Introduction: Leaf Blower From Vacuum Cleaner Motor

Picture of Leaf Blower From Vacuum Cleaner Motor

This instructable details one way to take a vacuum cleaner motor and utilize the air outflow for a leaf blower.

If you like the instructable and find it informative, please vote for it in both the
Craftsman Tools Contest and the
Joby Transform It! Challenge please. I'd really appreciate it. Thanks!

The leaf blower in this instructable was actually my second attempt at finding something to use the motor from a vacuum cleaner that stopped working. This idea came more from chance than a goal of making a leaf blower.

It's important to note that using the leaf blower that this project produces is risky. I'm no electrician, so I can't say for sure just how risky it actually is, but since I'm somewhat paranoid about electricity (my lack of understanding being the cause) I do worry when using this blower. You basically have an electrical cord up close near your body, though there are no exposed wires. I'm sure someone here knows better and can comment on the dangers. PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK. I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR INJURY.

Step 1: The Predecessor

Picture of The Predecessor

The failure that came first (image below):
Initially, I thought the motor would work well in making a large scale shop-vac that I could use to suck up leaves (pretty much a leaf vacuum). While it had more than enough suction, there were two problems with it that made it not really that useful.
- The dryer-vent pipe's length and the fact that when in use the intake end is down at ground level and the other end is up above the barrel caused leaves to get pulled in but then stop moving through a little ways in.
- The second more obvious shortcoming was the barrel itself: it would fill up with leaves quickly since they weren't being compressed as you would if bagging, and then to empty the contents of the barrel into a bag was difficult due to how big, heavy, and unwieldy it was.

There were some modifications that would likely have helped these issues, but at this point the idea was beginning to feel like a square peg being forced into a round hole.

Step 2: Parts/ Tools Used:

Picture of Parts/ Tools Used:

explanation of methods: I tend to try not to have to buy materials if I can avoid it. I also try to not destroy materials if possible, since I never know if I'll want a part later and decide to tear down a past project just to reuse the material.

Parts:
1) 3 feet of non-perforated 4in wide landscape pvc pipe
     - one end of the pipe needs to be the female end, so it'll be slightly wider than the normal four inches (the extra diameter will be needed for the motor)
2) a 3/4 in piece of normal pvc pipe, at least 10 inches in length
3) two hose clamps
     - when I started I didn't have two that were large enough, so I took four small ones and combined them to create the two large ones you see below (I later had time to go purchase the correct sizes)
4) normal roll of duct tape (happens to be a black roll)
5) grate
      - needs to be a couple inches wide and could be anything screen-like that will keep large debris (this includes your digits and your clothing) from getting into the intake
6) Clorox canister
7) vacuum motor, removed from vacuum casing with all wiring intact
8) 45 degree elbow, 4 inch
9) metal L bracket, 4in by 7/8

not pictured:
10) bailing wire
11) shoulder strap


Tools used:
hand saw
file
drill
screwdriver
mounted vise
bar clamp, c-clamp
wire cutters
pliers, needle-nose pliers
scissors

Step 3: The Vacuum Motor

Picture of The Vacuum Motor

(I've noted how this particular motor works below in the image)
The intake is in the bottom, the air gets pushed through the motor and out the holes in the casing, and the axle in the top is what used to turn the broom-like drum in the head of the vacuum cleaner. The axle would be cool to figure out a use for later, but for now it will be left alone.

Here's why it all of a sudden made sense to try to make a blower. Note the cylindrical shape of the casing around the fan wheel. It kind of looks like it's meant to fit in or around a big piece of four inch pipe, right? Maybe not, but I at least wondered how well they'd pair up...and with a little assistance they did.

Test the motor:
Before starting to put things together, test your motor out to make sure it still functions after being removed from the vacuum body. Also take the time to get a good understanding of how the switch works, the wires and connections of the switch, whether the bulb still works, and to confirm that even if it runs, it also still pushes air.

