Intro: Leaf Blower/Vac. Bag Extender - Leaf Hog "Snout"
If you have ever tried to use a blower/vacuum then you would probably agree that its built-in bag is too small for any substantial quantity of leaves. The Snout is an attachment that my brother and I made in order to solve this problem. This instructable will show you how to make a trash bagging system cheaper and better than commercially available units.
What Are You Talking About?
A blower/vac is a yardwork machine that is capable of both blowing out a strong stream of air and "inhaling" small objects. Most include a mulching feature that will shred leaves before ejecting them into a provided storage bag.
Why Would You Use One?
We normally use our mulching mower to cut the ground cover of leaves, but not all parts of our yard are ideal for using a lawnmower. For example, we have a large patch of ivy along our driveway that never needs to be mowed. This area, however, still has leaves that need to be mulched.
So, What Is Your Problem Again?
The included bag, although large, is not nearly big enough when compared to the number of leaves our yard contains. I spend two thirds of the time sucking up leaves and one third emptying the bag. When the attached bag is almost full, it becomes very heavy and burdensome.
Why Did You Call Your Project Leaf Hog Snout?
The Leaf Hog is a blower/vac made by Black & Decker. Hogs are known to nose through the dirt, and this system reminded us of that process. Thus we named it after the structure where all the work begins: the snout.
Using your common sense should, for the most part, keep you out of trouble, but it is important to mention that you are dealing with a machine that spits out very small and sharp objects. I suggest that you wear safety glasses and hearing protection (these things are not quiet). Attempt at your own risk.
This is my first Instructable. Any comments or questions are welcomed.
Step 1: Materials
For this instructable you will need these materials. Prices for items bought are included (US Dollars).
Trashcan with lid - $11.74
4" x 10" Corrugated drainage tube - $4.02
Tube elbow 90 degree bend - $4.69
Tube cap - $1.74
36" x 34" Fiberglass window screen - $5.49
Dremel with cutting attachments
Paper Plate (used as stencil)
Compass (the drawing tool)
Step 2: Modifying the Leaf Hog
In order for the leaves to find their way into the trashcan, they must travel through the corrugated tube. Unfortunately the exhaust spout of the leaf hog was smaller than our tubing. Therefore an adapter was necessary. Our only requirement for the adapter was that it allow us to slip the old bag over it for normal use. The end cap worked perfectly for this. We placed the cap on the end of the spout and traced an outline. After cutting out a hole, we slipped it over the top and used epoxy to glue the cap to the exhaust spout, making sure that it sealed any spaces. Popsicle sticks were used as applicators for this step.
Step 3: Cutting Vent Holes in the Lid
The trashcan lid was designed to intake both air and leaves but only allow the air to escape. Vent holes were cut around the center of the trashcan lid, making sure to leave enough plastic to support the inner circle. This inner circle will, in turn, support the inlet tube. We used a sharpie to mark an outline for the vent holes.
I recommend using a jigsaw to cut out the pieces. Since I did not have one, I used a router bit in my dremel. After the cuts were made, we finished off the vent holes with a bit of sandpaper to remove the burs.
Step 4: Cutting Center Hole in Lid
In order to get the leaves into the trashcan you will need to cut a hole in the center of the lid. The hole must be exactly the same size as the grooves of the elbow piece. By making a hole the same size as the grooves, it allows the elbow to spin freely.
Note: We made our hole too small on the first try, but the sander attachment on the dremel cured that problem. It is better to be too small than too big on your first cut.
Step 5: Cutting Elbow Piece
An elbow piece is designed to attach two drainage tubes at a right angle. For our purposes we only need one connection end; the other side will be attached to the lid. As explained in the previous step our goal is to make the groove of the elbow piece fit into the hole of the lid. Using a cutting wheel we cut off the connection end on one side (both sides are identical).
Using the groove as a track for rotating would have been easy and ideal except that the groove did not go all of the way around the elbow piece. The groove smooths out on the inner side of the bend. In order to change this we used the cutting wheel to cut a slit from where the groove ended on one side to where it begins on the other side.
Finish this step by slipping the elbow piece into the hole of the trashcan lid. You now have a swiveling intake piece capable of 360 degree movement.
Step 6: Creating the Filter
Find a box bigger than the top of your trashcan. A box with a single, unbent section would be ideal, but we only had a smaller box which we unfolded. Flip the trashcan upside down and trace an outline of the top. Draw a smaller circle inside of the first to create a ring. We used a compass to keep the width uniformal. Cut out the ring. We used cardboard scissors for the task.
Since our cardboard had several creases in it, we reinforced it with a piece of duct tape on each side. Our homemade filter was made out of window screen. Simply cut the screen to size and staple it on. The holes in the screen were a bit too large for our filtration needs, so we put a second layer on. Be sure to slightly rotate the second screen to create a criss-crossing pattern with smaller holes.
A second, smaller ring must be made for the hole in the center of the filter. After attempting and failing to freehand our inner ring, we decided to create a template out of a paper plate. Like the outer ring, just staple the cardboard to the screen.
