Introduction: Vacuum Wall Adapter for Clean Drilling

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When you drill a hole, you create dust. That is true for any material, since the stuff needs to get out of the way to make the hole. It is worse for some materials that are prone to fine dust, like drywall or brick'n'mortar walls, and unlike a workshop you would not want a fine layer of the stuff all over living room, kitchen, etc. (You might not want that dust in your workshop, either).

The usual way to prevent that - or a common one, at least - is to use a vacuum and hold the hose underneath the hole that you are drilling. But that means you either need a second pair of hands, or you have to guide the drill with only one hand - a fun thing to do, especially with hammer action on.

There is also the idea to tape an envelope or something similar under the hole to catch the dust that is falling down. That should work, but it still requires tape and might not work on some surfaces.

But of course, there is a better solution - a way to collect the dust with the vacuum where it is created, without the need for any extra hands.


  • a piece of board - you need a square piece about 3-4'' (8-10 cm) wide - or one that you can cut the square from.You could actually use an odd shape, too, but square is the basic requirement.
  • a long piece of thinner stick - preferrably about 1/8'' or 3 mm thick. Model making plywood works well, but you can also cut off smaller strips from a thicker piece.
  • a chunk of wood - a cube of about 2'' (5 cm) along the sides. I used a block from a dismantled pallet and cut it to size - just be careful to pick one that has no nails left in it. When in doubt, do not use it. You could also laminate some scraps together for this.
  • wood glue - well, for gluing wood to wood.


  • a saw - a way to cut wood. I used a bandsaw almost exclusively, but that is due to the fact that I have one. You can also use a table saw, a jigsaw or a handsaw.
  • a drill press - This project requires the use of forstner bits and some aiming, so a drill press would come in real handy. It can be done with a handheld drill, though, as long as you clamp your pieces down properly.
  • forstner bits - one the size of your vacuum hose to create a hole where you can plug it in, and one of 2/3 to 1/2 the size to make the elbow connector.Spade bits might work, too, for as long as their tip doew not go to deep (see step
  • a drill bit (preferrably brad point) - slightly larger than the largest hole you anticipate to drill.
  • clamps - to hold things in place until the glue does its magic (or the drill press).
  • rotary tool (optional) - to finess the inside of the elbow. Not strictly necessary, and I did not do this for mine.

As usual, there is also a video I made for your viewing pleasure.

Step 1: The Base Frame

You need a square piece of stock for the base, and the simplest way to get that is to pick a scrap piece that is alread square (or at least square enough). Frankly, you could use a round, oval or pear-shaped piece for all I care, this little helper will work regardless.

But since it requires a border on one side made from the thin material, and since creating that as a square is the easiest way to get it done, I will go with a square here.

To create the frame from the thin stock, say, thin plywood, first cut a long strip about 1/4'' or 6 mm wide. Next cut pieces of the length of your baseplate minus one width of the thin stock. Confusing? I hope the pictures help to make it clearer. This way, you get four pieces of equal length that can be combines into a square frame for the base.

If you do not have any thin stock you can cut it from a larger board, but make sure that is is not much thicker than the aforementioned 1/4'' or 6 mm, because anything you add here will reduce the depth you will be able to drill to. That might not matter much for the holes you plan to drill, but you never know when that extra bit might come in handy.

Go ahead and glue them in place using wood glue and clamps.

Step 2: The Not Quite Black Hole

The vacuum needs to attach to the base plate (in a sense), and for that you need to drill a matching hole into it. I happen to have a forstner bit for the outer diameter of m shopvac hose. If you do not have that luxury, you might get away with a "close enough" in this step.

Because actually, this hole will not get to see the vacuum hose at all, so if this one is a little on the wider or smaller side, it will not matter. You will see why that is in the next step.

The main and most important idea here is to keep the hole inside the frame we already glued. The best way to do that (and also what I should have done) is to drill from the framed side so you know where the hole will be. Also, remember to put a backer board underneath the piece to prevent tearout when drilling through.

Now you have a hole to (roughly) fit your vacuum hose, but for several reasons, having that hose just stick out perpendicular to the wall is not a good option. Those reasons include obstruction as well as weight distribution. In short, the design would not work like that. So we use the block'o'wood to create a crude elbow for the hose.

Step 3: Elbow Grease

Note: no actual grease involved in this step.

You need two different sizes of forstner bits to make this, and the outcome will by no means be fit to please someone striving for optimal fluid dynamics. In other words, there will be steps and corners in there that might lessen the airflow, but for this application, they do not make much of a difference. There will still be enough suction.

First, you should pick two adjacent surfaces with long grain (basically, where the lines on the wood are visible and, well, long) as opposed to endgrain, which is much harder to forstner into in my experience. Mark those, and then mark two spots that are on the center line of each face. You can use the actual centers of both faces, too. I put mine slightly closer together to save on material.

