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.
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 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.
I glued these two pieces together, added some clamps, and left them 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 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 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:
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:
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 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.
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.
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.
With the addition of the wheels, the trashcan fits perfectly level with the height of the shelf.
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.
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.
– Jonathan White