Picture of Drywall Sanding Dust Collector/Separator
Drywall sanding produces lots of dust no matter how dust free your joint compound claims to be, Drywall dust will quickly clog your shop vac filter and shorten the life of your vacuum.

There is a wide selection of drywall dust separators on the market from $50 or so on up to several hundred dollars for a nice Festool extractor. Being a DIY homeowner, taping drywall is not a full time job and doesn't warrant spending the money, so I decided to make my own with about $20 at the local hardware store, This price can be more or less depending on how you make it and what items you might have lying around, I could have used an old bucket but opted to buy a new one for this project, about $5 for bucket and lid at Lowes.

Step 1: Shopping List

Picture of Shopping List
There are numerous ways to configure this with PVC pipe and hoses. I chose to do this with a combination of threaded and slip PVC fittings for my shop vac that has a 1 1/4" hose.

1 - Bucket and Lid
1 - 1" schedule 40 PVC pipe, cut in several sections: 1 x 12" and 4 x 1 1/2"
4 - 1" PVC female slip to male threaded
1 - 1" PVC threaded coupling
1 - 1" PVC slip to threaded coupling
2 - 1" PVC slip 90 degree elbows
1 - 1" PVC female slip to male threader 90 degree elbow
PVC primer and glue
All purpose PVC glue

Hacksaw to cut PVC pipe
1 1/8" spade bit or hole saw (I used a 1" spade bit and widened the hole with a box cutter)

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zenbooter5 days ago

I worked for 50 yrs in Jersey. lived in Piscataway mostly. bought one of these things from hd when they opened the p,burg store. could,nt believe the efficiency of it. got parted from it along the way. now flipping houses in Kentucky and doing drywall. let you know how it works when built. thanks a bunch for this, great idea.

ddpruitt made it!12 months ago

I combined it with a couple of other designs I've seen, put the vacuum on the center and a funnel in the top bucket. Works good even with the small shop vac I'm using.


did you do an instructible for your version?

naprawde fajne

coran1211 year ago
Because you're already at a disadvantage with the dust collection using a shop vac, I would strongly advice you take the two top hard 90 degree elbows off the top and just plug the hose vertically. All those 90's do is steal power.
Other than that this is an awesome simple, cheap fix to a problem! Thanks!
nitesurfer1 year ago
Thanks a lot this is brilliant...
I was looking at my old shop vac and a bucket and was wondering if it would be possible to do something like this as a dust separator for my workshop and also for plastering.... as i am fitting plasterboard ( aussie drywall ;) ) and it is amazing how you get ten times more dust back when you sand the jointing compound.
I would never have thought of putting water in the bottom to stop the dust but i can see ti will work brilliantly on plaster dust..
Could you tell me how long it takes before the water stops filtering the air or does it just keep going as the dried compound doesnt mix with water?
Also could this set up be used to filter wood dust from a router and saw etc..
The idea to use it for sawdust/wood chips is not bad, just be careful as air with a sufficient amount of fine sawdust will make a VERY combustionable mix.

If you add the static electricity from a plastic bucket where a vortex of air spins the sawdust in high speed around the sides you have a potentially dangerous contraption.

This is why commercial separators are made of metal not plastic.

One way to mitigate the risk of self ignition would be to add a grounding strip/cable and connect it to something grounded. For example a waterpipe or radiator(if you have waterfilled radiators and not electrical ones)

(Sorry if the technical terms are not correct, English is not my first language.. :-) I hope you get the gist of my post)
Thanks a lot for the explanation..... makes a lot of sense.. I thought the water would have just been to trap the plaster particles.. but i never thought about the potential for fireworks galore if I use it for wood.... Thanks for the warning and advice...
I guess the same risk exists with the plastic cyclonic separators too then....
As I responded below, the direction of the airflow is important and if there is water in the bucket will matter.

In the case of commercial cyclonic separators I believe the plastic used is different from an old paint container or similar bucket and will be less prone to building up static charge but this is just an assumption.