Now comes the forstner part. Pick one side and one mark, and use the hose-fitting forstner bit to drill into it. Do not go too deep, say, 1/4'' or 6 mm at a time. Once there, flip the piece and do the same on the other mark. Keep repeating this process (drill, flip, drill) until the holes intersect - this is what you need to keep an eye out for.

Also keep an eye out for the center spur hole that the forstner bits create, because now, you need to drill down with the hose bit on one side to 1/4'' or 6mm above the center from the other hole. Do not remove it, you still need it!

You need this little mark to center the smaller forstner bit. In my case, I used one about 1/3 smaller than the hose-fitting one, but one half the size would work as well. Put it on the mark and drill down until you are almost at the bottom of the perpendicular hole. This should remove most of the material in the elbow.

And that is it. Congratulations, you just made a wooden elbow piece. If you want, you can now use a rotary tool with a sanding attachment to flatten the steps and edges inside, but this is not necessary for this item to function.

On a side note, if you only have a hose-fitting bit and not a smaller one, you can also drill until both sides intersect, then drill down to the bottom of the other hole from one side. This will not yield a better elbow, but it will at least work.

And another side note, you can use spade bits for this, just make sure that their tip does not "puncture" the elbow. You can plug up such holes with a dowel or some toothpicks and wood glue, but it is work best avoided.

Another one, if you do not have a bit that fits the outer diameter of your hose, you need to improvise - either take a smaller one and widen it with a rotary tool or a file until it fits, or take a wider one and use shims to keep the hose in place.

Step 4: Cutting Corners

This is a rather cosmetic step, but it also serves to reduce the weight of the finished device. After you complete the elbow you might find that the piece you used was actually too large, and if you feel comfortable taking off some of that material while leaving the elbow itself intact when you should do so now.

Either way - if you cut away on the sides or not - you should add some chamfers to the corners. It will look better and save some more weight in the process. But wait! Leave one side of the actual elbow alone. This face will be used for gluing, so there is no point in making it smaller.

In my case, cutting off the corners was also a good idea because otherwise, those corners would have protruded over the base plate. This would not impact function, but it would not have looked as sleek.

There are again many ways to do the chamfering. I did it freehand on the bandsaw (with the piece resting on the table with one corner), which is certainly not the best way to do it. Using a v-block (a block with a cut out v with 45° angles) would be a better choice, and a table saw would work, too. Of course, you can also use a plane, file or rasp to get the job done. Just make sure that you are comfortable doing it - if not, then it is probably not a safe idea to begin with.

Now you can glue the elbow to the base. Make sure you align the hones to the best of your abilities, then clamp it down. If it keeps sliding, a pinch of salt on the glue helps to keep it in place until the clamp is ready.

Step 5: The Hole for the Drill

There is one last thing that this little helper needs in order to work as a drill accessory - a hole for the actual drill. There are two things to consider for this, but nothing too complicated. One is to make the hole large enough to cover all your expected drilling needs. Let us assume that you have a masonry drill bit set that goes up to 3/8'' or 10 mm, so that would be the largest hole you can expect to drill. Thus, the through hole needs to be at least that large, and you should make it a little bigger in order to see the mark on the wall better, and not to get the drill jammed in the hole while putting it in or taking it out. If you do not have any larger drills you can always use a file, or move the drill from side to side in the hole to make it slightly larger.

The other thing to consider is that you need enough space so the drill you are using can go as deep as the chuck allows without hitting the elbow. Usually, that means you should just put the hole in the corner of the frame, possibly even a little closer to the edge than I did.

Step 6: Reality Check

The whole thing is really simple to use.

  • Plug the vacuum hose into the elbow, and align it so that it comes out parallel to the base (mine has this slight bent piece at the end, and it would not let the base go flat against the wall with that angle facing towards that very wall.
  • Now turn on the vacuum and place the base against the wall. It should stay in place from suction alone.
  • Use the drill hole to aim for your mark (if you have one, otherwise align the hole where you want to drill into the wall).
  • With the vacuum attachment firmly on the wall, take your drill with two hands, put it into the through hole and drill away.

As soon as you turn off the vacuum, the base will become loose and leave behind a clean hole (or as clean as the material you drilled into permits. I should say a dust free hole).

I did a test in my shop, randomly drilling holes into the wall. First without this neat little device attached, then with it in place. I used a brown paper envelope to catch the dust in both cases, and if you believe my pictures it removes virtually all the dust. If you do not believe them then even better - go ahead and make your own, and please share your experience!

I have also made a video about this project (actually in English and in German), and I invite you to check it out. I hope you enjoyed this one, please leave a comment down below if you have any questions or suggestions, and as always, remember to be Inspired!