Dust Collector Project – Part 1

My next few posts are going to tackle the dust collection system for my workshop.  I have just finished building my handtool bench and have amassed a fairly comprehensive set of handtools, but have no intention of going handtool only.  I love having a good jointer and planer for stock preparation, and a bandsaw and tablesaw are great workhorses that I have no desire to part with either.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my handtools and plan to use them in as much of my joinery as I can, but electrons aren’t getting banned from my shop any time soon.  There is, of course, a setback to using these big power tools… They make a lot of dust.  Be it for health reasons, or simply to keep the shop clean, the use of large woodworking tools usually necessitates the use of a dust collection system.

My current dust collection system can only be described as less than ideal.  The equipment that I have is good, but it needs to be set up with some better organization and logical planning.  As it is now, I have to bring the tool to the dust collector.  It’s a pain wheeling the jointer over and jointing, then wheeling it out of the way and bringing the planer over to plane the other side.  I have good tools and they’re on mobile bases, but they are very heavy.  I want to get to a point where all my major tools are stationary and plumbed in to a dust collection system.

My current dust collector setup.

My current dust collector setup.

I like the idea of using a separator or cyclone to remove most of the wood particles before they enter the dust collector.  The main reason for this is that the plastic bag on the bottom of the collector is such a pain to empty.  I’m currently using a metal trashcan and a separator lid from Grizzly.  To be perfectly frank, this lid is crap! If I get any more than about 6 inches of dust in the bottom of the can, the air turbulence in the trashcan prevents it settling out.  This means the dust ends up in the collector, which is what the trashcan separator is supposed to prevent in the first place.  This should be solved by the addition of a Thien baffle.

One other thing that I don’t like about my current setup is the size of its footprint. Having the metal trashcan sitting next to the dust collector nearly doubles the floor space that it takes up and makes it awkward to move. That’s why I’ve been bringing the tools to it, instead of the other way around.  Ideally, I want the trashcan to sit underneath the dust collector.

In this series of posts, I plan to address the following steps:

  • Build a Thien baffle separator for the trashcan.
  • Disassemble the dust collector and mount it to the wall.
  • Wire the dust collector for use with a remote switch.
  • Design and build brackets for hanging PVC ducting from the shop ceiling.
  • Design and build blast gates for the ducting system.
  • Install everything and test the system.

So, here goes.  First up is the trashcan separator.  I won’t go into every single step as there are plenty of places online that have already covered the issue, but I did take some pictures along the way and thought that I would share them with you here.  Searching on YouTube for “Thien Baffle” will get you a ton of information, but if you are thinking of building one of these, your first stop online should be here, JP Thien’s Cyclone Separator.

I had plenty of left over plywood off-cuts of various types and thickness in my sheet storage rack, so I didn’t buy any wood for this project.  To start the lid, I got some of these pieces out.

The metal trashcan that I am going to adapt with a Thien baffle.

The metal trashcan that I am going to adapt with a Thien baffle.

The top of the lid consists of two pieces of plywood, one that fits just inside the top rim, and another that is slightly larger than the rim.

A piece of ¾" ply cut to fit inside the top of the can.

A piece of ¾” ply cut to fit inside the top of the can.

A piece of ½" ply cut just slightly larger than the top of the trashcan.

A piece of ½” ply cut just slightly larger than the top of the trashcan.

I glued these two pieces together, added some clamps, and left them to dry.

Glued, clamped and left overnight to dry.

Glued, clamped and left overnight to dry.

I cut a third piece of plywood to a slightly smaller radius than the others.  This is to reflect the fact that the trashcan tapers and gets narrower a towards the bottom.  Then, two thirds of the perimeter of this piece is reduced by a further 1  1/8-inch.  This piece is the actual baffle that should allow particles to settle to the bottom of the can without being sucked back up and sent on to the dust collector.

The third piece of plywood is the actual baffle.

The third piece of plywood is the actual baffle.

The third piece will be mounted about 8 inches below the lid.  I’ll do this with three long carriage bolts and three lengths of copper pipe to act as spacers.

I used a pair of dividers to space out the three bolt holes evenly.

I used a pair of dividers to space out the three bolt holes evenly.

I needed to determine the location of the bolt holes before I cut the holes for the 4″ PVC fittings. I used a pair of dividers and adjusted them until my third step brought me back to my original starting point.  One the hole locations were marked, I drilled them at the drill press and then laid out the 4-inch holes for the PVC pipe and fittings.

To cut the 4-inch holes, I made a template out of 1/2-in ply.  I cut the hole on this piece slightly under size and adjusted it on a spindle sander until a 4-inch piece of pipe fit snugly.  To cut the holes in the separator lid, I first drilled a hole, then using the jigsaw, cut it being careful to stay inside the line.  I finished it with a pattern-maker’s bit in the router, using the 1/2-inch plywood template to guide the bearing.  That left these two holes in the lid:

Adding washers and carriage bolts.

Adding washers and carriage bolts.

I added the copper pipe spacers, washers to prevent them sinking into the wood, and the PVC pipe and fittings.  I glued the pipe in place using PL375 construction adhesive purchased from Home Depot.  I like this stuff, it takes a long time to cure (about 24 hours), but is very strong when done.  I’ve even used it with masonry when building small retaining walls.  Here’s the finished separator lid:

After adding the rest of the parts.

After adding the rest of the parts.

Next, I turned my attention to mounting the dust collector to the wall.  I disassembled the dust collector and removed the steel base and wheels.   I bought some heavy duty brackets, also from Home Depot.  I would have liked to bolt these brackets directly to the wall studs, but there weren’t any in the location that I had to put them.  My solution was to bolt the brackets to a piece of sturdy 3/4-inch plywood, and then attach the plywood to the wall studs using LedgerLok lag bolts.  I had quite a few of these left over from when I used them to mount the vise hardware underneath my workbench.

