Compact Dust Collector




About: My name is Troy. I'm a Mechatronics graduate studying Mechanical Engineering. I like to make things and spend time outdoors (especially SCUBA diving). I am a Community Manager for Instructables.

One of my least favorite tasks in the shop is cleaning up. Sweeping, dusting, and organizing are all nice once finished, but are painful in the moment. Of these chores, the one I detest the most is emptying the shop vac. Dust goes everywhere, the filter is clogged and you need to clean it out, all around not a pleasant experience. Shop vac bags are nice, but I hate the feeling of throwing my money away. Not to mention, if you forget to change them and they get too full, they rip and dust goes everywhere anyways. This compact dust collector was the answer to my problem. With no bags to replace or filters to clean, it is easy to empty once full.

Step 1: My Constraints

I wanted to design my own dust collector because space in my single car garage shop is limited and mostly non-existent. The only place this would fit is under the right wing of my table saw. Because of these height constraints, a cyclone (inverted cone) style dust collector would not fit. The thien baffle style dust collector was the only option I could think of to try with this limited space. So far it has worked great for me and it fits within my design constraints.

Step 2: Tools and Materials



  • Shop Vac
  • Router
  • Tablesaw
  • Sander
  • Angle Grinder
  • Dremel
  • Clamps
  • Disk Sander
  • Scroll Saw
  • Drill
  • Band Clamp
  • Hole Saw
  • Belt Sander
  • File
  • Brad Nailer

Step 3: Rim and Top

There are many circles to be cut within this instructable and many ways to cut circles. I used a circle cutting jig on my bandsaw similar to this. Use whatever method to cut a circle that works for you.

Cut a circle with 13 in. in diameter. Cut a second circle from within that circle 10 3/4 in. in diameter. Glue a scrap piece of wood in the cut through the rim and clamp until dry. Sand off the remaining wood with a disk sander and spindle sander.

Step 4: Make Thien Baffle

Cut a circle the size of the opening in your bucket. I used MDF because I didn't have a scrap piece of plywood I was willing to use. Place the rim from the previous step on this new circle. Trace the interior diameter on the circle. Using a pair of compasses, draw a circle 1 1/2 in. smaller than the previous circle. Divide the circle into thirds and remove 2/3 of the circle with a jig saw or coping saw. Apply glue to the exterior rim of the circle and attach it to the rim. Use spring clamps to hold it until dry.

Step 5: Cut and Attach Metal

Many dust collectors use acrylic for this since it's fun to see the dust spinning around. Unfortunately the price difference between acrylic and this sheet metal found at my local home store wasn't enough to justify the acrylic. This metal can easily be cut to 6 in. wide with a angle grinder. Once cut to width, wrap it inside the rim from the previous step to measure what length it should be. You want the metal to overlap itself about an inch. Drill clearance holes through the metal every 6 in. and secure it in place inside the rim with screws.

Step 6: Attach Top

Place the interior circle cut from the rim inside the metal (I screwed a paint stir stick to the top to keep it from falling in). Using a band clamp, tighten the metal around the top. Drill pilot holes through the metal and attach it with screws (every 6 in. like before). Drill a hole through the center of the overlapping edges and secure with a machine screw and nut.

Step 7: Drill Port in Top

Drill a hole through the top the size of your hose from the shop vac.

Step 8: Create Inlet Shroud

For the outside of the inlet you will need 4 pieces of wood. The first will be the outside board that will lay tangent to the cylinder. Hold it on the top of the cylinder and trace the outside curve. Transfer the edge across the board and sand up to the line using a belt sander. Make the top and bottom pieces in the same fashion by holding the board and tracing the edge with a pencil.

The other side needs to be the same height but doesn't need any particular angle cut to it.

Step 9: Glue Input Port

Wanting the input port to fit as perfectly as it could, I opted to glue it together while on the dust collector. Apply glue to each of the edges and clamp it in place on the collector (do not glue to the dust collector). Once dry, you cut all the edges flush with each other.

Step 10: Cut Top

Because the inlet wasn't as tall as needed, I cut another board that would fit on top of the inlet and reach over the top. This board needed to have some wood removed with a router. Glue this board in place and trim the edges flush.

Step 11: Cut Inlet

The inlet needs to be located just above the beginning of the solid portion of the baffle. Not knowing how big this port needed to be, I opted for creating the same size of opening as the projected area within my vacuum hoses. 3 in. tall x 1 5/8 in. wide. I cut this with a cutoff wheel in my dremel and cleaned up the edges with a file.

Step 12: Attach Port Opening

Trace the interior and exterior of the port on a piece of wood. You will want to route around this square to reduce the edges of the wood and cut along the exterior lines.

Step 13: Attach Port

Drill pilot and clearance holes on the top of the port into the top of the dust collector. Verify that the inlet through the metal lines up with the edge of the port. Attach the port with a second screw on the bottom of the rim.

Step 14: Attach Front of Port

Drill a hole the size of your hose through the center of the front. Apply glue to the edge of the front of the port and clamp to port until dry. Trim off the excess wood with a router and sand until smooth.

Step 15: Apply Finish

Apply finish to all exposed wood. Once the finish is dry, apply silicone to all gaps and along all wooden edges between the inlet and the dust collector. Secure the inlet while the silicone is wet. Let dry according to the silicone directions before using the dust collector.

Step 16: Testing

Place the dust collector on your bucket and dump some sawdust on the floor.

I sucked up enough to fill up the bucket and there wasn't anything that showed up inside my shop vac.

Pleased with it's performance, I decided to make a cart for the dust collector.

