Drywall Sanding Dust Collector/Separator





Introduction: 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

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)

Step 2: Prep and Assembly

Drill the holes in your bucket, I'm not certain that placement is important but I put the sander hole in the center and the vacuum hole near the rim. Hole should be slightly undersized so PVC thread ends can screw in tightly.

Cut the PVC pieces, 1 x 12" piece and 4 x 1 1/2" pieces. I used a hacksaw, but a sawzall might make faster work of this. Sand the ends to remove any burrs.

Dry fit all of your PVC pipe and fittings to ensure you have everything in order. I failed to take a picture of the fittings laid out, so please see the sketch.

PVC primer all of your slip ends. WEAR GLOVES, PVC primer and glue is nasty stuff and does not come off easily, so unless you want sticky purple hands, wear gloves.

PVC glue all of your slip ends and push together your fittings, If you never done this before, you may want to glue them one by one, PVC glue has very little working time, precious few seconds.

Use the general purpose glue on the PVC threads that will go through the bucket lid, screw the threads through the lid and then screw your threaded ends together, till the lid is firmly between the two ends.

Step 3: Done

Add water to your bucket so that the end of the center tail pipe is under water.

Attached completed lid assembly.

Attach sander hose to intake pipe and vacuum hose to exhaust pipe.

You might need a hose clamp if your vacuum hose does not fit snugly, my sander hose fit very tightly, but the vacuum hose was a bit loose.

Happy sanding!



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Great project and instructions! I was able to put together but had a question one the shop vac. Do you expect water from the dust/water bucket to find its way into the shop vac? If so would you recommend removing the filter?


Will this work for airbrush paint extractor?

Going to make this as filters are a pain to bang out the dust and blow out plus too expensive to keep replacing. I am thinking of adding half inch holes in the underwater part of the intake pipe to aid in water contact with the dust.

For the connection through the lid, get a couple of close threaded nipples, then go to the electrical dept. and pick up some lock nuts and reducing washers.

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.

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!

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..

8 replies

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.

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.

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.

2 replies

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.

giant bong, yeah. great idea.
it would be good to have a trolley to move the bong and vacuum around with.

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?