Introduction: Super Easy Cyclone!

Picture of Super Easy Cyclone!

This is the simplest cyclone I could come up with.

Step 1: You Will Need

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To complete this project, you will need a car cleaning nozzle and hose from your shop vac. A large bucket with a tight fitting cover. A straight coupling to attach your shop vac hose.

Step 2: Mark Placement

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Mark the placement for your nozzle by tracing the nozzle. Mine measured about 3 1/2" long and was the same width as the nozzle.

Step 3: Cut Out the Spot for the Nozzle

Picture of Cut Out the Spot for the Nozzle

Using a vibrating saw, cut out 3 sides.

Step 4: Glue in the Nozzle

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Put the nozzle in it's place. Using a hot glue gun, glue the nozzle from the inside. Then, still using the hot glue gun, go around all the seams from the outside to insure an air tight fit.

Step 5: Install Top Coupling

Picture of Install Top Coupling

Lastly, drill a hole in the cover. Be sure to make the hole the same size as the shop vac coupling. Placed the coupling in the hole. Using a hot glue gun, glue the coupling in place.


JJfromNZ (author)2016-08-04

It says to place the coupling in the hole in the top. But it does not have a picture from the inside. What I need to know is how far into the bucket does the top coupling go down?

Is it only just enough?

If it is lower than the inlet pipe is that better?

monster30 (author)2015-07-21

very nicely done, this is the simplest one i have ever seen

thanks godbless

Ray.Meloury (author)2015-07-11

If you don't know by the name of it before opening the instructable you don't need it and have no need for it. No need to hate the author for your not knowing. Great simple little separator.

jreskus (author)2015-07-11

i don't fully understand what it does and how it does it.

andyboy (author)2015-07-02

Nice job!

I made a similar one a year or two ago for my radial arm saw by stacking two spackle buckets. It does help keep bigger stuff like tiny wood chips out of the shopVac but not dust. After intermittent use over months, when I check the shopVac filter it contains dust like talcum powder, stuff that floats in still air. I stretched panty hose over the filter and that gets a caked on coating of slightly larger dust than the filter catches.

I considered pulling the cycloned air through water like a water pipe, but I don't need it that clean. I have also considered removing the filter and venting the cycloned air outside.

The best practical thing would be to make something that bangs the filter a few minutes after shutting down the shopVac. That way dust caught by the filter would fall away and have a chance to settle in the shopVac before the next use.

Now you have me thinking ...

agulesin (author)andyboy2015-07-09

Commercial systems use a blast of compressed air blasted into the filter (from the inside - i.e. reverse normal flow) - this shakes the dust off the outside. Have a look here:

andyboy (author)agulesin2015-07-09

Interesting. I'll probably start with an old baseball bat next to the shopVac to give it a few taps after it winds down.

bodger-bill (author)2015-07-06

It's a nice idea, but is it really worth all the trouble ?

Try this link to a cheap professional one

andyboy (author)bodger-bill2015-07-09

It does not look like it would have the capacity to hold much refuse. I have mine hooked up to a 2 1/2 inch hose and its appropriately sized shopVac. If this had larger hose ports one could cut out its bottom and mount it on the top of a larger container. It would be nice to see if it has cyclone guts. Ash can be so fine I wonder how well it works. (author)2015-07-06

OK, here is a thought for you. The line going to the vacuum should be attached to the angled car attachment, not the other way around. When you have it the way you do, the vacuum is pulling the air straight up canceling out any cyclone effect you would get. If you hook the vacuum up the the angled car piece, it will create a cyclone & not be canceled out, and the air coming from the hose coming from the dust will be pulled into the cyclone effect.


agulesin (author)


I've seen many of these projects and am thinking to make one myself. The air entering the drum through the horizontal nozzle is already going around the outside of the drum, therefore making a cyclone. Maybe the central pipe should be extended down a few centimeters to prevent a "short circuit". Don't forget that the air has "inertia", and will tend to keep going in the same direction...

puggirl415 (author)2015-07-02

I've gotten in trouble before for saying this about another instructable, but I clicked on this instructable to find out what a Cyclone separator is? There is some context to the video and it seems that this is an ad hoc shop vac. Some of the comments gave me a clue as to what it is, but there wasn't complete agreement and I'm still kinda curious why you want/need this and all the things it can do and was made to do in your workshop. I encourage all who post instructables to take a moment before publishing and make sure they explain what the thing they are posting is for and what it does. Not everyone reading will know what the thing they are looking at is and does. Thanks.

shopbuilt (author)puggirl4152015-07-02

Sorry about that, i'm new in instructables....