The container might be too small to make a really dangerous fire hazard but I know of a case where a friend of a friend had a woodworking shop in his basement garage with no dust collection system. Once he was sanding a table and a lot of sanding dust was floating around in the air and when his (old..) air compressor switched on it created a spark that ignited the air/dust mix. The whole garage was demolished and he was lucky the house didn't go up in flames or he was severely burned.
gvernea jimbru1 year ago
There is a lot of mythology around the idea of dust collecting and sanding dust but almost no examples of it actually causing a fire or explosion. The example given, flying dust and a spark, is NOT static electricity bur a spark touching flammable material. And plastic is plastic when related to static production. See the Fine Woodworking's analysis of dust collection and reference to research on flammability from static electricity. They dispel the myth.
I would have to disagree.We had a soybean mill nearby that used to have way too many dust fired in the silos.They had placards everywhere about the dangers of static sparks.
I gotta think the water will mitigate if not eliminate the fuel/air explosion issue.
In the case of plaster dust which is not flammable yes, most probably for wood dust as well if the air is flowing as in the instructable. Also the proportinos of air/dust and the granularity of the wood - fine dust is worse than wood chips or coarser dust.
Sure, but in this case it will be wet. Plaster dust poses zero explosion risk regardless.
jtharkness1 year ago
Do I understand correctly that negative air pressure (suction) is created in the tube that is attached to the sander THROUGH the water by creating a suction above the water? In order for that to happen, something must be driving the suction and pulling the air through the dust hose perhaps by sucking the gas molecules out of the water, which as far as I know, can only be done by evaporation, cavitation (bubbling), or electrolysis. Obviously electrolysis isn't happening, it won't work via evaporation until all of the water is evaporated, and you have already said not to let it bubble. Perhaps I am missing something and I will have to try this to see it work. I can see this working if both pipes in the bucket are above the water and at opposite sides of the lid but otherwise I don't buy it. Not to worry though as I don't mind eating humble pie when proven wrong.
When the pressure drops above the water, the water level rises. It rises because the pressure on the intake pipe, the one below the surface, is greater then the inside pressure. A bubble of air will come chugging up into the water from the input pipe.
For additional reference material, find a pothead with a water pipe. Same thing.
Well, I finally got to this project and created a test separator, but on a micro level using a clear glass jar instead of a 5 gallon bucket. I was wrong and you were, of course, right. It not only worked, it worked quite well and easily. So, if you could see me, I would be eating humble pie :-). I thank you for the comment and the good and ultimately 'instructive' instructable. Perhaps if I had been a pothead, I might never have given this a second thought. Hmm, now that I know how a 'waterpipe' works, and it seems I effectively have one . . . .
I look forward to future 'ibls.
altomic1 year ago
giant bong, yeah. great idea.
it would be good to have a trolley to move the bong and vacuum around with.
DragonDon1 year ago
Simple ideas that can move the world! This would be perfect for small spaces I think. Any idea on how often changing the water would be a good idea?
rimar20001 year ago
Clever idea!

"Drywall dust will quickly clog your shop vac filter and shorten the life of your vacuum... and lungs"

I am doing an [almost] noiseless vacuum to take off outdoors the sawdust from my wood lathe and table cutter. Your idea applies perfectly, I will borrow it. Thanks for sharing.
Just as a blatant plug, you may be interested in my super silent, cyclonic vac system - I did an instructable a long while ago: http://www.instructables.com/id/Dust-Sniper-quiet-extractor-system/
Yes, I saw it when you published, I found very interesting.

My vacuum cleaner works, but the engine has too little speed. It aspires, but when I intersperse a device to capture dust, it does not works anymore. I will attempt to use it directly, the sawdust going into the turbine chamber and from it to outdoor.

