Build a Ratcheting Hand Powered Vacuum




Introduction: Build a Ratcheting Hand Powered Vacuum

So you can buy a hand powered vacuum for the low low price of $159.99.  But that's not very fun.

And ours looks like a crazy gun!  

I took a lot of photos.  You could probably even ignore the text and look at the pictures for most, if not all of this instructable!

If you start to have any trouble during this instructable, consider checking out the final steps entitled "Gotchas and Quirks" for help.

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Step 1: Gather the Required Materials

Tools and Equipment:
3D Printer
power drill
3/8ths inch drill bit
Flathead screwdriver
3" C-Clamp
pair of pliers
A spanner for your nuts

Caulking gun: use the red caulking gun in the second picture.  Or modify the 3D model to work with your caulking gun.
Reversing mount: Print from the file on this page
Piston head:  Print from the file on this page
Two 2" round O-rings
ABS/PVC glue and preparation liquid
A Lamp Repair Kit (should have a 3/8ths inch hollow threaded tube and two nuts to fit it)
3 feet of 2 inch PVC pipe.  If the PVC pipe is rated for high pressure, you should be able to reverse the vacuum to create a pump(be careful)
2 end caps for your pipe
3 feet of 1/4" all thread
4 rubber fender washers (Inside diameter of 1/4 inch.  Outside diameter greater than 1"
optional metal fender washer with a inside diameter of 1/4 inch.
rubber stopper (1/4 M size)  See third picture for a better view
1/4 inch washer
1/4 inch washer or wing nut
4 half-inch screws.  See the fourth picture for a better viewS.
Hose clamp for the 3/8" inner diameter air hose
at least 3 inches of 3/8" inner diameter air hose

Step 2: Remove the Plunger From the Caulking Gun

Unscrew the nut on the end of the plunger. Pic 1
remove the nut and the metal disk.  Pic 2
Slide out the plunger shaft.  Pic 3

Step 3: Prepare the All-thread

Use your C-Clamp to hold the all thread to the work table.  Leave about 2" over the edge of the table(pic 1)

Use a hammer(pic 2) or a pliers(pic 3) to bend the rod downwards(pic 4).

Step 4: The Tricky Part: Inserting the Allthread

Insert the all-thread from the trigger-side of the caulking gun.  You will need to squeeze the caulking gun trigger(pic 2).  Then push down the ratchets with a flat head screwdriver(pic 3 and pic 4).  

Once you have the all-thread through the ratchet latches(pic 7), screw the all-thread at least an additional 2" through the gun.

The video in the next step may help with this step.

Step 5: Set the Allthread in the Machine

We need to push the all-thread all the way through the gun.  It would be silly to sit and try to thread that entire rod through the gun.  

So it's best to disable the ratcheting mechanism.  

I made a 1-minute video to explain how to do this.  Turn your volume down before watching:

Step 6: Prepare the End Caps

We need to drill through the centers of our two end caps.  We need to find the centers of our two end caps first.

Find anything with a right angle.  A sheet of paper works.  A corner of a normal table works.  Rectangle has four right angles.  My pocket protector has right angles and it's see-through so I used it.  You can see how to build a pocket protector like mine in one of my instructables.

1 Place the right angled object flat against the cap's surface.  
2 Position the corner of the right angle so that the point is barely not hanging over the edge of the cap(Pic 2).  
3 Mark both of the points where the paper(or pocket protector) extend beyond the end cap(Also Pic 2).  
4 Draw a line between these two points on the end cap.  
5 Rotate the right angled object and do steps 1 through 4 again(Pic 3).  The point where both of the lines cross will ALWAYS be the epicenter of the cap.
6 Use this technique to mark the center of the other cap too.  
7 Drill a 3/8" hole through the center of both end caps(pic 4).
8 Put cleaner and then glue in the whole on one end cap.
9 Put your lamp kit's threaded 3/8ths" pipe through the end cap with glue and secure it with more glue and a fender washer on each side.
10 Add a little more glue to the outside of both fenders around the threaded tube(Pic 5).
11 Twist a nut down on both sides of the 3/8ths pipe.  Don't break the seal for the glue.  This seal should be air tight(I add a double-lock mechanism anyways).  this is the only part of the machine that cannot be easily maintained.

