DIY Dust Collection System




About: I'm cheap and like to use what I have on hand and I really enjoy taking things apart to salvage parts. Rather than be a precise engineering type of person, I'm more of an enthusiastic tinkerer. Making things...

While making my Promethian Fire Egg I needed to make a divet in some concrete. I briefly considered using my Dremel for this, but I decided it would kick up too much dust and make a mess of the shop. It was then I hit upon this idea. In doing a quick search of Instructables I found Rachel had made a passive dust collection system very similar to my idea. My system incorporates a Shop-Vac to actively draw in the dust, instead of only containing it. (And I just saw that someone had suggested adding a vacuum attachment and the plexiglass top piece incorporated into my project. So now I look like a thief. Crap!) Aside from containing dust there is the added benefit of not having to use as much safety gear. The box will contain the dust and flying debris so I won't have to wear a dust mask or safety goggles.

If you build a passive version of this project you want it to be air-tight so that dust won't escape. If you build an active system you need the unit to allow air to flow in so your vacuum can work. Lack of incoming air could damage the motor of your vacuum.

You can allow for air flow in one of two ways:

1) You can build a specialized opening that allows air to enter while the rest of the unit is air-tight. This would allow you to also use the system in a passive mode if your vacuum was unavailable.

2) You could allow spaces around the various penetrations into the system. This would allow air to flow in along multiple paths and requires no specialized openings. The downside being that it would be messy to use it in a passive mode as dust would be more likely to escape. I went with this method as I am a sloppy cutter.

A note: I'm entering this in the Craftsman contest so there will be blatant ass-kissing shots of the Craftsman tools I used for this project. Product placement will probably not sway the judges, but it can't hurt. :)

Step 1: Materials

The materials I used for this project are as follows:

  • 1 Large plastic container with a snap on lid
  • 1 Coffee can
  • 1 Vacuum cleaner nozzle attachment
  • 1 Sink drain pipe
  • 1 Pair of rubber dish washing gloves
  • 2 Hose clamps
  • 1 Piece of plexiglass
  • Scrap metal (Sheet metal and heavy duty pieces)
  • Rubber gasket material
  • Epoxy

Step 2: Tools

The tools I used for this project are as follows:

  • Drill press
  • Hand drill
  • 1/8" drill bit
  • Round needle file
  • Electric shears
  • Wood burner/soldering iron (not pictured)
  • Utility knife
  • Pop riveter
  • 1/8" diameter rivets
  • Ballpean hammer (not pictured)
  • Bench vise
  • Dremel with grinding drum
  • Jig saw
  • Hack saw
  • Can opener (not pictured)
  • Metal punch
  • Awl
  • Scissors
  • Marker
  • Measuring tape
  • Flat-head screw driver (not pictured)
  • Tape measure
  • Ruler

Step 3: Container Size and Placement

The first step in building the dust collection system is determining the size of container you're going to use. I wanted something that I could use on my work bench. So the limiting factor for me was the space between my bench vise and drill press. I measured this space to get the dimensions of the container I used.

Step 4: Penetration Preparation and Layout

After you acquire a container which will fit your space you will need to decide where to place the penetrations (e.g gloves, tool access, cord access and vacuum connection). In doing this consider where the electrical outlets are in your shop and where you plan to place your Shop-Vac.

Once you've chosen the locations of the various penetrations you need to mark the locations on the container. In order to make these markings accurate you need to configure your penetrations so you can use them as accurate templates. In my case this meant cutting off a portion of the vacuum nozzle and cutting the drain pipe that will be used to provide cord access and cleaning up the edges with a Dremel. I then marked the penetrations using a marker.

I also marked the outline of the material I will remove from the bottom of the container to install the plexiglass.

Step 5: Cutting the Penetrations

I first used a wood burner to melt starter holes for all of my planned penetrations. Next I used my electric shears to cut out the material. With that accomplished I finished the edges with my Dremel and test fit the connections.

Step 6: Adding the Top

Originally I had planned to get a piece of plexiglass and sand it down to fit inside the container. Then I would attach it to the container with rivets. I was describing this idea to my buddy Mike at lunch one day and commented that I would just have to drill out the rivets if the plexiglass ever became too scarred by flying debris (e.g. shattered Dremel cut-off wheels). He suggested I just make a wood frame with a grove cut in it to serve as a track. That way the plexiglass could just be slid in and out as needed. At this point I declared him a genius and asked "Why the hell didn't I think of that?" This is why discussing ideas with others is a wonderful thing. A new perspective can give you great ideas. (I told Mike if I won I'd buy him one of those Craftsman automatic hammer things).

Instead of a wood frame I decided to use some metal flaps that just bent up over the plexiglass while it rested on the top of the container.