Changing the motor means to make it again from zero, besides the cost of a new motor.
Hmm. I only sorta get what you are saying? So are you filtering the air stream before it gets to the vac motor?
No, I am only interspersing a plastic container where the air+dust enters and then the clean air goes to the turbine. It has no filter, only a long vertical input tube and another lateral to vacuum. Maybe it could be effective for fine dust from sanding, but medium sized sawdust is not sucked.
I anxiously await your silent vacuum!
Please read my response to bongodrummer.
OK, thanks. It is just installed and working. Today I must test it a little more, and then intercalate a contraption as yours to avoid the wood debris go into the turbine chamber. And then, disassemble it to take photos for the instructable. In brief, maybe next week I could publish it.
Randyrandy74 (author)  rimar20001 year ago
That sounds like a great project. I will be doing something similar for my basement shop this winter, several dust collection hoses directed out a basement window with collection and filtration or possibly setup in a separate crawl space to dampen noise.
elic1 year ago
Very nice idea.
I suggest you changing the pipes, so the one which connects to the vacuum cleaner will be in the center and the sander hose to the side hole. This pipe must be in spiral position, so the entrance of dusty air will make a vortex in the water which will suck the dust to the bottom of the bucket.
gmyers21121 year ago
gmyers21121 year ago
so it's a giant dust bong. The problem is that you won't have all of the dust touching the outside of an air bubble as it passes through the water and therefore only a fraction of the dust will actually be collected by the water. Big chunks will get caught because of weight and density, etc but under normal shop vac airflow parameters, you're gonna have a lot of dust making it through and blowing (sucking) out the other side. Of course, if you're pulling it all through a shop vac after that anyway, I guess you could sorta consider this a pre filter to your existing filter. But really, this seems like a lotta trouble to go through to keep from sweeping up the major chunks with a broom and a dust pan.
I have been thinking of making one of these for year, exactly as you did here. One could make a second bucket(stage2) and it could catch more blow by.Consider splitting the input pipe into two make them go to opposite sides of the bucket. If you used a garbage pail you may never have an issue, with blow by or foaming, or splashing.

great instructable!!!
Edgar1 year ago
There's a lot more uses, for cleaning a lot of mess many Workshop machines create!
Voted and Blogged, so now many a Gizmo Makers will know about this:
Great thinking... I use one of these (without water) to collect Carbon fibre sandings... The sandings (short fibres) are mixed with epoxy later as a reinforced filler/glue.
The trick for using dry is to reverse the input output so that the inlet to the pail is the angled one and starts a vortex around the outside of the pail. The outlet connected to the vac is the center one but shorter and covered with a coarse filter screen..
Well done.. love the water for drywall, that stuff is horrible.
imboox21 year ago
Just a thought...what about a dry second stage to keep the vac dry. A small cyclonic stage. I very much like this Instructable.

I used to have a Rainbow vac for decades, when the motor died I never replaced it. Too costly at the time since parts were hard to find.
foglemam1 year ago
Wondering if you considered a Thein type baffle instead of the water?
http://www.jpthien.com/cy.htm They work great with fine dust from a drum sander and add very little resistance to airflow.
ofeargall1 year ago
I'm not trying to plug my own Instructable here but I think I have something that may apply. I used a similar concept to make an oil bath air filter for my motorcycle

In step 2 I used scotch-brite as a primary filter. I wonder if you used a similar concept with a floor-sander disk attached to the center pipe to act as a baffle to keep the water from splashing into the intake tube of the vacuum. Again, not trying to highjack. This is a brilliant Instructable that has lots and lots of uses. Great work.
Series land rovers have used oil bath air filters from the late 1940s through to the 70s. Work well in dusty conditions, but have to be changed at the recommended point. Overworking them means the oil is too thick and not doing its job right.

Same would go here when the water is over-choked with dust.
Randyrandy74 (author)  ofeargall1 year ago
That's an interesting idea, I actually have some old floor sanding disks laying around somewhere, will have to test it out and post the results. Thanks!
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