Step 7: Assemble Your Vacuum Base

First place the Harness through the all-thread(pic 1)
If it doesn't fit, Don't force it.  You'll shatter it like I did (Pic 2, 3 and 4).  I made the harness for that specific model of caulking gun.  It works with that model.  I can't guarantee it will work with anything else.  If you've shattered it, I've put together a step on how to recover from your mistake.

Slide it down over the butt of the caulking gun(Pic 5).
Secure the harness adapter with your 1/2" screws(pic 6 and 7).  The harness only fits one way.  Try flipping it if the holes don't line up.
Now slide the better of the two end-caps you drilled down the all thread.  Put it cup-side away from the gun(pic 8).

Step 8: Prepare the Vacuum Plunger

Now we just need to prepare the plunger.  It looks like picture 1 when we're done.

1  Put the wing-nut on the all-thread upside down(pic 2).  You can put a washer on top of it if you want.
2  Screw the plunger that you printed over the all-thread(pic 3).  It's okay if it's not making a perfect seal with the all thread. We'll make the seal later.  
3  Twist on your 1/4m stopper(pic 4)
4  tighten on your 1/4" nut by holding the wing nut and using your spanner
5  stretch the O-rings over the plunger.  If you have a seam on your o-ring, rotate it by 180 degrees from the other one(Not absolutely necessary, but good form).  Put them in the top-most and bottom-most slots.

Congratulations, You may move on to the next step!  We're actually very close to being finished!

Step 9: Add a Double Airlock to Both Sides(Optional)

The reason that multiple air chambers are used in a piston(or your nipple) is to fractionally weaken the pressure difference between barriers.  It's all very sciencey and out of the scope of this tutorial.  This guy explains the air chambers best:

You'll notice that my piston includes a ring for a liquid seal as well... but it's not necessary and really causes more problems than it's worth.  It was designed that way so you can reverse the ratchet and turn this into a high-powered injection device.  This instructable is already way too long to do that though.

After your glue has dried, push a rubber fender onto both sides of the nipple cap.  You can glue this down as well, but it's not necessary.  I didn't and my vacuum works great.  

Step 10: Assemble Your Vacuum Gun!

Put the plunger into the pipe.  Don't try to put the pipe over the plunger...  that's really hard for some tangential reason(s).  One of which is simply a matter of awkwardness.

I made a little video on how to do this.  The plunger is going to be a really snug fit due to the O-Rings.  That's what we want of course.  However, it's a challenge to get in.  Resist the temptation to use a mallet or a hammer.  The impact can damage your device and the force is too focused anyways.

It took me almost an hour to to figure out how to do it in a couple minutes.

Here's the video(also included below).  Turn your volume down before watching:

Step 11: Glue *One* End Cap to the Tube

Make sure that the glued end cap is set up first.  This should take at least an hour.

Put cleaner on the inside of the cap with the nipple.
Put cleaner on the outside of one end of the big pvc tube.  Don't put on too much, you can weaken the pvc that way.
Put glue on both the inside of the cap and the outside of one end of the Tube. Don't glop it on and don't just skiff the surface.  Put it on like a thin coat of paint.  I'm demonstrating on the wrong cap in the images below because I had already glued the other one together without taking pictures. You want to do this on the cap with a nipple!
Push and twist the cap with the nipple onto the tube.  I've been told to do this step in one motion.  If you don't do it in one motion, that's okay.  It's still functional.

Let this set up for at least an hour.

Step 12: Attach an Air Hose to the End Nipple

With any Luck, your air hose shouldn't fit on your nipple perfectly.  Twist it down to the top of your rubber disk.  Do not use a hammer!

Add your hose clamp on the end closest to the vacuum(Pic 3).