Something important to know before running it (I learned the hard way):

barrel-rolling: As soon as this thing comes on, it's going to barrel-roll itself until something like the cord causes it to get tangled, or worse falls on something that gets pulled into the intake. I didn't consider this and it's subsequent thrashing about caused the bulb's filaments to break. This is an issue only now because there isn't a giant vacuum surrounding it, holding it in place.

flying objects: Also, there is the danger that it could have objects in the flywheel, which potentially could be shot out. Just to be safe, with it unplugged, flip the switch to on, put the motor in the the clamp to keep it held in place, and just to be a little extra safe from small lightweight projectiles, place something between you and the motor. I used a large transparent storage bin. If you have safety glasses, put them on too. Plug it into a powerstrip if you have one, and then switch it on. Hopefully it still works! Be prepared - it's going to be loud. Let it run for a minute, note whether the bulb still works, and whether air is being pushed. I've embedded a video of this step during the tear down of a diferent (the third) vacuum in step 16 of this instructable in case it would be useful to watch.

Warning: Don't let your hands get near the intake valve for the obvious reasons.

Turn it off, unplug it, and now it's time to build.

Step 4: Make the Handle: Insert On/off Switch

Picture of Make the Handle: Insert On/off Switch

Grab the 3/4 inch length of pipe, measure out roughly 10 inches, and cut it.

Next, there will need to be notches placed in both ends, though note that the notches are different in length and in shape. The notch on one end, which will the bottom of the handle, will be a half circle and should be long enough to be able to accommodate the cords.

The notch at the other end, the top of the handle, will need to be as long as the switch is, and square. I also added in notches that held onto the lip of the switch housing.

Detach the switch from the wires (note the configuration of the wires before doing so), snake the wires through the pipe length, into the bottom end of the pipe, with the switch wires coming out the top end.

Reattach the switch to it's wires.

Step 5: Make the Handle: Insert Metal Bracket

Picture of Make the Handle: Insert Metal Bracket

Place the handle horizontally into the vise as seen below (you could use a normal clamp, but you would need to find a way to evenly apply pressure to the pipe).

Hold the cords with one hand, guiding them into the notch and keeping them there.

Grab the metal bracket, aiming it in the opposite direction of the notch, and see if it slides inside yet. If the bracket still appears too large to fit inside, apply more pressure by tightening the vise (you're temporarily warping the pipe to make it large enough to fit the bracket). Eventually, the bracket should slide inside. At this point, once the bracket is pushed all the way in, loosen the vise and remove the handle.

Note that the bracket is now secured inside the pipe. Make sure the wires inside continue to be a little loose inside the pipe.

Step 6: Make the Handle: Place Switch Into Notch

Picture of Make the Handle: Place Switch Into Notch

Push the switch housing into the square notch. Pull any excess wire slack out through the bottom of the handle, but don't pull with too much force, as this could disconnect the switch.

Take this time to go ahead and test the motor out again. This will confirm the switch is attached to it's wires snugly and correctly.

Step 7: Install Motor Into Pipe

Picture of Install Motor Into Pipe


Next, the motor needs to be placed into the larger female end of the pipe.

First though, cut (saw) a notch roughly two inches long, and wide enough to allow the wires to sit comfortably in. Slide the wires into the notch and down to the bottom. A flat head screwdriver was useful in temporarily widening the space to make the wires easier to slide down.

Next, use a bar clamp (a c-clamp would work too) to warp the pipe so it will be large enough to fit the two side nodes on the motor casing. Slide the motor in. Once all the way in, remove the clamp which will cause the pipe to tighten down on the casing and hold it snugly.

Step 8: Quick Test

Picture of Quick Test

Next, confirm everything still runs, and you have air outflow through the mouth of the pipe. Use a clamp to make sure it won't barrel-roll, flip the switch to on, cover it, and plug it in. If it still runs, and air's being forced out the end, it's time to continue.

Step 9: Attach Handle

Picture of Attach Handle

Take one of the two hose clamps and slide it over the open end of the barrel. Hold the handle in place about 9 inches from the motor end, slide the hose clamp over the bracket, make sure the wires are resting in the bottom notch, and begin tightening the hose clamp until it's a good bit more than snug.

There should be no give when you pick the whole thing up by the handle.

Step 10: Add Grate to Vacuum Intake

Picture of Add Grate to Vacuum Intake

Next, the intake on the vacuum motor needs to be covered to keep things from getting pulled in. The grate on this blender base seemed wide enough, but any piece of rigid mesh or screen would be fine.

Cut the grate out of the base, place it over the input, and tape it in place.