Step 17: Parts

These parts will vary depending on your particular shop vac. Because of this, no measurements will be given.

You will need:

  • A shelf to hold the dust collector with a hole cut from the center the size of the bucket.
  • Two upright walls to hold the shelf up (one of mine is a few inches shorter because I didn't want to cut into a new piece of plywood for two more inches.)
  • Triangles to be added for strength. I only used six as I didn't want the front to look too cluttered and it will make for easier dusting in the shop.

Step 18: Assemble

Glue and nail the triangles to the walls. I did this upside down as shown in the picture.

Glue and nail the top in place.

Flip the whole thing upside down and glue and nail the bottom in place.

Nail two pieces of scrap wood where the bucket meets the bottom of the cart. This probably isn't necessary, but is one more added measure to keep the bucket secure.

Step 19: Attach Shop Vac

I removed the wheels from my shop vac and noticed that there were holes in each corner where the wheels were attached. Using scrap dowles that fit within these holes, mark where they meet the cart. Drill holes in the plywood at these locations. Covering the bottom of the holes with tape, glue the dowels in place.

Step 20: Attach Wheels

Attach four casters to the bottom of the cart and verify that everything fits.

Step 21: Sand, Finish, and Assemble

Sand the entire cart, apply a polyurethane finish, and load up the cart.

Step 22: Conclusion

I have been using this dust collector for a few months and it is working great! I can't think of anything that I would change.

Have you made your own dust collector or tried a few different designs, what do you like the best? I'd love to see your dust collectors in the comments!



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29 Discussions


3 months ago

I really like this!



Question 7 months ago

Nice design- aAre you in the norther or southern hemisphere? Should the inlet port be reversed depending on the natural rotation of the earth? Would it make any difference to the efficiency?

1 more answer
tomatoskinsACCURATE LED

Answer 7 months ago

I am in the northern hemisphere. The coriolis force induced by the planet on something this small is extremely negligible. I wouldn't worry about it making any difference in the efficiency of the dust collector.


7 months ago

Drywall and fireplace dusts are filter killers along with pet hair!

If this will will work to keep them away from my filter this will be top priority on my doit list.

Is there a specific height/diameter ratio benefit? or can I make it taller and/or larger in diameter?

1 reply

Reply 7 months ago

In all my research previous to making this I did not find a min or max ratio or size that should be used. I'm sure it would work great for drywall and fireplace ash.


7 months ago

On step 3, save yourself time by drilling a hole on the inside of the circle rather than cutting from the outside. This avoid the cutting, glueing and sanding of a filler strip. Always cut circles from the inside.

1 reply

Reply 7 months ago

If you are using a jig saw, that is absolutely correct! However, I was using a bandsaw with a circle cutting jig and you can't get to the inside of the circle with a bandsaw without cutting through the outside. As well, for this particular situation I wanted to save the inside circle so drilling a hole would have damaged this interior circle.


7 months ago

Just amazing! It looks so simple and so well done. I definitely need to make smaller version of this for myself. :)


Question 8 months ago on Step 1

I have a 55 gal. heavy plastic drum I have been trying to design a vac system for and this looks like I "just" need a heavier vac for. Can I just use an old motor to transport the dust/particles?

Nice job, good use of scrap :?)

David Catriel

8 months ago

Detailed and nicely written. Thx for sharing!


8 months ago

I don't see in your discussion where the inlet port needs to be with respect to the baffle opening. A Google search tells me the inlet needs to be right at the start of the solid part of the baffle. You should add this into the instructions so it'll be in the PDF version.

2 replies

Reply 8 months ago

Sorry I missed that! I have updated the instructable!


Reply 8 months ago

Thanks. I had exactly the same question.


Question 8 months ago

Have you tried using this for vacuuming drywall dust and if so how does it work. I would think it would at least minimize so of the drywall dust entering the vacuum bag and prolong the bag life.


Question 8 months ago

A nice instructable to be sure, but I don't see the necessity of building one. I hook up my vac directly to my router table or sander output, and that seems to do the trick pretty well. Maybe I'm thick. Does the extra collector perform some extra function?.

1 more answer

Answer 8 months ago

The purpose of the dust collector is to prevent dust from clogging the vacuum filter, reducing the vacuum performance. Without a collector, your vacuum performance decreases over time, until you clean or replace your filter. With the filter, your vacuum performance remains the same, until the collector is full and dust begins getting into the vacuum itself.

For smaller operations (hobbyist, weekend builders, etc) it's probably more trouble than it's worth. But if you run dust producing tools alot, it can be a nice thing to add. I like the efficiency of my dust collector, and not having to buy the specialized Rigid filters all the time. It's really a personal preference thing.


8 months ago

This completely DIY project compared to purchasing a cyclone bucket adapter is commendable. I have concerns however about building this out of easily flammable materials. The combination of the finely divided wood dust, and the static electricity that can be generated by the dust passing through plastic tubing, could cause a "rapid fire". That is the expression used in the trades associated with commercial dust collection who avoid the eyebrow-raising word "explosion". The plastic bucket is OK, but I would try to make the cyclone all out of sheet metal.


Question 8 months ago on Step 16

How dusty got your filter after testing it?


8 months ago on Introduction

I've viewed a lot of instructables, and this one is excellent! Thanks, and yes, I'm going to use it to make my own. At least I hope to get to it soon.

Way Cool!!


8 months ago

Very nicely done. For simpler method, just use the lid of the pail, an elbow, straight connector and some sealant you have the same result. While I have a true cyclone system I still use a metal garbage pail and the elbow straight connector system to pre-filter aluminium scrap for recycling ($) when machining and cutting.