The separator is mainly used when using the shop vac for dust collection in a wood working shop. When sucking a lot of dust like what you see in the video, this will plug up the filter quite quickly. the separator just acts like a second stage to give longer life to your filter.

puggirl415 (author)shopbuilt2015-07-04

No problem. I'm very interested in hacks and making stuff so I often go to instructables that I don't know what the thing being made it is or what it really does so I appreciate those explanations in any instructable. If I had a shop I'm sure I would have experienced problems with dust and it would have been a more intuitive understanding. Thanks:)

tomxu (author)shopbuilt2015-07-02

great , now I understand how smart your making is .

fred_dot_u (author)puggirl4152015-07-02

It was a pretty quick reference at the beginning of the video, but the maker states that the sawdust from his CNC router clogs the filters very quickly. This seems to be the common lament for people who purchase or build vortex/cyclone separators for shop use.

Another use for such a device is to enable one to use a vacuum to move material without having it end up inside the shop vac.

tjk1939 (author)2015-07-03

I see that the pail is a pool chlorine container. Did you have to buy it full, or can you get one at a pool supply store empty? Really simple inovative idea.

mdelray (author)2015-07-03

I'll be trying this one with a slight modification, I'll use a leaf blower instead of a shop vac. All my dust collectors in the shop are $45 leaf blower/ vacuums and they work better than a $300 Grizzly.

sidecar123 (author)2015-07-02

I have one made of a 55 gal. drum that I built about 25 years ago. It's kinda crude, but works well as I used a heavy duty vacuum motor to power the thing.

rschulz1 (author)2015-07-02

ok, ok, ok, wait, and then I am thinking, "where is the Thein baffle"

williamj (author)2015-07-02

I've seen a lot of home made separators online and this by far the simplest and probably the least expensive. Great job and a very well done "ibble" !


shopbuilt (author)williamj2015-07-02


askjerry (author)2015-07-02

Every now and then you come across an idea that you look at and smack your forehead and say, "Why the heck didn't I think of that?"
Well sir... THIS is one of those ideas!

And... I love the way you went the extra step to test the theory and calculate the efficiency. Definitely a two thumbs up from me!!

shopbuilt (author)askjerry2015-07-02

thank you!

christopher.leblanc.98 (author)2015-07-02

cool reuse

lzalcik (author)2015-07-01

Sorry for the question, but what do you separate with this separator?

shopbuilt (author)lzalcik2015-07-01

They are used a lot in woodworking for dust collection. Basically it stops all the dust from making it to the shop vac so it won't plug up the filer.

yrralguthrie (author)shopbuilt2015-07-02

Actually no, that's not what they are used for. They are so that the vacuum can pick up solids (larger than dust) or liquids and not damage the vacuum blades or motor. The bigger heavier particles or liquids drop down in the canister and the dust goes on to the vacuum. That design will not keep dust from getting to the filter. The dust is in the air and the air has to keep going through the vacuum or there is no vacuum. Sanding dust or sawdust will go on through the canister, but you can use it to clean the floor which might (likely does) have chunks of wood and pieces of metal.

ac-dc (author)yrralguthrie2015-07-02

Not necessarily true because most shop vacs are already designed to pick up solids and liquids without damage. The blades and motor have a filter before them which extends down in to the negatively pressurized vac canister. That's what makes a shop vac a shop vac opposed to other general purpose vacs.

shopbuilt (author)ac-dc2015-07-02

The separator is mainly used when using the shop vac for dust collection in a wood working shop. When sucking a lot of dust like what you see in the video, this will plug up the filter quite quickly. the separator just acts like a second stage to give longer life to your filter.