Step 11: Seal Up Pipe to Reduce Amount of Air Escaping

Picture of Seal Up Pipe to Reduce Amount of Air Escaping

Granted, duct tape isn't the best way to seal things by any stretch, but it's enough for a project like this. There are two places that need to be covered reasonably well, the wire notch and the gap between the pipe edge and the motor.

After applying the tape, use the second hose clamp to ensure the motor won't be sliding out. Don't tighten it too tightly, as it will cut into the tape and defeat the purpose of having it (you could make the case for putting the clamp on and then the tape, but the surface wouldn't be as flat).

Step 12: Add on Elbow and Cone Nozzle

Picture of Add on Elbow and Cone Nozzle

Take the 4 inch 45 degree elbow and place it on the end of the barrel. Be sure it's on as far as it will go.

Next, cut the bottom out of the Clorox wipe canister, then make a cut down two thirds of the canister from the new edge you just made. Curve one side over the other to create the cone and tape it firmly to keep it in that shape. Insert the cone into the elbow.

To keep everything tightly attached, and to limit air loss, cover both connections with a couple rounds of tape.

Step 13: Secure the Cord and Install the Shoulder Strap

Picture of Secure the Cord and Install the Shoulder Strap

Use a couple rounds of tape to secure the wires coming out of the handle.

Next, loosen the hose clamp around the motor end of the barrel, and insert two pieces of bailing wire. One piece should be on the top, the other on the bottom. Tighten the hose clamp back.

Create a loop in the cord and place it in the bottom loop of bailing wire. Twist the bailing wire together (like a twist-tie) to hold the cord snugly, but not too tightly so as to not damage or compress the cord.

Twist the top piece of bailing wire ends together to form a loop, as seen in the image. Next, run the shoulder strap through the loop and lock the strap's ends together.

Step 14: It's Done!

Picture of It's Done!


Before putting it on, do one more test to confirm everything is still connected.

Then, place the strap over your shoulder, adjust it's length to make the cone aimed at the ground in an almost parallel angle to the ground, and try it out.

Be sure that the motor's inflow end is not close to your clothing or flush against your arm, as it will get pulled onto the screen and obstruct the airflow.

I've done this with two motors now and found that one produces a stronger output than the other. It works better on paved or flat surfaces, but still works in the yard.

The should strap places the weight on your shoulder, leaving your hand free to point, rotate the barrel, or push/ pull the whole thing, though there won't be much need for the push/pull since you'll be on your feet and moving around.

As for why some of the pictures show dual shoulder straps, connected in the middle, and one image shows two blowers...I've made a second one of these and wear one on each shoulder. With two I get double the output, and since they're independant of each other I can aim them in different directions simultaneously, or combine their output by pointing them at the same spot.  I'll upload more images in the next couple days.

Step 15: The Second Unit

Picture of The Second Unit

The first motor came from a vacuum cleaner from my own house. It just stopped pulling in stuff, and then all of sudden we had a new one, but since it still came on, it seemed silly to toss it out without opening it up.

The second one I took apart came from a coworker who had out to be taken with the trash. Upon digging into it to get to the motor, I surprised to realize that not all vacuums are equal. This second one had a maze of wires, some of which were obvious in their function, others not at all. The sweeper/drum even had it's own second motor in one end, and wasn't belt driven like the first vacuum. Such an amount of wiring is a little frightening to me, and I didn't have the guts to remove most of it.

After taking out the drum, I did my best to do what I think might help alleviate some of the risk, in isolating all of the wires that I could to prevent arcing, and to prevent me coming in contact with them. I also managed to keep from breaking the light, and figured out a way to rig the switch, which requires constant pressure to complete the circuit.

Surprisingly, with all that extra wiring and what seems like a heavier motor, this second motor is somewhat weaker than the first. However, it is still very useful when combined with the first.

I've attached a video of it being switched on using the wheel switch. Pardon the shaky camera.

Step 16: Extra Info: the Oddball Motor From a Third Vacuum

Picture of Extra Info: the Oddball Motor From a Third Vacuum
This was the most recent unit a coworker gave me. It wound up being even more simplistic than the first vacuum. However, unlike the first two, the motor sits inside a plastic housing which manages the air flow. For this reason, to take the motor out of the plastic housing so that it is similar in shape and size to the first two motors, and thus usable in the instructable's design, would cause the air to no longer be managed and controlled.