The first step in building the top is getting the plexiglass. I measured the top of the container. Then I went to the local hardware store and they cut a piece of 1/4" plexiglass to the dimensions I needed. Then I placed it on top of the container to verify it was the correct size.

After I verified the size of the plexiglass I dug out three pieces of heavy duty scrap metal to make the metal flaps. The way it worked out one was already bent, the second had holes the exact size of my pop rivets and the third had neither.

First if your pieces of metal need holes figure out where you want them. (I did this by the very scientific and precise method of holding them up to the container with the plexiglass in place.) Then mark the hole locations on the metal pieces. This would also be an appropriate time to mark where you will need to bend the pieces. Once you marked them clamp the metal into a drill press and drill out the holes. After drilling clean the sharps edges and excess material away with a Dremel and a round needle file.

When you've drilled the holes it is time to bend the flaps. Lock the metal pieces into your bench vise just below the line you drew on them. Then if it is thinner metal bend it ninety degrees with your hand. If the metal is really thick apply multiple mighty wallops with a ballpean hammer until it is bent ninety degrees.

Now that the metal pieces are bent hold them in position with your hand on the plexiglass while it rests on top of the container. Using the metal as a template mark where you will need to drill holes for the rivets. Now use an awl to make small starter dents in the plastic on these marks. This will keep the drill bit from walking. Then drill out the holes with a hand drill.

Insert rivets into the holes in the metal and plastic. Use your pop riveter to secure them. Once the flaps are in place remove the protetive covering from the plexiglass and slide it into place.

Step 7: Flex Shaft Access

I use my Dremel with its flex shaft connection a great deal and using it inside with this system would be great. So I cut a hole on the upper right side of the container to allow the flex shaft to be used. (I chose the upper right because this is the side of my bench where my Dremel stand is located). However, I didn't want to just have an open hole in case I ever needed to use the unit passively.

To solve this dilemma I decided to use some rubber gasket type material I pulled off the out side of an old hard drive. I cut a piece of gasket material that would cover the entry hole and marked four points. I then used an awl and drill as described in the previous step to drill holes in the plastic at these points. The excess material around the holes was cleaned away with a Dremel.

I then used these holes as a template to mark the gasket material. Using the awl I then made holes at these points.

Next I inserted rivets into the holes in the plastic. Then I slipped the rubber piece over the four rivets. With this done I popped the rivets into place. The rivets aren't really needed. They are just a convienent way to hold the rubber in place for the next part.

Next pull the rubber piece off the rivets. Then mix up some epoxy and smear it around the hole and the rivets. When this is done put the rubber back in place. Use a spring clamp to hold it in place while the epoxy hardens.

Once the epoxy has set use a utility knife to cut a vertical and a horizontal slit in the rubber. This will allow the flex shaft to enter and minimize dust escaping from this point if the vacuum isn't on.

Step 8: Glove Mounts - Prepping the Coffee Can

The construction of the glove mounts is a little complex so I've decided to break it up into a few steps.

I chose to use a coffee can to mount the gloves to. This will work for me because I have arms like twigs. If you have larger arms you may have to come up with another mounting method.

The first step in preparing the coffee can is to get rid of the bottom of the can and the flange around the top. This is most easily accomplished by going to the kitchen and making use of an electric can opener.

Once this is done use your Dremel to grind down the sharp edges left on the can. When the edges are ground smooth use a hack saw to cut the can in half to produce two short tunnels. Use the Dremel for a second round of grinding.

Why not cut the can in half and then do all the grinding at once? By grinding the ends first I had something to hold on to that wasn't likly to slice me open as I cut the can in half. Then again I guess I could've worn gloves...

Step 9: Glove Mount Preparation - Rivet Holes & Gloves

With the glove mounts cut and ground it is time to get them ready to receive rivets. Place one of the mounts into one of the holes that we cut for it earlier. Then mark where you plan to rivet the support brackets (which we'll make in the next step) on the can and the container. I used two rivets for each end of the bracket. Two on the can and two on the container.

With the rivet positions marked it is time to drill the holes. Use a metal punch to make dents at each of the rivet positions to keep the drill bit from walking. DO NOT use a hammer to do this!!! Just hold the punch and turn it in a circle while applying pressure. If you smack the punch with a hammer it will cause the can to deform.

When the dents are made secure the piece to the drill press with a clamp and drill out the various holes. In the pictures I held it with my hand. DO NOT do this. RadBear was being extremely stupid and could have lost precious bits of himself. DO NOT imitate RadBear.

Now that the holes are done I bet you can guess what will come next... If you said cleaning off the excess with your Dremel and a needle file give yourself a big pat on the back.

