A Gas-powered Vacuum Cleaner for Use in Gold Prospecting





Introduction: A Gas-powered Vacuum Cleaner for Use in Gold Prospecting

One of my many hobbies is recreational gold prospecting. I've been gold panning on my vacations for many years. It's a lot of fun. It's great exercise. I get to do it in really scenic locations. I have even found some gold. Gold likes to collect in cracks and crevasses and really hard to get at nooks and crannies. What is really needed to clean out those pesky cracks and crevasses is a vacuum cleaner. Problem is, where do you plug it in out in the wilderness? Solution, replace the electric motor with a gasoline engine. Now you have a vacuum cleaner that will work anywhere.

As with most of my other equipment, (recirculating sluice, wind turbine, solar panel, telescopes, jet engine, etc., etc.), I decided to try building one myself, rather than just buying one. The tinkering is half the fun after all. Also, you will get a much greater sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when you know it is YOUR home-built equipment that is doing such a good job, and not some store-bought thing. You can find more information on my various projects at http://www.mdpub.com

Step 1: Find a Cheap Wet-dry Vac

The first step in the process is acquiring a small, wet/dry vac cheap. I found one at a yard sale. It was in pretty bad shape. The guy swore it worked though. I didn't really care if it worked or not because I was going to take the electric motor off anyway, but I didn't tell him that. I kept talking him down in price because of how beat-up it was. Eventually I got it for $5. Maybe I'll write an instructable on haggling.

Step 2: Replace the Electric Motor With a Gas Leaf Blower

Now I needed to replace the electric motor with a gas engine. Well I already had a leaf blower. It is engine and blower unit in one. That's half of a vacuum cleaner right there. All I needed to add was a tank and a hose, and the wet dry/vac I just bought had them.

I removed the nozzle extension and the intake diffuser from the leaf blower. This turns it into quite a compact unit that will sit comfortably on top of the tank of the wet-dry vac. The pieces just snap right back on when I need to do lawn work.

Step 3: Make a Top Plate for the Vacuum

After I removed the electric motor and blower unit from the wet/dry vac, I contemplated how to attach the leaf blower in its place. I decided to just cut a disk of plywood that would fit over the top of the wet/dry vac's tank. I used a jig saw to cut it out of a piece of 3/4 inch plywood I just happened to have lying around. I put three screws in with their heads sticking up a little for the hold-down clips on the tank to get a grip on.

Then I cut holes in the disk to accommodate the leaf blower. I not only needed a hole for the leaf blower's air intake, but also holes for various protruding pieces that would otherwise be in the way and not allow the leaf blower to sit all the way down flat on the disk.

The third photo shows the leaf blower test fit on the top of the vac. It looks good, but there are a lot of air leaks that prevent the vacuum from developing good suction. I needed to add weather stripping.

Step 4: Seal With Weather Stripping and Screw Down the Blower

I got some thick, adhesive-backed weather stripping at my local home center store and used it to ensure an air-tight seal between the leaf blower and the wood disk. Caulking would probably work better, but I wanted to be able to remove the blower easily when I needed it for yard work. If you have a leaf blower you are willing to permanently dedicate to this application, then caulking may be the way to go.

Then I used long wood screws and washers to hold the blower down on the wood disk. My model of leaf blower has convenient tabs on the edges to run the screws through. It only takes a couple of minutes and a screwdriver to free it up when I have to use it for yard work.

Step 5: Finished!

There is the "finished" product. There are a couple of issues that still need ironing out. I need to put handles on it somehow so I can pick it up easily when it is full of dirt. Picking it up by the leaf blower handle isn't going to work. Also, there is no automatic shutdown mechanism when the tank is full like the original electric unit had. I'll just have to keep an eye on the level of material in it. I can't wait to take it out in the field and give it a try.

Note: If you build one of these, I highly recommend you use ear protection while running it. It is very loud and the hose isn't long enough to allow you to get too far away from it. Also, a dust mask would be a good idea. This unit has no filter, and so blows a lot of fine dust out when vacuuming up dry material.

