How to Make Blast Gates for Your Woodworking Shop Dust Collection System

So… I’ll be up front with you.  This article is probably my longest yet.  I really must get better at culling images.  With most things I post, if it is going to have much more than 20 or so photos, I try to break it up into multiple posts.  However, this is already a series and I didn’t want to write a four part post on how to make your own blast gates for you dust collection system.  So here it is… One giant post… 108 images.

Also, you could just buy blast gates from Rockler (they’re $13 each).  I think my design is better, but buying them would save you a lot of time.  But… this is a hobby not a profession for me, and I enjoyed making them.

I’ve added captions to all the photos, so there won’t be much need for text in between.

Again, I went to my scrap wood bin for the plywood needed to make all these parts. During this whole dust collection series, I haven’t had to buy any wood.  Admittedly, my sheet storage bin was overflowing with leftover plywood from various projects.  ½-sheets and ¾-sheets a-plenty.  I’ve used up a good portion of that now.

I began by cutting ½-inch ply into 6 11/16-inch wide strips.

I began by cutting ½-inch ply into 6 11/16-inch wide strips.

On the crosscut sled, I cut the strips into pieces that were 6 11/16 square.

On the crosscut sled, I cut the strips into pieces that were 6 11/16 square.

These 16 blanks will each make up one half of a blast gate.  They will have thinner ¼-inch pieces of ply glued in between along the edges to act as spacers, and a ¼-inch thick gate that will slide back and forth to open and close air flow.

I made 16 of these.

I made 16 of these.

I needed to cut a hole in the center of each of these pieces.  4-inch PVC pipe has an inner diameter of 4″.  The outer diameter is 4  3/16″.  I want the pipe to fit snugly into the hole with very little play.  These holes need to be very accurate and identical in all 16 pieces.  this calls for a jig.  I grabbed some scrap plywood and clamped one of the blanks to it.  I then screwed three pieces around the edges of the blank and added a toggle clamp to hold the blanks in place.  I found the center and drew a 4 3/16th circle.

I made a jig using some scraps of plywood.

I made a jig using some scraps of plywood.

I drilled a pilot hole and then cut out the circle with a jigsaw.  I kept away from the line and then finished the circle using a sanding drum on the drill press.  I periodically checked the fit, but despite repeated checking made the hole a hair too big.  I added a layer of masking tape and the fit was perfect.  The jig was ready for use.

I mounted the jig in my vise.

I mounted the jig in my vise.

Installing one of the 6 11/16-inch blanks in the jig.

Installing one of the 6 11/16-inch blanks in the jig.

Using a pencil to mark the circle onto the blank.

Using a pencil to mark the circle onto the blank.

I also numbered the edges so that the blank goes back into the jig the same way later.

I also numbered the edges so that the blank goes back into the jig the same way later.

I clamped the plywood blank in my vise.

I clamped the plywood blank in my vise.

I drilled a pilot hole.

I drilled a pilot hole.

I rough cut out the circle with a jigsaw making sure to keep away from the line.

I rough cut out the circle with a jigsaw making sure to keep away from the line.

Here's the rough cut blank.

Here’s the rough cut blank.

I put the blank back in the jig.

I put the blank back in the jig.

I'll use a router and pattern bit to finish the cut.

I’ll use a router and pattern bit to finish the cut.

I used my palm router to do this.

I used my palm router to do this.

Here's the result.

Here’s the result.

I then got into repetitive mode and made a bunch of sawdust.

After repeating 16 times, I was left with this stack.

After repeating 16 times, I was left with this stack.

The next step in this project is to cut up some PVC.  I bought some straight coupling pieces for this next part.  They have an inner diameter of 4  3/16″ and fit over the outside of the PVC pipe.  I could have used a whole one on each side of the blast gate, but that would have been a little bulkier and would have doubled the cost of the parts.  Instead I cut the couplings in half.  I was very careful to cut the coupling exactly in half and make sure the cut was square.  PVC cuts very well on the bandsaw.

Cutting a PVC Straight Coupling in half at the bandsaw.

Cutting a PVC Straight Coupling in half at the bandsaw.

Messy, but effective.

Messy, but effective.

This leaves a small ridge on the inside edge of the cut.

This leaves a small ridge on the inside edge of the cut.

I used a drum sanding bit in the drill press to remove the ridge.

I used a drum sanding bit in the drill press to remove the ridge.

After sanding, one coupling yields two pieces.