fred_dot_u (author)yrralguthrie2015-07-02

I thought most shop vacs have a construction similar to the vortex/cyclone separator, that is a vacuum source atop the canister with a filter surrounding the vacuum inlet within the canister. My Ryobi shop vac has the vacuum hose attached to a fitting that points downward within the canister which could cause a "bounce" effect to the incoming particles and clog the filter as shopbuilt suggested. Most shop vacs are wet/dry and work in the same manner. Liquids never go through the moving blades of the vacuum or through the motor. Household vacuums are completely different in that respect. Our old vacuum had the impeller about 3 inches from the floor. Pick up a paperclip with that and you'd hear it quite clearly.

shopbuilt (author)fred_dot_u2015-07-02

The separator is mainly used when using the shop vac for dust collection in a wood working shop. When sucking a lot of dust like what you see in the video, this will plug up the filter quite quickly. the separator just acts like a second stage to give longer life to your filter.

shopbuilt (author)yrralguthrie2015-07-02

98% of the dust stayed in the bucket, thus meaning less dust ever getting to the vacuum. The vacuum blades and motor are on the other side of the filter and would never see any dust and large particles...

seatmaker (author)lzalcik2015-07-02

I built one about 3 years ago. I does keep most of the dust out of the filter and extends the filter life dramatically.

gbrajovic (author)2015-07-02

Great idea for us that don't have a shop vac, and are trying to get away with a regular home vac.

shopbuilt (author)gbrajovic2015-07-02

it would be really good for that, but keep in mind you do loose some suction when ever adding a second stage.



absolutekold (author)2015-07-02

I've found in my tinkerings that installing a baffle or another small piece of tube so that the opening to the outlet is below the inlet increases efficiency at the cost of some volume. Then again I empty these when they get ~30% full as a matter of habit so it never effected me much. As this system works by using the momentum of the particles to basically throw them out of the air stream, the more "bends" the air has to take before leaving the better (with regard given to diminishing returns). With the outlet being flush with the top the air has to turn twice. Once to head to the center, and again to go up the tube. By gluing an extension to bring the outlet below the inlet add at least 1 more turn in the mix. This is oversimplified in the extreme but if anyone wants to take the time to flow model one of these I wouldn't mind seeing real numbers on angular acceleration (what flings the bits from the wind) for different heights of outlet and kinds of baffles.

shopbuilt (author)absolutekold2015-07-02

I think your right about the baffle. the vacuum side is probably picking up some of the dust that is moving around in the bucket. but to keep it as simple as possible, I left the baffle out.

yrralguthrie (author)2015-07-02

The filter is on the shop vac to catch dust. It is supposed to fill up. Then the shop operator is supposed to replace or clean the filter.

The small vacs that we are talking about here do great job of cleaning the shop or sometimes can be attached to a single machine to keep the machine relatively dust free.

First I'm going to repeat that any airborne dust has to be filtered. No separator is going to let dust drop out. Second the cyclone effect is minimal. Primarily to effect a somewhat longer path for the larger particle to drop out of the air stream. The primary reason the separator works is the reduction of air pressure within the canister. The debris is pushed through the hose into the canister where the reduced pressure allows heavier particles to drop out of the air stream. The dust continues on with the air stream to the filter where it gets caught. No air stream no vacuum. Putting an additional filter on a cyclone slows the air stream and reduces the effectiveness of the vacuum. Most hardware store shop vacuums have a small inlet with a very fast flow of air. Anything that obstructs this flow of air before the filter is reducing the effectiveness of the vacuum. A semi commercial or commercial shop vacuum has a large flow of slower moving air. Put you hand over the inlet and it will appear weaker.

Putting that "cyclone" on probably does extend the life of the filter because it doesn't get dinged by large particles. Why would one want a shop vacuum without a filter? The air would come out with the dust in it.

