Compact Dust Collector




About: My name is Troy. I'm a Mechatronics graduate studying Aerospace 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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40 Discussions


Reply 1 year ago


I've had a very similar one to the version that you link to, and I agree with all the poor reviews it got, that this type is very poor. Big chunks fall into the bucket, but the troublesome dust just does a U-turn and goes into the vac. The Thein baffle system works much better.

And of course where's the fun in shopping!


Reply 2 months ago

All the fun is to be had in the shop, not in shopping!


Reply 1 year ago

If you want a store bought version, the Dust Deputy is probably the best option. However, it wouldn't have fit where I needed it to, and what I made is much less expensive.


Tip 6 months ago on Introduction

Good job... well done... I've made a few so I have one at each workstation .. Saver tip.. use the lid that came with the paint pail for the "TOP of the PAIL". It is already a perfect fit and is free. AH Huh... "The vacuum will cause it to permanently clip onto the pail !!!" Not in my experience.Maybe because the total "vacuum" exerted on this straight-through is not great .Enjoy

1 reply

Reply 2 months ago

I made a Thien baffle and mounted it on a Rubbermaid Brute trash can. The can imploded! It split all the way up the side. I changed to a galvanized steel can. It's heavier and it still flexes quite a bit but hasn't gotten crushed yet.


2 months ago

Somebody pointed out the issue of dust explosions and sparks. If dust explosions were an issue here then shop vacs would also be an issue and makers of commercial cyclones (i.e. the Deputy) would have problems, so never mind that - BUT - you might want to ground the metal to avoid, not necessarily sparks but static buildup. This is a major issue with dust collection systems, whether in the northern or southern hemispheres (although you want to consider the orientation to the north or south magnetic poles, in that case :-)).


Question 2 months ago on Step 16

Attempting to download but says I am not allowed. Why?

Peter MC1

Question 3 months ago on Step 22

A nice design. Do you think it would work ok for sand blaster cabinet extraction?


Question 1 year 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?

2 answers
mike.mcclure.3990ACCURATE LED

Answer 6 months ago

You are so naughty....hehe..what about checking the vacuum-motor in case it was going the wrong way too ??? Perhaps mounting motor and cyclone on a horizontal axis ?? Uh oh... gyroscopic procession..... !!!

tomatoskinsACCURATE LED

Answer 1 year 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.


6 months ago

Really well done instructable! Unfortunately for me, it's about a year and a half too late. Summer before last I set out to patch the many cracks in my concrete garage floor, part of which involved grinding "V" slots along each crack and ultimately smoothing the patch and surrounding concrete. I used a diamond disk on an angle grinder. The problem is that this produced such a fine dust that a fair amount of it went right through the filter and that which didn't ended up clogging the filter in just a few minutes. (Concrete dust will destroy your lungs quickly!). I build a cyclone collector similar to yours but far from as nice to solve the problem. One comment suggested buying a device from Amazon. That device doesn't seem to be a cyclone arrangement but, instead relies on the weight difference between particles. It would not work for me since I really wanted to separate out the smaller particles. The cyclone effect was required.


6 months ago

Good job! There is a Cyclone you can add to your vacuum or, like yours, add it to a bucket used in conjunction with a separate vacuum but the lid costs about $25 and the actual Cyclone costs about $55 at Amazon.


1 year 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.

1 reply

Reply 6 months ago

That can’t happen in a small workshop. You simply can’t make enough dust to get a stoichiometric mixture. According to OSHA, the minimum amount for ignition would be 0.003 pounds per cubic foot. To achieve that, you'd have to generate 3/4 of a pound of sawdust per minute to maintain the dust cloud. That’s a lot of dust! You would fill up that paint bucket in an instant. Also, the electricity is on the outside of the dust collection system. I live in an arid climate and get shocked all the time by my shop vacuum. I’ve even gotten shocked by my leaf blower clearing snow in the winter. Having said that, if you were to suck-up a nail or other bit of metal it could constrike the metal and create a smoldering fire.


Question 1 year 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 :?)

1 answer

Answer 6 months ago

Harbor Freight has a decent dust collector that I use with a 55g barrel with a tornado top that I got somewhere, I think a woodworking store. This uses 4" hose, and like this 'ible the barrel fills first and the filter gets very little, mainly tiny particles.


10 months ago

I really like this!



1 year 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?