After sanding, one coupling yields two pieces.

Eight couplings gave me 16 pieces.

Eight couplings gave me 16 pieces.

Next, I cut some small pieces of PVC pipe.

Next, I cut some small pieces of PVC pipe.

I cut these 1¼-inches long.

I cut these 1¼-inches long.

I cut 16 pieces.

I cut 16 pieces.

I gave them each a quick sanding to smooth the edges.

I gave them each a quick sanding to smooth the edges.

Testing the fit.

Testing the fit.

Pretty snug!

Pretty snug!

The coupling pieces fit over the sections of pipe.

The coupling pieces fit over the sections of pipe.

This leaves enough unused coupling to install them in the system later.

This leaves enough unused coupling to install them in the system later.

Things seem to be lining up well.

Things seem to be lining up well.

The inside lines up well.

The inside lines up well.

To glue the PVC to the wood, I used PL375 construction adhesive.  I love this stuff.  I buy it at Home Depot and it is considerably cheaper than liquid nails.

I used construction adhesive to assemble each half of the blast gate.

I used construction adhesive to assemble each half of the blast gate.

I applied an even coating.

I applied an even coating.

I pushed in an 1¼-inch piece of the pipe.

I pushed in an 1¼-inch piece of the pipe.

I then applied some construction adhesive to the outside of the pipe.

I then applied some construction adhesive to the outside of the pipe.

I then pushed on a piece of the coupling over the pipe.

I then pushed on a piece of the coupling over the pipe.

All 16 halves were assembled and set aside to dry.

All 16 halves were assembled and set aside to dry.

I used ¼-inch ply for the gate that will slide back and forth inside the assembly.  This means that I needed to separate the two halves that I just built, by the same ¼”.

Next, I found some ¼-inch ply and ripped several 5/8-inch strips.

Next, I found some ¼-inch ply and ripped several 5/8-inch strips.

The 5/8-inch wide strips were cut to 6 11/16-inches long.

The 5/8-inch wide strips were cut to 6 11/16-inches long.

I also cut ¼” ply to make the gates.  These were 4  7/16″ wide by about 12″ long.  This with equals the width of the overall blast gates (6 11/16) minus the two 5/8″ spacers.

Cross cutting the gates to length.

Cross cutting the gates to length.

I needed to cut the holes in the ¼” plywood for when the gates are in the open position. I’ll use the same jig to do this, but with a few modifications.  First, I had to move the top fence of the jig up by ¾” to account for the portion of the ¼” ply that will go into the handle.  Also I want the hole in the gate itself to be the same size as the inner diameter of the pipe not the outer.  Since the jig is currently sized to route the outer diameter, I simply pushed a small piece of pipe into the jig.  Now the router bit bearing will follow the inside of the pipe.  Lastly, I cut two pieces of ply, 5/8 wide to “shrink” the effective width of the jig.

I moved the top fence of the jig up by ¾-inch.

I moved the top fence of the jig up by ¾-inch.

I also added a piece of PVC pipe inside the jig. The router bearing will now ride on this.

I also added a piece of PVC pipe inside the jig. The router bearing will now ride on this.

I added two 5/8-inch spacers, one on either side, and inserted one of the gates.

I added two 5/8-inch spacers, one on either side, and inserted one of the gates.

I routed the holes in the gates using the same method as above.

I marked, drilled, jigsawed, and routed the holes in the gates in the same way I did earlier.

I marked, drilled, jigsawed, and routed the holes in the gates in the same way I did earlier.

Since I am using the same ¼” ply for the gate as the spacers, things might be a little too tight.  I thinned the gates very, very slightly at the drum sander.

I thinned the gates very slightly at the drum sander.

I thinned the gates very slightly at the drum sander.

I very lightly smoothed the inside of the blast gate halves on the combination sander.

I very lightly smoothed the inside of the blast gate halves on the combination sander.

Getting ready for glue-up.

Getting ready for glue-up.

Applying glue to just one half of each side.

Applying glue to just one half of each side.

To avoid getting any glue on the inner gates, I used a scrap of the same width for assembly.

Applying glue to the outside edge of the 5/8-inch spacers.

Applying glue to the outside edge of the 5/8-inch spacers.

Using a scrap the same width as the gates for assembly.

Using a scrap the same width as the gates for assembly.

With all the glue applied and a piece of scrap in the middle, I brought the two halves together.

With all the glue applied and a piece of scrap in the middle, I brought the two halves together.

