect for the average home woodshop.

stangtime (author)Cueball212014-11-18

Many thanks. I've been using it for a while now and it has worked extremely well.

djjm (author)adam.brischke2014-11-18

Yes. But with a purpose. Don't comment if you are just trying to be condescending. Keep it positive.

This type of dust collector uses cyclonic action and centrifugal force to separate most of the particles before they reach the filters. Fine sawdust, specially from sanding, will clog the filters very quickly. This contraption helps prevent that.

JeffS2 (author)2014-11-18

I really like your idea and am going to use it. Great idea for the preservation of the motor/filter. After watching your video I determined that I would use a garbage can (RUBBERMAID BRUTE 32GAL $27 @ home depot) and put the ports in the lid? It will be more stable and not fall over and offer greater storage. You could even put a contractor bag in it and not have to mess with dust when removing it.

Great idea!!!!! A+

MarkF4 (author)JeffS22014-11-18

A shop vac will collapse a Brute trashcan. Needs to be stiffer like a 5 gallon plastic bucket. The diy Thein dust separator ( for details ) works better than just about any of the commercial small cyclones. It's basically this (stangtime's) lid with a baffle suspended under it.

JeffS2 (author)MarkF42014-11-18

How would it crush it? It's not under a vacuum. The premise, or at least from what I can see without experimenting, is the chips/dust falls to into the collector as the air moves through the collector and then into the vacuum. Now if you had a really strong vacuum and then you clogged the line I guess it would be possible but under normal load I don't see a shop vac crushing a (grey) brute can. I use those things for demo and they are thick and tough. I could be wrong but I'll let you know after I make it if it's a fail of success.

MarkF4 (author)JeffS22014-11-18

Sorry I am mistaken! I knew I remembered a can collapsing after it was connected to a shop vac but thought it was a plastic trashcan. My brain goes into these cul-de-sacs and gets stuck! How about a metal can? There is a significant negative pressure created by the resistance to airflow in the equipment the vac is attached, flex-hose, dust separator, another flex-hose, and in this case a filter on the outlet of the separator. All of this creates enough negative pressure to collapse weak cans. I think you're good with a Brute as long as you don't completely occlude the far end. Here's what a metal can does when attached to a shop-vac:

JeffS2 (author)MarkF42014-11-19

That can was probably made in China. LOL. I knew that negative pressure could do that if the end got clogged but I didn't realize it would do THAT! I'd stick with the BRUTE. If I inadvertently clog the hose and it crushes the can I'll just pop it back out and if it doesn't work I will have another demo I'm really curious!

JeffS2 (author)JeffS22014-11-18

Actually come to think of it, that's why I have a can never eliminate all the dust no matter how hard you try. I'll still try it shen O have some free time.

What I did do was splice a female plug end into my saws (miter/table) power cords and plug/connect a vacuum to it and the dust ports. That way when I turn on my saws it turns on the vacuum at the same time. It's been a time saver and very convenient.

stangtime (author)JeffS22014-11-18

Excellent. Sounds great. Post some pics of your build.

theo67 (author)2014-11-19

Great project just made one for my workshop. I made the join easier by cutting down one of the buckets to allow one to just fit inside the other.

scot2go2 (author)2014-11-19

Excellant ... very simple but cleverly done.... good.

askjerry (author)2014-11-18

Very nice build. I know you will get comments asking "Why do that"... but they haven't worked in a woodworking environment where the really small particulate material eventually gets into the motor of your vacuum and wears it out. I have a dust collector for the CNC mill... and as the dust goes through the blades... larger chunks tend to clunk through there. I'll build this as a way of keeping the airflow higher. About the only thing I would offer is to make a slightly wider plywood base to prevent tipping... and possibly a redesign to hold the buckets together. (Or, as stated, a larger can.) But again... nicely done!

bobwojo (author)askjerry2014-11-18

Want really destructive dust? Use a shop vac with a vacuum powered drywall sander, iI's a very fine and abrasive dust.

stangtime (author)askjerry2014-11-18

Thanks for your comments. I hear you on the CNC mill and dust. I built a CNC about a year ago using drawer slides and 2x4s and when that thing kicks up it does make a load of dust. An enclosure was built around it with a vac duct to clear the air -

Regarding the tipping over, the cart holds it very well - it hasn't tipped yet, but I'm sure others could come up with even better ways to hold it all together. Thanks again.

askjerry (author)stangtime2014-11-18

Nice... I'll look at your system a bit more shortly. My wife (Eve) bought a Laguna CNC mill after we discussed all the factors. (Did I marry right or what?) Anyway... it has a water-cooled spindle... at 20,000 RPM... you can still whisper. Well... unless she is cutting with the 90' V-bit...

stangtime (author)askjerry2014-11-18

Laguna makes nice stuff. A touch out of my budget. Lots of great tools in that shop.

BogiDewd (author)2014-11-18

I'm sorry, but while this is a cool idea that looks pretty well executed, I'm going to have to say that the instructable itself is junk. You don't list out the parts or tools required, you don't show photos of the process along the way and despite your claim that "the video shows the whole build" it does NOT. It only shows the COMPLETED build and describes parts of it.

snoopindaweb (author)2014-11-18

That is worth saving for sure. Thank You. ~(:-})={> --- ]

madflower (author)2014-11-18

I think it is a great idea. I might make a something bigger for the filter. like a coffeecan with lots of slits in the side for airflow then cover it with a bigger filter so it doesn't clog so fast especially with fines. It is great. I am glad you shared.

MarkF4 (author)2014-11-18

Have you seen Phil Thein's dust separator lid? Very similar to yours but has a baffle that helps trap the large stuff and the very fine dust too. Just a scrap piece of plywood hung beneath the lid, sized to seal all but a narrow strip around ~3/4 of the bucket.

Gore (ie Goretex) makes a re-usable pleated HEPA filter for shopvacs. Lowe's has them for ~$35. I've had mine for more than 10 years and it holds a lot of fine dust from my sanders.

stangtime (author)MarkF42014-11-18

I have seen the Thein design and it does look like it works well - for this build I was just trying to keep it as simple as possible with as few parts as really needed. Good to know about the HEPA Shop Vac filter. Combining a HEPA filter to this design would be a nice fit. Thanks.

MarkF4 (author)MarkF42014-11-18

( for details )

RonaldoNZ (author)2014-11-18

Great! I was just about to make one of these for my cnc vac and had been thinking about where to source a cone for the standard version. This is far better, I'd wondered how well it would work without a cone and here it is, you've done it. Perfect timing for me, thank you.

I very much like the understated guitar as well, lovely.

stangtime (author)RonaldoNZ2014-11-18

Awesome. Thanks.

snowpunk (author)2014-11-18

nice idea! Here is a thought for another version. Lowes sells vacuums that use buckets as their collection volume. The vacuum end snaps onto the top of a regular ole bucket. Would be cool to somehow incorporate this into the bucket design and forgo the need for the shop vac.

seems like one would need to cut out the bottom of one bucket (top being connected to vacuum device) and somehow attach it to the open end of the bottom bucket.

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