After the excess material is gone it is time to attach the gloves to the mounts. To do this you need to stretch the glove over the end of the can. This can be a bit tricky, but it is possible. I stretched the glove opening by pulling on it. Then I held the mount between my knees and worked the glove over the end of the can.

In order to keep the glove in place we are going to secure it with a hose clamp. This will allow the gloves to changed if they become damaged while holding them securly in place.

Put the glove mount into the hole we made for it with the glove protruding into the container. Orient the mount so the glove is in the position you want. I chose to have the thumb pointed upward. Reach inside the container and place the hose clamp around the base of the glove. Use a screw driver to tighten the clamp. As the clamp tightens this will change the position of the screw which is closing the clamp. Make sure you adjust the clamp as it is tightening so that the screw mechanism is always facing up. This will ensure you will have access to loosen the clamp should you have to change out the gloves in the future.

And be sure if your gloves are specific to the left and right hand to put the proper one on the proper side.

Step 10: Mounting the Glove Mounts

And now it is time to mount the glove mounts on the box. This will be accomplished with brackets made from scrap metal.

To make the brackets you'll need eight pieces of metal about 1/2" wide and about three inches long. Originally I was drilling the attachment holes in the container and using these as templates along with the holes in glove mounts to mark the rivet poistions. However, this was very time consuming and sometimes error would creep in and the holes wouldn't line up properly.

I found it much faster to use the following method. Use the bench vise to bend the scrap metal into an "L" shape. Hold this bracket on the outside of the glove mount and center it on a set of rivet holes. Mark the position of the rivet holes from the inside of the mount with a marker. Also draw a line across any part of the bracket that sticks out past the edge of the mount. This will show you what to trim off later.

While you're still holding the bracket in position, mark where on the upper protion of the bracket you want the rivets to pass through the bracket into the container. (Hint use a different color marker for these dots so you know which end is which).

Once the rivet holes have been marked the positions will need to be transferred to the opposite side of the lower portion of bracket. The L-shape of the bracket prevents you from drilling the holes directly on the marks with a drill press.

I transferred the marks by pressing on them with a metal punch and moving it in a circular fashion. Next I turned the bracket over and marked the positions with a marker. Then I used the metal punch to make starter dents at these locations.

With the dents made I secured the bracket to the drill press with a clamp and drilled out the holes (And some how I don't have a picture of this). Then I cleaned up the holes with a Dremel and needle file. I then trimmed the excess metal away from both ends of the bracket.

With the bracket properly sized attach it to the glove mount with pop rivets. Now use the other leg of the bracket as a template to drill attachement holes in the container. Once you have done this attach the bracket to the container with pop rivets. Repeat this process until all the brackets are in place.

(I used longer rivets for the mounting the top bracket to the container. The longer rivets protrude enough to keep the excess portion of the hose clamp held down out of the way.)

Step 11: Power Cord Access

Now we come to making the access for power cords. This penetration is intended to allow you to use an orbital sander or other small power tool within the confines of the dust collection box. I chose to make this out of a curved piece of drain pipe. The curve in the pipe will lower the chances of dust particles escaping as they aren't likely to go into and up the pipe. Dust escape is decreased further by adding a rubber gasket to the top of the pipe.

Back in step four we already configured this penetration, so we'll start by adding the rubber gasket to it. The piece of drian pipe I had came with a threaded compression fitting on the end, and I chose to take advantage of this in order to add the gasket. (If your pipe doesn't have this fitting you'll have to develop another method.)

Unscrew the compression fitting. There will be a a nut and a clear plastic ring (this is the thing that gets compressed by the nut, hence the name compression fitting.) Recycle the clear plastic ring or return it to your parts stash as its services will not be required.

Place the end of the pipe on the gasket material and trace around it with a marker. Then use a pair of scissors to cut out the gasket material. Place the circle of gasket material in the nut and screw it onto the pipe. Once it is in place cut two slits in the gasket material to form an "X" shape. This will allow cords to pass.

With the gasket in place we now have to attach the penetration to the container. I did this by using the same L-bracket technique I described in the glove mount steps. I used the drill press to drill two holes in the pipe, cleaned them up with a Dremel and a needle file and pop riveted them into place.

Step 12: Insert Vacuum Nozzle

Now all you have to do is insert the vacuum nozzle. I'm going to have it held in place by the edges of the hole I made for it in the container. I may epoxy the nozzle in place in the future as sealing around it may create stronger suction. However, it is less likely to get snapped off as I take it in and out of storage. Ah decisions, decisions...

In my first test I ground down a piece of scrap wood, but I wasn't able to see the particles being drawn into the vacuum. However, I didn't find them collecting in bottom of the container so I'm pretty confident it worked. I'll have to play around some more and see if I can get a video of it in action.