I stood the blast gate on edge to line everything up and added some clamps.

I stood the blast gate on edge to line everything up and added some clamps.

Glued and clamped.

Glued and clamped.

I fired in a bunch of 23ga pin nails.

I fired in a bunch of 23ga pin nails.

After the glue was dry and the clamps removed.

After the glue was dry and the clamps removed.

I cleaned up the edges at the combination sander.

I cleaned up the edges at the combination sander.

Nice smooth edges.

Nice smooth edges.

Next, on to the handles and stop-blocks that will attach to each end of the gate.

A stick of Sapele from my lumber rack.

A stick of Sapele from my lumber rack.

Thicknessing at the drum sander.

Thicknessing at the drum sander.

Cutting the handles to length.

Cutting the handles to length.

8 handles and 8 stop blocks.

8 handles and 8 stop blocks.

My quick makeshift router table.

My quick makeshift router table.

A cove bit installed.

A cove bit installed.

These grooves will provide good thumb/finger grip.

These grooves will provide good thumb/finger grip.

I changed to a round-over bit.

I changed to a round-over bit.

I also rounded over the end.

I also rounded over the end.

I made 8 handles.

I made 8 handles.

I cut a groove at the tablesaw.

I cut a groove in two passes at the tablesaw.

I also made and rounded over 8 stop blocks for the other end of the gate.

I also made and rounded over 8 stop blocks for the other end of the gate.

All the Sapele parts hand sanded and ready for assembly.

All the Sapele parts hand sanded and ready for assembly.

I cut a section out of a piece of PVC pipe.

I cut a section out of a piece of PVC pipe.

Before starting with the assembly, I wanted to come up with a way of temporarily immobilizing the blast gate in the open position.  This will allow me to install the handles so that when they are pushed all the way in, the holes in the gate are perfectly aligned with the dust collector pipe.   To do this, I cut down some PVC pipe little by little, until it just fit inside another piece of pipe.

I made sure I cut out just enough to fit snugly inside another piece of pipe.

I made sure I cut out just enough to fit snugly inside another piece of pipe.

Here’s how it will be used:

Slipping this piece of cut down pipe inside the blast gate in the open position will make sure the handle is installed in the exact right place.

Slipping this piece of cut down pipe inside the blast gate in the open position will make sure the handle is installed in the exact right place.

The pipe holds the blast gate in the open position.

The pipe holds the blast gate in the open position.

Next I cut some small pieces of Sapele to fill the grooves in the handles and stop-blocks.

I haven't made a bench hook yet, so I cobbled together a quick saw guide.

I haven’t made a bench hook yet, so I cobbled together a quick saw guide.

I cut 16 pieces to fill the gaps in the handle.

I cut 16 pieces to fill the gaps in the handle.

I also cut 16 pieces to fill the gas in the stop blocks.

I also cut 16 pieces to fill the gas in the stop blocks.

Time to glue the handles on.

I spread glue all along the grove in the handle.

I spread glue all along the grove in the handle.

I put the cut-down section of pipe inside the blast gate to hold it in the open position.

I put the cut-down section of pipe inside the blast gate to hold it in the open position.

I pushed the handle onto the ¼" plywood of the gate.

I pushed the handle onto the ¼” plywood of the gate.

I spread a little glue on the Sapele gap filling piece.

I spread a little glue on the Sapele gap filling piece.

And pushed the piece into the gap.

And pushed the piece into the gap.

All the handles attached and left to dry.

All the handles attached and left to dry.

Once dry.

Once dry.

I used the combination sander to flush up the ends.

I used the combination sander to flush up the ends.

Flush, but a little rough.

Flush, but a little rough.

Yes, I still use handtools.

Pairing down the inside face with a chisel.

Pairing down the inside face with a chisel.

I love working with Sapele. It cuts beautifully.

I love working with Sapele. It cuts beautifully.

All flushed up!

All flushed up!

A sanding block and 220 grit paper smoothed the endgrain.

A sanding block and 220 grit paper smoothed the endgrain.

Test fitting the other end stop blocks.

Test fitting the other end stop blocks.

The handles are glued on for a permanent joint, but the stop-blocks need to be removable.  If I ever have to take the gate out of its housing, this end will have to be removed first.  I’ll hold them on with screws.

Drilling and countersinking for screws.

Drilling and countersinking for screws.

The removable stop block end is held on with screws.

