Picture of Dust Sniper (quiet extractor system)
DS cyclones.jpg
In this project we turn a bunch of old free stuff, including two old household vacuums into what is arguably the most useful and necessary of workshop tools: the dust extractor. But why stop there? Lets make a really fantastically effective dust extractor, one that is whisper quiet, never stops sucking or plagues you with blocked filters, one that is versatile enough to take dust from a variety of power tools, one that turns on and off on its own so you never forget, and most important of all, one that does a good job of extracting the small - most deadly - particulates from the air you breath... Step forth, 'The Dust Sniper'.

This project was borne out of my dissatisfaction with commercially available dust extractors. After a fair bit of research I purchased one of the more expensive 'quiet' workshop vacuums, and was not happy with its performance (I sent it back unused after taking a dB reading of it). In exasperation at the dusty noisiness of it all, and wanting to re-use materials and spend as little as possible, I began the Dust Sniper (DS) project. 

This DS ended up costing about £20 total. So it is possible to reused a bunch of stuff destined for landfill and end up with an aesthetically pleasing and useful tool-workbench. And of course we can learn loads about sound, cyclones and dust related jazz along the way. Because the DS's parts are mostly recycled, there is no comprehensive list of materials up front, instead I will give tips as we go along suggesting possible reclaimed bits that will do the job and where you might find them (if you don't care why we chose certain materials and just want a 'scavenging list', check out the last step).

My kingdom for some silent clean air

I'll throw it out there to begin with, most dust extractors are bad. Even the expensive ones, like the Festool, extract a continuing fee, needing regular bag and filter changes to keep working properly. The less expensive, well... lets just say they can be seriously bad for your mental and physical health, as you will find out if you follow along with this Instructable. 

The Dust Sniper (DS) is effective and very quiet - the two main goals I had when starting this project. It does, however, fulfil these requirements at a cost. Namely, it is very heavy and big (compared to your average canister style vac), so it won't be perfect for everyone. This isn't necessarily the disaster you might think though. In fact it can be darn right useful if we use the DS as a mobile work surface. That way we will end up with nice clean air, a quiet place to create our mad jazz, and a super sturdy, rollable worktop thrown in! Ideal if  you are still setting up a workshop, as I am.

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Hi, I love this project and I am starting to build myself what will probably be a much less sophisticated version using a single shop-vac (either 1.25 HP or 2.0 HP). Just a couple of things aren't quite clear to me:

1. Do the holes in the inner enclosure seal around the intake hoses somehow?

2. What is the purpose of the round holes in the outer enclosure above the HEPA filter?

ecarter111 year ago

Hi I love the idea of the cyclone and have made a mock up using plastic milk bottles.

I live in France and can't get hold of polycarb sheeting for the cone. Do you think that I could use transparent PVC instead.

Love the site


bongodrummer (author)  ecarter111 year ago
Hi Emie, Thanks for the comment. We are actually just making a BIG new cyclone for the FE workshop, so go like the FE facebook page to stay updated on that (shameless plug)... 

PVC could probably be made to work, but is a bit nastier imho. It has a lower impact resistance than polycarb and is worse environmentally, but is a bit cheaper. I'm sure you will have ploycarb suppers in France. Maybe under a different name? have you tried searching for lexan?

Polycarbonate has a few other names like Lexan, Makrolon and Makroclear.

Hahob 1 year ago
Very nice build! But you used all that teak for that top:-( That stuff is precious. ....
ecarter111 year ago

Yes I can get lexan but not 0.75. Minimum 2.5mm thick, I might try this and use a hot air gun for bending it. What do you think?

bongodrummer (author)  ecarter111 year ago
I think you will struggle with this... I know from experience that DIY heat bending polycarb is tricky - probably possible if you have some decent jigs to hold it in place and form it around... If you try it use a small test piece and be careful to keep the heat exposure to a minimum or it will bubble and loose its clarity - I believe that has something to do with it absorbing atmospheric moisture when heated...

I still think you could find .75mm polycarb somewhere - try searching for 'polycarbonate film' rather than 'sheet' (or whatever film is in French...
Good luck let me know how it goes.
dcorbett4 years ago
WAY AWESOME!!! I loved the reed switch auto on/off idea. Plain to see you put some extra effort into this one.
Try ultrasonic for measuring the level in your bucket.
The transducer can be mounted at the top (to provide "analog" measurement), or on the side (use as ON/OFF or "dump alert").
bongodrummer (author)  dcorbett4 years ago
Thanks. I must admit I had to do some reading to find out about ultrasonic sensors, and the idea seems good. One concern might be the dust flying into the barrel interfering with the sensor's reading, while the DS is in use?