Marvel at your finished Pump.   Now you have serious ammo for "Build a Vacuum Day!"‎

Thanks for reading my instructable!  I worked  rather hard on this as you can hopefully see.  It was surprisingly fun to write this instructable.  In a puerile sense, I got a hidden joy from saying "butt", "caulk", and "nipple" so many times.  It's childish, but I feel morally obligated to expose those thoughts.

Step 13: Gotchas and Quirks (Harness Doesn't Fit)

So... Your harness didn't fit, because your printer is slightly off or you went with a different caulk gun than what I told you to use.  You could do any of the following:
1)  Change the scale of the model and print it out again.
2)  Modify the model in an editor(I might make another instructable for doing that) and print it again.
3)  Machine minor changes into the model to make it fit.  I recommend a table jig saw, but you could use a band saw, a table saw, or a hand hack saw.  You could also try baking it in an oven(don't let the part touch metal as it bakes... and don't bake it on wood or anything porous), using heat gloves and a heat gun to soften the plastic and heat the metal as you SLOWLY push the harness over it.  Perhaps you could bake it onto the caulking gun. I don't know what that paint will do in an oven.  It may give off harmful fumes.
4)  Push it down harder, shatter it into several pieces(see pic 1, 2, and 3) and then either:
      A) hold back tears for the sake of your gender, take a cold shower in the fetal position, eat the entirety of a jar of peanut butter(or nutella).  Cry anyways.  Give up on your project after you're nearly done.  Finally, jump off of a really high structure(like a dog house).  Lie on the ground below waiting for death to softly waft the pain away into the sweet bone-white lacy curtains of apathetic death.*
      B) Nut up and shut up.  Glue the pieces back together by sanding(Pic 4 and 5), cleaning(Pic 6), gluing(Pic 7), clamping(Pic 8), cleaning excess(Pic 9), clamping to gun to prevent it from warping(Pic 10).  Then machine it to fit your gun or use the right gun(I was using a blue gun so my red part would show up better for this instructable).  
5) use the right gun(I went with this option see Pic 11 and 12)

*Depression is actually a very serious disease.  DON'T do any of these idiotic ideas!  If you have thought about doing ANY of these things, you need to help yourself immediately.  Change your diet and exercise, change your routine, seek support, seek a mental expert.  Get help!  Talk about your depression to people who will actually help you and act upon their advice.  If everything is failing, consider medication.  

Step 14: Gotchas and Quirks (The Rod Keeps Sticking to the Gun)

This doesn't really bother me, but I can see how you might get annoyed.  Use a metal cutting disk and a miter saw to chop off the back end of the caulk gun.  You can use a tin snips, but you've got to have forearms like Popeye.

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    6 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Ok, maybe I am just not seeing this. But what does this do? I read the website you linked too but is there any useful function for this or does it just suck? I could see using this to remove bubbles from plaster in a vacuum chamber or making your own vacuum tube diodes but what are YOU doing with it specifically?


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    This, like every vacuum, just sucks. I use it to extract bubbles from polyurethane. It can get closer to 0atm than most commercial solutions. However it takes time.

    Thank you for your interest! I have a bunch of instructables lined up to post!
    If you care, here's the history behind the necessity that bred the invention: I first needed a vacuum chamber for removing bubbles from polyurethane. I bought a $150 attachment for my air compressor and stuck a couple clear plastic buckets and gloves together to make a chamber. I have since destroyed my buckets in a fit of mad science in order to build a hackerspace(long and confusing story). However, I may make an instructable on how to create a similar vacuum chamber. To answer your question: It sucks the air or fluid out of things. I am currently using it for a project that is not ready to be discussed. I first developed it for a low-cost solution for a competition. I needed something that would help a two-part plastic(not epoxy) from separating a film during the curing process. I also had to do it for under $20. So I gave birth to the machination you see before you! :D Both work at the same rate with the same volume(including reset time). The hand powered one is obviously more effort and needs a simple Y valve to fractionally remove air.


    XD step 13
    Wait... How did you come up with all of those scenarios...?


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I've built a couple of these before. So I guess I could figure out what could go wrong when others try to make stuff.


    6 years ago on Step 6

    If you want to see how to build that pocket protector, go here: