Making a dust extractor
Mini cyclone and vacuum systems are a workshop essential — once you’ve made one, you’ll wonder how you ever did without it. Better yet, they can be made with any old vacuum cleaner and a minimum of parts.
In any workshop, dust is a health hazard and an annoyance, but when your workshop has direct access to the house it can also become a matrimonial issue. My workshop takes up two bays of a three-bay attached garage so it is very important to keep everything clean so workshop debris does not end up being carried inside.
To keep dust under control I have fitted each of my woodworking machines with its own mini cyclone and vacuum system, meaning that when I move machines about to create work space, the dust collection continues to work.
Cyclones are very effective at removing large and small particles of dust. You can buy commercially made cyclones that fit directly onto a 10-litre plastic container, or you can easily make your own.
The proportions of my small cyclones are based on the approximate size of the commercially available Dust Deputy cyclone separator. The top and base can be made from MDF or ply. I made mine on a lathe and left a small lip on the top edge of the top disc. The sheet metal of the cone comes up to this and makes a neat joint.
Making the cone
I used Zincalume for the cyclone sheet-metal cone. You can mark out the development of the cone directly onto the sheet, or do it on cardboard so you have the pattern for reuse.
If you have a small set of sheet metal rolls you could roll the sheet metal but it is just as easy to form it around a length of scrap pipe held in a vice. Firstly, remove all the sharp edges, then use a wooden mallet to put a slight roll on both straight edges. The rest of the cone can then be formed by progressively bending the metal over the pipe.
Attaching the cone
Next, insert the cone into the bottom ring of the cyclone and attach the base. Cut the pipe with tin snips to get a good fit and then use it to mark the ellipse on the wall of the cone. The hole can now be cut out using tin snips.
Fitting the inlet pipe
It is now time to fit the inlet pipe. With tin snips make several 12mm-long cuts in the end of the plastic pipe. The strips can now be heated with a hot air gun and bent back with pliers to form tabs that can be pop-riveted to the cone.
Next, the outlet pipe is fitted to the top plate and the top fixed in place and all the joins finished with a nice fillet of body filler or paintable silicone.
You now have a cyclone that can be fitted to any 10-litre plastic bucket, 4-litre can, or specially made box.
Vacuum cleaner and hoses
With a new bag fitted and the filters blown out, any old vacuum cleaner will work because there is such low air resistance through the cyclone.
Making the push-fit connectors for each end of the vacuum cleaner hoses is easy. To make push-fit ends, I have turned up a simple wooden former to push into heated pipe, which retains its new shape when it cools.
Using the cyclone
Once you have made all the components, there are several options for using the cyclone. You can make a mobile unit by adding a long extension cord and a double power point, meaning that there’s a spare for plugging in whatever power tool you would like to use at the time. I use one of these all the time for general cleaning in the workshop.
You can also make a wall-mounted cyclone with a pipe running the length of the workbench with slide gate outlets at each machine it’s attached to. My homemade bandsaw and saw bench each have a cyclone and vacuum cleaner that starts when the saw is turned on.
If you take the time to make a cyclone dust collector you will wonder how on earth you managed without it.
If you’re interested in making a dust extractor, you can see the entire feature with all of the details in issue 80 of The Shed. You can find out where you can buy a copy here:
The Shed is a bi-monthly magazine that features how-to articles by experts, interviews with people undertaking amazing projects, and peeks into their sheds. A great read for the DIY enthusiast and those with a few tools after a bit of advice and inspiration.