Sounds like it could be worth pursuing though. Any ideas for cheap/salvageable sources? My first thought was the car alarm doodars that clip on inside at the edge of the windscreen - probably plenty of them floating around at scrap yards or still in cars with alarms that have been permanently disabled or taken out. Would that be any good? Other ideas?

I still want to try the simple idea of using grounded antistatic bags over the viewing window (as MadScott and wingman358 suggested).
I have an idea(combined with top one and this one)
Using antistatic bags does NOT disrupt laser light,if the light is bright enough.
So combining laser tripwire(or multiple tripwires aligned to approx. level connected to Arduino or Raspberry Pi,or other analogue/digital measurement) with antistatic bags will be enough to keep sensors clean,and operable at the same time!
Using laser tripwire system is quite ideal.

Since the dust fills up,it blocks laser light.
It triggers alarm,like those alarm systems,when laser light is blocked.
It's good to keep it off-center because the dust falls down,to the center,so it may malfunction. (seriously you don't want to get annoying BEEEP every time you use Dust Sniper!)
Or maybe multiple tripwires installed on different level,with Arduino,can make dust level indicator.

The only problem is,dust can block laser even the level is low.
If it weren't for static,this idea could be used instantly.
nashton1 year ago
What a fantastic solution to an age old problem!

I currently have been researching dust extraction and have found the same problems as you did, Noise!

I will use your design to build my own DS as I fear a flash over may occur if I continue to work on my projects with the levels of dust currently in my workshop.

Many thanks.

bongodrummer (author)  nashton1 year ago
Cool. send me photos of your build and when your done - I would love to see!!!
dmon1232 years ago

Firstly, congratulation on a great project.

I have some questions if you dont mind. I am about to build something similar, but simpler. I have an Axminster vacuum (basically a hoover attached to a metal can!) and it is so loud... I want to build a basic box for it, sound proof it as best as I can and put on wheels so that it is mobile. So:

1) Heat should be okay as the filtered air comes out from under the lid (motor). Right?
2) The machine has a single hose for sucking in air (dust). In your machine, you have two separate baffle paths. Is this because you had two separate vacuum machines?
3) I plan to make a hole on the side for allowing me to connect a hose between the box and my tool. So that is how the sucked air comes in. I dont understand how your baffle gets the air out :-( Is it just the whole on the baffle's inside which allows the air to eventually make its way out? I dont see how you can connect a hose to the exit as there is no hose :-)
4) Also, why did you make the sand partition between the MDF and the metal sheet? Is this just for addtional sound proofing? If so, why not "wrap" the entire inner box with sand?
5) Finally, if I add a cyclone to the setup, where do you place the cork forest? Do you need one? If I dont end up using a cyclone, do I still need a cork forest? If so, where does it go?

Thanks so much in advance,
bongodrummer (author)  dmon1232 years ago
Hi David. Thanks for the comment... Wow, I didn't realise the i'ble was that unclear. Anyway here goes:

1. I'm not sure on your particular vac but heat shouldn't be a problem provided you have a sufficient path for the vac to suck incoming, and blow outgoing air - that's what cools the motor.
2. Yes.
3. Because the box is made to be air tight, the air only has one place to go once it has been ejected from the vacuum motor - ie. through the set of baffles and out the exit hole(s).
4. It was additional sound proofing I was experimenting with. I had run out of mdf by that point so it is made with the scraps I had - a thin piece of ply and a bit of sheet metal from an old microwave case. The sand sandwich works very well and It is worth having extra vibration damping in areas like this which the air is rushing through. As opposed to the enclosure box which is just designed to attenuate sound from the vac itself, the exit path is a bit more tricky: it cant simply 'enclose' the sound (because it need to let air through) so we want to absorb as much sound as possible with extra mass - sand is good.
5. If you use a cyclone I would be tempted to leave out the cork forest: the cyclone is already introducing resistance to the flow of air (effectively reducing your airflow), and it will also act to dampen sound (if made from polycarb). As to where to place it - that will depend on you enclosure arrangements - the 'cork forest' (hehe made me chuckle to hear other people using that name) is just another way to help attenuate sound in places that we need to leave unsealed for airflow. So in either case, cyclone or no, it could go right before the vac - but to be any use you want to build it into the structure of you enclosure. If you wanted you could make 2 cork forests to treat both the incoming air and outgoing air... Many options...