More information on my projects can be found at http://www.mdpub.com



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    20 Discussions

    Good article. I absolutely appreciate this website. Thanks!

    That's a clever idea to turn an ordinary vacuum cleaner into a gas powered one
    to use for gold prospecting !

    Please more of these projects. Thanks

    I tip my hat to you sir. I clicked this thinking i would need an engineering degree to make it, then i saw the pure simplicity of the project. You just don't see things that don't need a CNC router or a 3D printer on this site anymore.

    Nice job there, you know throwing in a little cyclone cone like a dyson mightn't be too complicated but would rid you of dust at the upper levels, also with some really clever shaping you could separate water/rock/dust etc. and with fine tuning get gold which is pretty dense, it'd be a lot of effort to make but it would basically keep nothing but gold in it, just an idea there, the basic cyclone one would be easy to shape and would lower the rubbish flying out the back, plus it could just have a downpipe to eliminate emptying issues... Also if you end up using the leafblower in that full time hot glue or silicone caulk could be a nice way to completely seal it... Also from what you've done it looks like there wasn't much need for the vacuum, a bin or barrel on castors could be a larger alternative or a bucket to keep sizes...

    6 replies

    i agree with the last bit there...if the only part of the vacuum that you used was the canister...why not just use a 5 gallon bucket? also you could probably work up an auto shutdown deal relatively easily by making some kind of lever that would get pushed up by the stuff in the bucket that would choke the engine or something like that

    Nick the float from a toilet cistern, attach to a lever mechanism that simply turns off either the float petcock or the choke, if it's got an off setting...

    since you have the parts from the old vacuum, why not use the cage and ball from it to seal off the suction port when it's full. You could add to that same ball either a lever or just a carfully positioned microswitch connected to the kill wire.

    Makes as much sense, unless the kill switch is a full kill switch for emergency because some make it a nuisance to restart or need reset...

    Well, using a 5 gal bucket would involve getting a hose, making the necessary fittings, etc etc. It seems to me that while using a bucket is possible, it's just easier using an existing vacuum canister with everything you need right there. And it was only 5 bucks, according to the author.

    here is a suggestion about the dust. I made a modification to a regular shop vac for sucking fine dust like drywall dust which quickly plugs the filter.
    on the inside of the tank where the hose comes in, I glued a pvc elbow and then a pvc pipe down to the bottom of the tank, another elbow and pipe across the bottom. Now I drilled a bunch of small holes in the pipe across the bottome of the tank and put water in it to cover this pipe. So in operation, the incoming air is bubbled through water and traps all the dust before it gets to te filter

    one question:
    Have you ever tried sucking your hand with it? O__O

    Great idea for a wilderness vacuum cleaner but I see one serious problem. Leaf blower motors make TOO much noise. If you want to loose friends and aggravate people just fire up that "Davis19 All Purpose Leaf Blower Gold Sucker" there at that pristine wilderness creek. You might find you have become the victim of one of those unfortunate wilderness hunting accidents. :>O


    make sure to keep the shop vac motor, they can be.....http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FcaCBrrCfg

    My job has me all over the US going to different AT&T; depot installing new laptop cradles and GPS and such in all of they're vehicles and some of them are so nasty you wouldn't think the person would even want to sit in it. So when I'm having to lay down in the floor boards to run wires and zip tie them and all i get pretty dirty and this is going to come in handy! I have a giant rigid electric one but its just so big and inconvenient to carry because of needing to bring extension cords and all. Thanks for sharing because my brain never thought about converting it to a gasoline powered monster.

    1 reply

    Forgot to ask one thing, what do you do about filtering? Did you attach the old filter to the blower or just leave it non filtered? I would think without a filter something could get lodged in the blower turbine and ruin it.

    Great job, nice to see more of the stuff from your site on here.