As a weekend woodworker, I quickly became aware of the danger of inhaling wood dust into my lungs. I have small shop in the garage under our house and although it has a 30 foot ceiling, it soon became clear that I needed some kind of dust evacuation system. I bought a shop vac. But that tended to just get in the way and I was constantly cleaning and changing the filter. Finally, after needing to use a respirator just to be in the shop, I realized I needed a dust collector system built in.
I don’t have a large collection of power tools, nor do I want to outlay a lot of money to build a system. My bench power tool collection consists of the following:
Belt Sander, Band Saw, Table Saw, Wood Lathe.
I also have a portable sander, router and belt sander that I want to
include in the system.
Since I already have the “Shop Vac.”, I started looking around for cyclone attachments. One of those attachments sits on a 5 gallon bucket and removes the larger particles so the filter of the shop vac. doesn’t get clogged. I found some good deals in Grizzly.com and Woodcraft.com.
Step 1: Plumbing
The seal where the cyclone sits on the bucket leaks, so I put a strip of black weather stripping that is sticky on one side on the part of the cyclone that sits on the bucket. That created a good seal and I got a good vacuum. The cyclone I purchased has two open ports on the top and if you want to connect a hose to it I suggest getting some hose ends. It has an input and an output so you need one for each. The vacuum has to connect from the dust collection system to the cyclone, from the cyclone, into the intake port of the “Shop Vac.” The cyclone is held down to the bucket by a bungee cord.
For my dust collection system, everything , except for a few outliers that have to be converted, is 2 ½” (that is 2½” outside and 2 ¼” inside.) For long runs, and where ridged connections were needed, I wanted to
use PVC pipe. I found 2” PVC interfaced well and you can find 90 and 45 degree elbows, "Ts" and end caps.
To connect between the PVC and the dust collection pieces from Woodcraft or Grizzly, I found in the hardware store, “Quick Pipe” connections. They are black, rubber and come with pipe clamps already installed. The dust port of my bench sander “OD” is 1 ¾” so I found a reducer that fit from the port to the blast gate. I put a “Y” in the PVC line and used flexible hose from the blast gate to the “Y”. The hose fits on both ends with hose clamps.
Step 2: Blast Gate
Each machine needs a “Blast Gate” to open or close the dust port of the machine you are using in order to keep the vacuum from leaking and reducing pressure. I quickly learned how important is it to keep at least one port open. I always use my ear protectors while working with the shop vac on.
Even with a muffler, the sound must be at hearing damaging levels. I couldn’t understand why, when I turned the shop vac on suddenly vacuum pressure was lost. I checked all connections, hoses, pipes, Etc. The whole system seemed to be fine. I opened the pre-filter to find the bucket had imploded. It didn’t collapse, like the previous buckets I used. Adapting the system to a smaller diameter hose built up a great amount of suction as though all the ports were closed and hence, collapsing the bucket. I designed cross members for the inside of the bucket with vertical ¼” vertical plywood strips attached to the ends of each cross member to press against the sides of the bucket to keep it from collapsing.
Step 3: Table Saw
I have a contractors table saw that, for dust collection, has a cloth bag that fits under the table. I found, In Woodcraft.com, a table saw dust collection hood. 12" x 12" Table Saw Dust Extraction Fitting. The problem I had was that the port is 4” so I connected the port with a 4” rubber connector to a 4” PVC 90 degree elbow to a
converter to 2 1/2 “ so, I had to build a bracket out of scraps to hold the thing. It’s not perfect. I still have to clean the floor around the saw after use and the cloth bag fills with saw dust in pockets on the side that have to
be emptied. I connected 10 feet of flexible hose to toe saw so no matter where I move the saw, it is still connected to the system.
Step 4: Conections
. Because my shop is so small, most things move around a lot. Using flexible connecters makes the system easier to move around. I started to tape some of the joints but as soon as I had a clog I was glad I didn't glue any and left the tape off. The joints fit so tight it isn't really necessary. I used about 50 feet of PVC tubing to encircle the shop and on the end I connected the original hose from the Shop-Vac. and with a converter to 1 1/2" attached a hose from an old Orrick vacuum I had laying around which connects directly to the router and sander and I use the floor attachment for extra clean up. I haven't found a permanent solution for the lathe yet. I've been clamping the wand to the bed.
Step 5: Grounding
To prevent static charge from building up in the system I ran copper wire from each machine, through the tubing and connecting in the cyclone bucket. I drilled a small hole in the top of the cyclone and connected it to a water pipe.
My system works well for me. The filter on the Shop Vac gets clogged with very fine dust but tapping it against a tree seems to clear it. I am considering trying a nylon stocking around the filter, an idea I saw on the internet. I have some other ideas to upgrade the system which I will share with you in a future instructable.