Hope some of that helps.
Legeir0073 years ago
Nice work. I am making a "Dust Deputy" now. Once I have that perfected, I will definitely be making a silenced system like yours. Thanks for the info!
bongodrummer (author)  Legeir0073 years ago
Thanks. Let us know how it goes. I demand pictures! ;)
fredellarby3 years ago
This DS ended up costing about £20 total.
We don't have £ here. Can we still do this?

Seriously, it beats wearing a dust mask all the time.
bongodrummer (author)  fredellarby3 years ago
Ha! No £ a? Well I should think if you can scrounge up some cup cakes or newly harvested brazil nuts or some such, you could get trading for what you need. Or just scavenge what you need in the first place. Trading is quicker though.

Yeah, dust masks suck bad.
Can you give the modifications needed to make it in $.
I can trade pop bottles for those.
I have a Whitworth hammer. Will that work for £ stuff?
bongodrummer (author)  fredellarby3 years ago
OK, but help me work it out, how many pop bottles = one $?
Actually, It would probably be easier if we worked in cups of tea if that's any good for you?
Sorry, coffee.

Cultural differences are so hard to overcome.
I guess those of us in the colonies are doomed to a life of dust.
ryangranado3 years ago
Great Ideas all around! I will be using your ideas ASAP. Lexian is a little harder to come by around these parts but I do know a great sheet metal guy who I think can make this for me in a jiff, if I can't get the materials my self.

Also, if you are really hung up on having some sort of indicator on when your cans are full, you have all the materials right in front of you. Just cut your barrels down the middle about 15mm wide and on the inside glue a strip of clear plastic all the way tru and you will have an indicator window right in them!

Keep up the great work!
This is only 20 USD
wiml4 years ago
Thinking laterally about bucket sensors: perhaps you could put a small tube into the collection bucket near the top, connected to some not-very-strong source of vacuum. When the bucket fills, the sawdust blocks the tube, making the pressure in the tube drop, which then ... um ... raises a flag, or triggers an electronic pressure sensor, or the like.

Or, alternately: isn't the interior of the bucket at below-atmospheric pressure? The tube could be connected to 'outside' air though a small hole. When the bucket is not yet full, airflow into the bucket keeps the tube below atmospheric. When the bucket fills past the tube, airflow stops. Let's see if I can attach a sketch of this idea... I can't decide if it'd be horribly finicky and impossible to implement, or if it would be perfect and elegant. :)

Electronic pressure sensors are around $15 new but maybe there's a good junk source for them...
bucket sensor.png
bongodrummer (author)  wiml4 years ago
Hi Wiml,
Interesting ideas, thanks! Things are complicated a bit because the storage barrels themselves are in a partial vacuum (which fluctuates depending on whether the end of the vacuum hose is blocked or partly blocked). It is necessary to maintain the seal on the barrel so that the cyclones work right. My feeling is that adding another 'not-very-strong source of vacuum' would open a whole can of worms (big malicious ones at that).
An interesting idea though, thanks for sharing.
jeff-o4 years ago
I wonder if you could put a small digital scale with a remote readout under the barrels. When the barrel hits a certain weight, you know it's time to empty it.

Any kind of optical sensor inside the barrel would be obscured just like the window, and other sensors are out because of the static. But yeah - weight would probably work.
How about using a simple, light flap and a cherry switch, along the inside of the barrel at the 'full' line. Have a spring on it so that it normally sticks out when the system is off. When the system is in operation, the flap will be forced against the side. If the flap doesn't swing back out when the system is turned off, something is blocking it, and the barrel can be assumed to be in need of emptying.
bongodrummer (author)  jeff-o4 years ago
Hay Jeff-o!

I am not sure I am understanding you with this. The barrels 'float' off the floor, so that the DS can be wheeled around. They are screwed onto the base of the cyclones - their lids are firmly attached so the cyclones and everything remain stable.