I bolted heavy duty brackets to a piece of plywood and then lag bolted that plywood to the wall studs.

I bolted heavy duty brackets to a piece of plywood and then lag bolted that plywood to the wall studs.

I then made  a shelf from another piece of 3/4-inch ply and shaped it to fit.  It needed a small notch on the left side to allow my sheet good storage bin to fully swing closed.  I also notched the back of the shelf for the upright support column and cut a semi-circle out from the right side.  This will allow the trashcan separator to slide underneath the shelf and thus reduce the overall footprint of the system.

The shelf is attached to the brackets by bolts and to the backer board by screws.  I lifted the dust collector onto the shelf and marked the location of the mounting holes.  After drilling, I bolted the dust collector to the shelf.

A shelf is installed with a cut out for the trashcan.

A shelf is installed with a cut out for the trashcan.

I bought some cheap swivel casters and attached them to the bottom of the trashcan. This should make it a little easier to pull out and empty the can.

I added some swivel casters to the bottom of the trashcan.

I added some swivel casters to the bottom of the trashcan.

To attach the casters, I cut three small pieces of metal from some scrap flashing and drilled holes in them to match those in the base of the swivel casters.  These were installed on the inside of the trashcan and acted as a type of washer to improve and stiffen the connection between the casters and the metal base of the trashcan.

I used small pieces of sheet metal over the holes on the inside of the can.

I used small pieces of sheet metal over the holes on the inside of the can.

With the addition of the wheels, the trashcan fits perfectly level with the height of the shelf.

Here's how the trashcan separator fits.

Here’s how the trashcan separator fits.

To make a little more room for the PVC fittings that were to be added, I cut the plastic bag down to about 1/2 of its original size.  If the separator works as intended, I won’t be having to empty it very often in any case.

With all of the main components in place, I added some of the PVC fittings.

With the PVC ducting added.

With the PVC ducting added.

Well, this project is off to a good start, but there is still a long way to go.

In the next post, I’ll tackle wiring the system with a contactor switch so that the collector can be turned on and off remotely.

More soon.

 

– Jonathan White

About Jonathan

I am a woodworker and hand tool restorer / collector. I buy too many tools and don’t build enough – I need help!

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13 Responses to Dust Collector Project – Part 1

  1. Have you made any provisions for discharging/grounding a static charge building up in the PVC piping?
    I can’t see how you will be able to pull the trash can out to empty it. Are some of the PVC fittings left loose for this purpose?

    • Jonathan says:

      Hey Ralph,

      I haven’t done anything about the static yet. I’ve read various opinions all over the web ranging from “static-shmatic who cares?” To “Static is the coming apocalypse”. I’ll build the system and test it to see how much static I get. If it is a problem, I’ll wrap some thin bare copper wire around the outside of the pipe all along the line of ducting.

      As far as emptying the can, the pipe fittings are left loose. You lift off the intake and exit pipes and the can rolls out. Sure, it’s an extra step or two to take, but it’s still 20 times faster than trying to take that stupid bag off the machine. That thing drives me crazy.

      I hope you are well. The new table looks fantastic!

      All the best,

      Jonathan

  2. jenesaisquoiwoodworking says:

    Jonathan,

    That is simply superb work. I really like the photo of the inside of the trash can. It has a certain je ne sais quoi! One day when I am all grown up I hope to also add something like this. For now the wood is becoming part of me by getting lodged in my lungs. At this rate I might be able to build something using my lungs as stock in the not too distant future.

    When it is my turn to install a system like this, I will certainly consult you and this series of posts.

    Good luck for the rest of the project.

    Gerhard

    • Jonathan says:

      Hello Gerhard,

      Thanks! Is funny how much alike we continue to think. I really like that photo too. In fact when I was editing the photos on the computer, I called my wife over and said “Come check out this photo”. She came over and said “Ummmm… It’s a trashcan”. I responded, “but yeah, all the converging lines in the photo, it kind of draws you in, doesn’t it look cool?”. This only yielded another “It’s just a trashcan”…. Wives…..

      Try not to inhale too much wood dust, we don’t want to read a post on your site about your wife building something out of your lungs! A Gerhard mantle clock???

      Take care. All the best,

      Jonathan

  3. David says:

    Skip the remote switch. I have a similar Grizzly unit, 220v. I purchased a wireless RF Remote Control that you can carry on your belt anywhere in the shop, instead of walking over to a switch. The time and effort you’ll spend wiring and installing the remote switch, you’ll be done in sixty seconds with the RF Remote Control. Grizzly sells it in both 110v and 220v versions. Good luck.

    • Jonathan says:

      Hi David,

      I guess I should have been a little more specific, but a wireless remote switch is exactly what I had in mind. At this point, the installation is all done and the “Part Two” post is half written. It seems that I’m always about three posts behind on my blog from where I actually am in any given project. Finding the time to write is increasingly difficult. I tried a commercial wireless remote but wasn’t happy with it. I ended up wiring a 110v remote to a 240v contactor. I hope to have that post up in the next few days.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, I really appreciate it.

      All the best,

      Jonathan

  4. Curious to hear how your new cyclone separator works. If it still leave something to be desired, trash it and get the cyclone lid from Lee Valley. It does not have the drawback of similar design like the Grizzly. Have mine ever since it came out, and really like it, no complaints.
    Bob

    • Jonathan says:

      Hey Bob,

      I’m curious to see it in action too. I’ve just about finished the dust collector project now, except I have no blast gates. When I turn the collector on, it’s pulling from so many open outlets that nothing gets extracted. Once the blast gates are in, i’ll finally see how it all works.

      All the best,

      Jonathan

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