A commercial or semi commercial shop vac even the ones without the separator have two bags. One on the bottom which allows the heavier stuff to fall out and collects the dust from the top bag. They suck the air into the impeller, through it and then blow it into the bags. Nothing gets out that is bigger that the weave of the bags. And without a separator everything goes past the impellers. Which makes a pre-vacuum seperator quiet useful.

In hardware store vacuums the air is supposed to be filtered before it gets to the impeller. So if one services the vacuum filter as it should be there is really no need or use for a seperator. Just makes the vacuum motor work harder, which it's not designed for. Spare the filter spoil the motor.

Wet hardware store vacuums require a special filter.

My spell checker doesn't know how to spell seperator. e or o.

shopbuilt (author)yrralguthrie2015-07-02

I have used this shop vac with and without the separator on my CNC and i can honestly say that with the separator, the filter stays much cleaner. And yes adding a second stage to any type of dust collected will result in less "suction" but there is still plenty of suction for the CNC. Without out the separator the filter would plug after about an hour or so of use. I'm probably going on about 4 hours of use now with the separator and still no sign of it plugging.

pack2scout (author)2015-07-02

Looks great. Going to make one myself.

One question though. Why did you use hot glue instead of silicone sealant or a construction adhesive?

Now I have to buy a pool to get that huge chlorine container! LOL

shopbuilt (author)pack2scout2015-07-02

thanks. Silicone would be fine to, i just love hot glue;)

CreativeTinker (author)2015-07-02

Awesome! I like the screw-on lid (I've never seen one like that) but just a flat plate with a rubber sheet should do it. The vacuum will hold a plate of MDF directly to the top of a 5-gallon bucket. For that matter, build the fittings into the lid! Support the lid with some bungies to keep it up while you go empty the bucket.

Shiseiji (author)2015-07-02

Good, quick, cheap; it's a balance and I think you did well.

I never got around to making/posting an 'struable, but what I did was use two buckets. One for the cyclone and the second for a cheap vac that goes on top of the bucket. The cyclone captures about 80% of the dust from my table saw when I have the catch pan in the proper place, it still needs some work, and less than 5% of what goes into the cyclone makes it into the vac bucket. Both fit side by side under my contractors saw on a mobile base and the vac is set up to come on with the saw. I think it draws more current than the saw.

thegreat58 (author)2015-07-02

Would it help to put a little water in to catch the finer particles?

E_Knyazev (author)2015-07-02

It`s just a sand. Result of test with dust from woodworking will be more bad.

But idea is great

HeWolf (author)2015-07-02

By adding a basket and tie on filter to the top one can stop 99% more from entering the shop vac and adding to it's life expectancy/ Adding a few more and sizing each filter one can have dust and depree separated to a finer level. say for guardening.

yrralguthrie (author)HeWolf2015-07-02

That sounds like a good idea and may be, or it could make the vacuum motor work much harder to pull air through the additional filter. For gardening a larger mesh attached as you say to ensure that particles that would damage the vacuum filter and go through the blades would be a good idea. But the idea of the separater is to let larger particles drop out into the container.

ac-dc (author)yrralguthrie2015-07-02

For gardening, filters are absolutely useless because they'd clog right away and keep getting clogged in a few seconds. Instead you would want a hardened metal impeller that can take the abrasion and have the debris flow around the motor cavity rather than through it.

Note this is already how garden vacs are designed. We don't need to try to reinvent the wheel. It's all been tested and done already.

ac-dc (author)HeWolf2015-07-02

False. The shop vac would already have a filter to keep dust getting into the blade and motor so by putting an additional filter on you'd just be creating an additional impedance to airflow so the motor runs hotter and is shorter lived.

Add a few more and you make the problem even worse. Shop vacs start out with about as much filtration as they handle. You'd need to design from scratch using a motor that's underdriven/overbuilt for the purpose so it has more thermal margin rather than one they're pushing to the max to get higher performance per cost, OR with the amount of filtration you're talking about it might not work well at all, would instead need to move to a higher suction, lower flow rate piston and cylinder air pump, and then cooling becomes much easier because you can just give it an oil bath and reservoir fins that exhaust flows over.

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