Or did you mean putting the scales inside the barrels? That might work, if they were inside some kind of plastic bag - but then again the partial vacuum created would probably disrupt readings...
Ah, true. I forgot that the barrels were connected to the cyclones. Perhaps with a short flexible tube (flexible ducting?) between the two it would work.
bongodrummer (author)  jeff-o4 years ago
A bit of flexible tube would get around that yes, although there is another problem with the weighing method, that was pointed out to me on one of the forums. That is, the material sucked up is often of very different density. Between different woods and plastics, and different shapes (ie shavings, fine dust, etc.) the weight of a barrel can apparently vary a lot.
I was thinking of that. And yeah, if you're sucking up plastic and metal along with the wood then it could be a problem. But really, they shouldn't be mixed in the first place (sawdust can be used for other things!) And as for different density woods, unless you're doing a lot of work with ebony and cocobolo, I doubt it'll present much of a problem. In most cases, people will be using oak, pine, maple, and poplar. Set your threshold for a bucket full of oak sawdust and you'll be good to go!
bongodrummer (author)  jeff-o4 years ago
I am not sure we can assume wood density is so homogeneous, but you are definitely right about keeping materials separate (one of the reasons I wanted two collection barrels). I have no first hand experience, but I can quite easily imagine the shape of the particles would make a fair difference though. I know a barrel load of shavings from the power planer feels lighter than say 3/4 of a barrel of proper sanding dust - I haven't actually weighed it, so I am just going from my feeling here.

But also consider: my Handbook of Hardwoods claims the weight of European Oak usually falls in the range from 640kg/m3 to 820kg/m3, having an 'extreme but possible' range of 600 to 900kg/m3. And that is within one species. Pine is often round 500kg/m3. That in mind, I think density issues would be worth considering with the weighing approach. If you calculated in a good safety margin though, I expect it would work fine as an indicator - barrels don't have to be full before we empty them after all.
It's true, the barrels don't have to be full. So, you'd make a "best guess" estimate of what weight the barrel should be when it needs to be emptied. Then over the course of a few "empties" you could adjust the threshold up or down accordingly. I think you'd find the weight would, on average, be about the same assuming you use the same types of woods and processes on a regular basis.
bongodrummer (author)  jeff-o4 years ago
Pazzerz jeff-o4 years ago
I guess with all the problems with densities, the best thing would be to do what we do every time we vacuum the house: Visually check the container and empty it prior to use. A bit old fashioned, but it works.
adambsmith4 years ago

Thanks, again for the great write-up. I've just bought some Lexan and am trying to build my own cyclone dust extractor using the information in you;r write up.

You wrote that you are using a hot melt glue gun to glue together the lexan when it is rolled up. I have been trying this but I an finding it very difficult to squeeze the glue out, and roll the plastic up into the right shape before the glue sets up hard again. Do you have any glue-related hints?

I have been debating using some epoxy resin (Araldite). I've have great results with this before, and it allows more working time, but I haven't tried it on lexan. Do you know if Araldite would work?

bongodrummer (author)  adambsmith4 years ago
Hay Adam,

Good stuff.
In regards to the gluing, it is best to roll up the shape you want first. Once it is in the correct position, hold it there with a little masking tape. Now for the inside of the cone (I presume it is the cone you are struggling with?), you can peel back a little flap, and run the glue gun's nozzle inside the seam, making a nice long bead. Let the flap close and press the parts together. Should work well like that. For the outside seam, I did it in stages - undo a bit of masking tape near the top, pull back making a flap and inject some glue under it, hold together till set, then move on to another bit, etc. When you are done and the cone shape is secure, you can run one continuous bead along the outside seam, to ensure air tightness.

Of course all this would be easier if you can borrow an extra pair of hands for a few seconds to hold the cone for you while you glue it.

As you mentioned you will have bad luck applying the glue then trying to wrap up the shape, because the glue will have set before you have it aligned correctly.

I am not sure about araldite, I have a feeling that it might eat away at the Lexan, and/or make it brittle and discoloured - if you want to try it, best bet is to use some offcuts you don't need first and see what it does.

Hope that helps, any more questions, just ask. Take your time with it and let us know how it goes.
mauriceh4 years ago
You wrote:
" Quick and concise description of different types of silencers can be found here."
The HERE seems to be intended to be a link.
But, it does not work
bongodrummer (author)  mauriceh4 years ago
Ooo, my first missing link. Well spotted, thanks - it got lost in a copy/paste edit somewhere along the way. Have removed it as it was a pdf hosted at which does not seem to be responding any more. Will try again tomorrow, and replace if working...
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