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    51 Discussions


    Tip 6 months ago on Step 7

    Problem with this type of box is, they aren't transparent enough for some tasks. A light inside might help, esp in a darkened room.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I like this instsructable. It is well illustrated and clearly explained. This box seems very useful and compact. I am confident it works well. However I have some doubts about the visibility through the plexiglass when producing fine dusts for long time (i.e. with MDF cutting and sanding). Please let us know how it works with heavy tasks. Congratulations

    1 reply

    Reply 6 months ago

    maybe layer the inner walls (at least the viewing wall) with removable plastic/saran.


    10 years ago on Step 12

    Great idea! My wife always nags me when I use my Dremel because of the dust (mostly wood). I wonder if the gloves might be over kill? If you have the vacuum attached opposite your glove openings the vacuum should pull the air through the spaces between your arms and the openings and out the back. Just a thought.

    6 replies

    Reply 6 months ago

    Box might also help contain teh noise.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Also if your working on something that that you don't want on your skin, like fiberglass...the gloves are a nice touch. I got a couple of strands in my thumb and index finger the other day and I know that it will be hurting for the next few weeks every time I touch it


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I know I am almost 3 years late. But it sounds like you are describing what my GF
    says. She claims that she can see metal particles flying on the air, even a week later!! I just had to agree with your commentaries.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    AH...You have been watching the Red Green Show on PBS. You have learned how to keep peace at home by following Red's advice and saying, "yes...dear"


    Reply 10 years ago on Step 12

    The gloves may be a bit of overkill, but they keep any dust that may settle on your hands from escaping when you pull your hands out.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Duh! I didn't think of that.... back to my FIRST statement, GREAT IDEA!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    This is REALLY cool. I bet with a little bit of modification one could make an inert atmosphere work chamber. I'm not sure what sorts of hobbies require working in a completely inert atmosphere (and I'm a chemist!), but hey, it's good to know that it could be done if necessary ;-) Maybe using thicker plastic I could make a blast-proof box. I'd still be concerned about my fingers, however.

    9 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    What about fireworks? Wouldn't assembling those shells benefit from an inert atmosphere? Of course you'd probably still have to be concerned with static electricity throwing off sparks, but that could be overcome.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    The bigger threat would be the static electricity. The inert atmosphere wouldn't help if your blackpowder caught because it's self-oxidizing. Maybe if you found a way to circulate anti-static gas.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    The only hobbies I can think of that would require an inert atmosphere are probably illegal. :) It would be an interesting challenge though. For blast proof you'd probably want to use something heftier than plastic like steel reinforced concrete or just steel. And to save your fingers you could invest in those cool robotic arms. But at that point you have entered the realm of government spending. So I suggest plan B where you offer a stupid co-worker whom you don't like free beer if he mixes the dangerous compound or welds some metal in a hydrogen rich atmosphere. It may not be nice, but you'd still have all your fingers. :)


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Well, according to this WikiPedia article bulletproof glass is actually a sandwich of plastics and glass. So if you really needed the chamber itself to be blast resistant, you could probably attach additional layers of plastic to the outside surface of the box. Or at least surround it with several sheets of plastic and tempered glass, possibly in a modified version of your "picture frame" top cover. That way the shattering of the glass will absorb a lot of the energy and the plastic layers will allow the sides of the unit to flex, preventing unfortunate glass shrapnel.

    As for protecting your hands, make yourself some [ gauntlets (Wikipedia)]. All you really need are some good work gloves with some steel formed to fit around your hands. Attach the steel to the gloves via rivets, and you're good to go. (Sort of a steel toed boot for your hands. On steroids.) And there's always those "cut resistant gloves" that are marketed to home cooks. Those might offer another good starting point.

    Just a few thoughts for you.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    The guantlets would leave your fingers vulnerable, and they could become shrapnel if there were an explosion. Plus they would be heavy, so you might want to go with something made of carbon fiber or kevlar. But since I'm too cute to be armless and or impaled I'll let someone else build and test the blast proof cabinet.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    RadBear said: "The only hobbies I can think of that would require an inert atmosphere are probably illegal. :)"

    DIY-GUY replied:
    Not all things are bad. Certain jobs just need a cleaner environment.

    Some delicate metalworking may benefit from inert atmosphere, and any time an oxidizable metal is cleaned prior to electroplating; you would really want to avoid forming a micro layer of rust.

    Just my $.02 worth in relation to legitimate hobby use of an inert gas clean box.


    Reply 6 months ago

    Very true, and also metal-melting/casting. In which case, you'd need a heat/fire resistant interior.