I mention the above only to help illustrate how each vacuum's internals seem to be very different. I wouldn't recommend getting the parts for this project until you have torn down a vacuum and have a good idea of the makeup of your motor. If it's the same shape and size as the first two shown in this instructable, then the material list is still relevant. If your motor is however shaped differently, or sits in a housing, you may want to either make the necessary adjustments to the design, or simply go out and grab another vacuum.

Of course, the point of the tutorial is not to go and destroy a functioning and still usable vacuum. If you do manage to find one that still comes on but someone's ready to toss, be careful to study where the switches are before starting the tear down.  Once you start, go slow and be careful to not cut or damage any wiring.

Since I have little choice other than leaving the motor in the plastic housing, I know I won't be able to pop this one into a 4inch pipe like the first two. However, I'm pretty sure I can attach this motor to the first leaf blower's barrel, and then contain and marry its output with the output cone at the end of the barrel. Hopefully, the result will be even stronger output in the first model. Rigging a switch system will be the difficult part.

Sidenote: I was very surprised to find that the second vacuum, which became the second leaf blower shown in the step prior to this one, had a standalone motor in the end of the sweeper barrel. The motor still worked. This is a good example of how these things seem to be quite different once you get them open. Personally, I had just assumed that all vacuums' sweeper barrel were belt driven, and I was wrong.

Third motor/ third vacuum images:
I've included some shots of the motor first, and then some more of the vacuum tear down.

Additional Videos:
      3rd vacuum tear down (can't cut out frames, so it's long and in portions):
           video pt1 - http://youtu.be/RkW11amh0O4
           video pt2 - http://youtu.be/sBEEyMBHN-Q          
           video pt3 - http://youtu.be/EBVbXMEF71s

      Motor run:
           video pt4 -

Comments

howest525 (author)2013-11-27

If you have ever tried to use a blower/vacuum then you would probably agree that its built-in bag is too small for any substantial quantity of leaves. Make the instructable will show you how to make a trash bagging system cheaper and better than commercially available units. Get more informations

bongodrummer (author)2011-01-15

Interesting idea. Those vacuum motors are everywhere, and reasonably hard to find things to do with (because they need that air blasting through or they burn up). I wouldn't personally use a leaf blower, just because I find some quite raking therapeutic, but I love the idea and simple implementation. Thanks for sharing.

shaggs31 (author)2011-01-04

I've had a vacuum motor sitting around for a while now. This is something that looks cool enough for me to try. Thanks for sharing.

owenskd (author)2010-12-20

I found this instructable very informative. Can't wait to make my own! Thanks for sharing!

aeneas shrike (author)owenskd2010-12-20

I'm glad you liked it.
Heads up though, out of the three vacuums I've gone through now, the first, which this instructable shows, was the simplest. The second which is shown in the last step, was about the same shape in motor and casing, just with a ton of extra wiring/cord. However the third, which I'll post some pictures of in a new step at the end, relies on it's plastic casing to create an inflow and an out. If I take the motor out of the casing so it's the nice cylindrical ones used in the first two, it would become just a motor with a fan wheel, moving air around but not channeling it as much.

I would recommend before getting all of your other parts, take your vacuum apart and see what kind of guts you're going to get out of it. The motor may not be this type. This wouldn't mean it's not usable, it just may require some different tinkering. Hope that helps.

update: just added new step at the end, so the second blower I reference above is now detailed in not the last step, but the second to last

alexsolex (author)2010-12-20

Congratulation, very simple and clever !

What about the use ? Does it bloes enough air to 'wipe' the leaves ? The air blower used by professional (thermic motor) blows very hard.

Is it possible to get a video which show the realtime effect ?

aeneas shrike (author)alexsolex2010-12-20

It does pretty well. It seems to work better on smoother surfaces, as opposed to the yard, which makes sense I guess. Of course having the second one makes a big difference. I've actually got a third motor now that I'm trying to decide how to install into the first unit. I've never used an actual store-bought leaf blower, but if I had to guess I'd say that it would probably be stronger. While these motors, in this setup, get the job done, I wouldn't mind having a little more output.

Something else I've realized is just how much a rake doesn't care if the leaves are dry or wet, whereas with this device, the dryer the leaves, the more they cooperate.

As for the video, I'll see if I can get one. It shouldn't take long for the yard to fill up again.

Thanks for the comment.

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