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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
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:
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)
- 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
10) bailing wire
11) shoulder strap
bar clamp, c-clamp
pliers, needle-nose pliers
Step 3: The vacuum motor
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
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
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
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
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
Step 9: Attach handle
There should be no give when you pick the whole thing up by the handle.
Step 10: Add grate to vacuum intake
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
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
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
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!
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
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
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.
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
video pt4 -