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.
Step 1: Noise Loves Dust
Lots of noise is bad. As anyone who reads the FE blog will know, I am particularly fastidious about cutting down on noise (see for example, my quest for the quietest bandsaw). I can think of a load of good reasons for my desire for quiet tools, but probably the most important, and one that anyone using power tools should take seriously, may be gleaned from the following:
"The first handicap due to noise-induced hearing loss to be noticed by the subject is usually some loss of hearing for high-pitched sounds such as squeaks in machinery, bells, musical notes, etc. This is followed by a diminution in the ability to understand speech; voices sound muffled, and this is worse in difficult listening conditions. The person with noise-induced hearing loss complains that everyone mumbles. High frequency consonant sounds of low intensity are missed, whereas vowels of low frequency and higher intensity are still heard. As consonants carry much of the information in speech, there is little reduction in volume but the context is lost. However, by the time the loss is noticed subjectively as a difficulty in understanding speech, the condition is far advanced." (p146 Engineering Noise Control)Ok, so dust often equals more noise. How ironic that adding a dust extractor can be so noisy then. Lets leave 'noise' at that for now - for more noise related background and nerdy theory, checkout step 3.
Dust is a serious problem.
Actually aside from helping along hearing loss, dust can cause bigger problems. At this point I am going to go ahead and assume that everyone is comfortable with the idea that dusty lungs are bad and to be avoided. The problem is most people don't realise just how dangerous dust is, especially to us lone inventors, DIYers, and makers, who do not have the protection of government legislation, which enforces air quality standards* in factory and workplace environments.
At home, people tend to use cheap and ineffective extraction systems and/or pathetically inadequate masks (or no protection at all). I must admit from time to time I have been guilty of this, not wanting the noise of the vac or being in a rush - very bad! The precautionary principal should definately apply here. Particularly until you have finished your DS, a good dust mask, goggles and ear defenders are your friends! For more info on dust and health check out this post on The Dangers of Wood Dust and this table of wood dust toxicity levels.
*It is interesting to note how these standards are constantly being raised, as more research is done on the effects of wood dust. See, for example, Jette B. Lange, 2008 "Effects of wood dust: Inflammation, genotoxicity and cancer"