To securely attach the screen to the lid, drill four holes through both the lid and filter. We used a nut, washer, and bolt to hold the two together. A washer is not necessary, but we figured that using it would reduce the chance of tearing the screen.
Step 7: Testing
We took it for a spin. We were satisfied to find that the suction was only slightly less than normal bag operation. It rarely clogged, but when it did I simply needed to give the tube a gentle sideways kick to clear the line. An added bonus: the leaf hog seemed quieter when attached to our bag extender.
Problems encountered: (Solutions to these problems are detailed on the next step.)
1. The empty trashcan had a tendency to lean if you moved too far away.
2. When the bag was placed in the trashcan it would create a seal around the rim and capture all of the air beneath it. This created a sort of balloon that had to be deflated in order to get a full bag of leaves.
3. Leaves would escape from beneath the trashcan lid at the loose points between the two handles.
4. After a bit of use, the elbow's slit began to bend outward. This allowed the elbow to sometimes slip off the lid.
Step 8: Problem Solving
1. Our trashcan-leaning-problem was the easiest to fix. We simply added a few bricks to make it bottom heavy.
2. We kept our trashcan from holding unwanted air by drilling four holes in the top sides of the trashcan. This allowed air to escape as the bag filled out.
3. In order to stop leaves from sneaking out from beneath the lip of the trashcan, we added binder clips halfway between the handles.
4. Our biggest problem was the loose elbow piece. During normal operation it would randomly slip off and shoot mulched leaves into the air. This was happening because the plastic strip created by cutting the slit was bending out and no longer providing the support needed to keep the elbow piece "locked" into the lid. In order to keep our bent strip of plastic straight, we decided to create an "artificial" groove. An artificial groove needed to connect the plastic strip to the base while still allowing our lid to be sandwiched between the two. We considered using half of a small tube to create this groove, but we decided to use a strap instead. Although the strap could have been made of anything flexible and tough, we chose duct tape. Simply attach two strips of duct tape together (sticky side facing each other) to create a durable strap.
We then glued the strap to our bent plastic, and bolted the other end of the strap to the inside of the elbow. This held the plastic strip straight and prevented the elbow from falling off of the lid. In order to maintain as much strength as possible, we used two straps of duct tape. We suggest you use epoxy for the glue, but since we already depleted our supply, J.B. Weld was used instead, which required a 24 hour wait for it to cure. We used binder clips to apply pressure while it dried. After the straps were securely attached, we drilled four holes through the inner side of the elbow and the tape. The tape was held tightly while drilling to ensure that the holes were made in the correct place. We finished it off by slipping the bolt through the hole and fastening the nut.
Step 9: What Do You Think?
The "Snout" was invented and created before we even realized a commercial unit existed. This allows for an interesting comparison of effectiveness between the two designs. Both have their pros and cons.
Side By Side Comparison: The comparison will be made between the Snout and these two commercial products. Note: I do not actually own either of these commercial products. I simply gathered information from comments and pictures.
Black & Decker Product
Price: This is a category that brings many people to instructables and and other DIY sites. Commercial units are priced in the range of 30-33 US dollars. These products are composed of a flexible tube and a draw-string-tightened cloth that channels the leaves into the trashcan (not included). The "Snout," including the trashcan, costs approximately 28 US dollars. Without the trashcan, the project only costs about 16 US dollars.
Tube: The commercial products have a very flexible and sturdy tube capable of collapsing for easy storage. Our homemade Snout used rigid drainage tubing. This is commonly available and cheap, but not ideal for storage or ease-of-use.
Filter: The filter on the commercial unit is made of flexible cloth which is tightened around the top of the trash can. It works fine for containing the large, mulched particles, but allows almost all of the dust to escape. The Snout's double screen filter is stiffer than the commercial filter, resulting in less dust in the air. The Snout's filter will accumulate larger leaf particles against it during operation, creating a sort of leaf filter that keeps escaping dust to a minimum. This is not true of the commercial products because the cloth forms a constantly moving/bending dome shape during operation, thus preventing a leaf barrier from forming and allowing the dust to easily pass through.
Ease of Obtaining: The commercial products can easily be bought in many hardware stores, or simply ordered online and shipped to your door. Building the Snout involves a sizable investment of time. Although, if the commercial products are not available locally and you need those leaves gone ASAP, it could be quicker to build your own rather than wait for the shipment.
Overall Winner: That part is up to you. If you have money but no time, then the commercial product is probably the best option. If you have some time but no money, then you can penny pinch with the Snout. If you have neither time nor money, then I would hate to see what your yard looks like.
You Can Help
This project was entirely conceived and created by two brothers with limited, local supplies. If you can think of cheaper or better materials, tell us. For example, you may know of a cheap and widely available source of tough, flexible tubing, or maybe you have stumbled across an easier way to make a filter. Just drop us a comment. It will help out everyone who wants to create their own Snout.