The removable stop block end is held on with screws.

The stop block ends still have gaps that I want to fill. I'll have to be careful not to get glue on the plywood gate.

The stop block ends still have gaps that I want to fill. I’ll have to be careful not to get glue on the plywood gate.

Blast Gates-97

I put a little glue in the groove, careful to keep it away from the plywood.

I put a little glue in the groove, careful to keep it away from the plywood.

I put glue only on the outer half of the gap piece.

I put glue only on the outer half of the gap piece.

Once the glue was dry, I flushed up and sanded the ends as before.

Once the glue was dry, I flushed up and sanded the ends as before.

8 blast gates ready for finish.

8 blast gates ready for finish.

Below you can see how well the hole in the gate aligns with the pipe:

I removed the stop block so that I can apply some finish.

I removed the stop block so that I can apply some finish.

For finish, I used a single coat of Watco Danish Oil.

For finish, I used a single coat of Watco Danish Oil.

Half of the blast gates finished. You can see how the Danish Oil adds a warm richness to the Sapele.

Half of the blast gates finished. You can see how the Danish Oil adds a warm richness to the Sapele.

The blast gates were left for a couple of days to dry.

The blast gates were left for a couple of days to dry.

Alright…. 8 blast gates done!  I installed them in the PVC duct lines that lead to my various tools.  In the photo below, the left gate (closed) leads to my bandsaw, the center gate (open) to my tablesaw, and the right gate (closed) to my jointer.  I’ve installed 4 gates and have 4 spare for future expansion.

These gates control the airflow from my bandsaw, tablesaw, and jointer.

These gates control the airflow from my bandsaw, tablesaw, and jointer.

I also installed a gate in the vertical section of pipe that comes off the back of my planer.

The blast gate for my 15-inch planer in the closed position.

The blast gate for my 15-inch planer in the closed position.

And in the open position.

And in the open position.

Well,  I’m sure that this is more than you ever wanted to know about how to make blast gates.  Have a go at making some, it was a fun project.

 

 

– Jonathan White

If you would like to see all of my blog posts about installing my dust collection system, you can find them here:

 

3 Responses to How to Make Blast Gates for Your Woodworking Shop Dust Collection System

  1. Peter Larkin says:

    I am just getting my first workshop together for scroll saw work and I need a dust extraction system.
    My workshop is about 3000 long by 1800 wide by 2400 tall, so I do not need a massive system. I plan to use a Mr. Henry Vacuum cleaner to gether with a see through plastic bucket that I am going to turn into a small cyclone system. Please can you tell me how to size the various pipes I am going to need. I plan to install a Proxon Scrollsaw, a small band saw, a bench pillar drill and a few small jigs that will require dust extraction. I liked your blast gate idea. By he way I am a complete novice but want to learn

    • Jonathan says:

      Hi Peter,

      Sorry for the delayed response, I’ve been travelling and haven’t checked in on my site for a week or so. I think that you are on the right track in deciding to use a vacuum system versus a dust collector.

      Here is my basic understanding:

      A dust collector moves a very large quantity of air (usually over 1,000 CFM) but does so at a lower vacuum pressure. This is great for removing large quantities of saw dust/wood chips like you would get when using a jointer/planer/surfacer. The pipe/ducting is larger and the dust moves at a slower speed through them.

      A shop vacuum moves a much smaller quantity of air (probably under 200 CFM), but does so under higher vacuum pressure. The pipes/hoses are generally much smaller in diameter and the dust moves much more quickly.

      You mentioned that you want to set up collection for scroll saw work. This dust is usually quite fine and is in very small quantities. I think that your idea to use a vacuum and a small cyclone separator is spot on. Check here for cyclones in the UK: http://www.toolovation.co.uk/category_s/144.htm. If you want to put in rigid ducting and blast gates, you will probably need to keep them small (1-1/2 inch or so). Ridgid ducting is supposed to retain more suction than flexible hose.

      I hope this helps.

      All the best,

      Jonathan

      • Peter Larkin says:

        Jonathon,
        Thank you for replying so quickly and your positive comments.

        Based on your reply I can now proceed to the design phase and generating a buying list. The design will be mainly rigid ducting with flexible hose for the final connection to the tools.

        I will be making some blast gate based on your video.

        The cost of a shop made cyclone is a bit much so I will be making mine out of a semi-transparent bucket based on a video I have seen on Youtube.

I'd love to hear your thoughts, comments, or questions.