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Making a DIY Cyclone Dust Separator for Your Shop

It turns out that making a cyclone dust separator is a fairly simple process, and the DIY version seems to work as well as a commercial separator. Small scale (shop size) cyclone dust separators typically attach to an intermediate tank (like a trash can or 5-gallon bucked) and separate the dust and large chunks of debris from the air being sucked into the vacuum system. This helps keep your vacuum system clean and can help prevent damage caused by large pieces of debris hitting impellers on larger dust collector systems.

DIY Cyclone Dust Separator by Dan Clark

Dan Clark walks us through the process he used for making his own cyclone dust separator using a bit of sheet metal, some tubing, and a Shop-Vac. Here’s an excerpt from Dan’s step-by-step walkthrough of the project (which is free for download and linked below in PDF format).

“I do a lot of cutting and CNC routing in MDF which creates a powdery dust that quickly plugs up my shop vacuum filter. I was always having to take the vacuum apart and clean the filter, especially during long CNC routing operations. I started searching on Youtube for ways to keep the filter from clogging so quickly and found several different types of separation systems others have made. After reviewing many different concepts I decided on the cyclone style separator and began designing my own system. My system is running now and is performing far better than I had hoped.

Before you begin building you should know there is a separator called Dust Deputy made of a plastic material available for only $39.00 that could save you a lot of time.”

If you’re still interested in making your own, download the free PDF plans below.

If you’d rather purchase a commercial dust separator, many inexpensive solutions can be found on Amazon. Here are just a few examples (click images to view price on Amazon):

Or a more robust, larger capacity (1o gallon) solution:

Buy or DIY, either way a cyclone separator can really help keep your dust collection system running clean and trouble free.

If you would like to share your experiences (preferred brand, size considerations, etc) with the rest of us, please leave a comment via the forum (see link below).

Thanks for sharing your project with us Dan!

  Cyclone_dust_separator.pdf (1.1 MiB, 720 downloads)
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About Tyler

Tyler is a hobby machinist and 3D printing aficionado. He teaches computer programming and web development at Highline near Seattle. Tyler founded Projects In Metal in 2008 because he was frustrated by the lack of free plans available for hobby machinists.

8 comments

  1. Re: Dan Clark’s cyclone dust collector.   – A really nice project, but……In my previous research of dust collection systems I found Bill Pentz’s web site, and would recommend it as an essential read to everyone considering the installation of a dust collection system.  Mr. Pentz is an engineer who became so sensitized to fine dust in his home shop that he was hospitalized in a life threatened condition.  As a result of this experience he writes that he undertook extensive research of the unique problem of home shop conditions & inadequate dust collection equipment.  Bill makes his health findings, dust system recommendations, and cyclone building plans available free on his web site http://billpentz.com/woodworki…../index.cfm.  His collector design is licensed to ”Clear Vue Cyclones”, who also make a small unit to be used in shop vacuum hoses to remove most of the fine dust prior to the air entering the filter (which should be a HEPA filter to catch airborne fine dust).  On my list of things to do is to build or buy a small “Clear Vue Cyclone” for my shop vac. to try its effectiveless on a small scale.  For now I’m using a recycled evaporative cooler blower to bring in fresh air from the rear of my garage / shop, directing it across the tools I am using to exhaust the air out through the open overhead door.  As much as possible I do dusty work outside on the drive in the air stream from the blower.  This limits my dust making activites to three seasons, so in the winter I concentrate more on less dusty operations and plan to install overhead infrared heaters that will allow some woodworking during milder winter days.  The soft murmmer of unrestricted air movement through a 1/3 hp. two speed blower motor does the job more efficiently than a roaring 3.5 – 5 hp. blower trying to suck the same air flow through tool hoods, hoses and ducting.  It’s sort of like pulling a rope behind in a straight line VS trying to push that same rope ahead in that same straight line.  No offense intended Dan.  Your cyclone looks terrific, but read why the Pentz design & Clear Vue Cyclones are more efficient – then exhaust the air outside of your shop, rather than pumping the fine dust back thru inadequate filters where occupants will unknowingly breathe the most dangerous  dust.    

  2. For anyone who isn’t aware of it already, Phil Thien has a nifty separator design that’s easy to make and rivals the cyclone types in performance, at least for the big chips.  There’s some debate about how much of the really fine dust makes it through the Thein separator.  Look here for all the info.

    – Russ

  3. Say, Tyler, I have a question for you. I put in a dust control system in my shop using 4″ PVC pipe.  Basically I got the idea from a local Woodcraft shop.  I was going to use metal ducting but figured it looked clean and hooked up nicely.

    At a party, a neighbor of mine in the wood machinery business told me that PVC is dangerous because of the capability of generating a spark through static electricity.  If it is true I thought about stringing a copper wire through the system (not an easy task now) and grounding it.

    Have you heard of this?

     

    Jim

  4. Jim,

    This question gets debated a lot.  I think the general consensus (and the truth, actually) is that grounding a PVC dust collection system is a pointless waste of time.  There are better things to worry about.

    For the opinion of somebody who has really studied this, click here.

    For the opinions of a bunch of rowdy woodworkers, click here, and here.

    – Russ

  5. Russ,

     

    That makes me rest a lot easier.  I never had any kind of indication of static buildup. On to real challenges like rebuilding my Bridgeport Milling machine.

     

    Thanks,

     

    Jim

  6. modela said
    Say, Tyler, I have a question for you … at a party, a neighbor of mine in the wood machinery business told me that PVC is dangerous because of the capability of generating a spark through static electricity. 

    Have you heard of this?

    Yea, I’ve heard of that, along with not using PVC for shop air, and a few other similar topics. I’d have to agree with Russ, I doubt it’s much of an issue.

    Mythbusters even had an episode (Season 02 Episode 08) where they tested if PVC pipe can build up enough static to kill someone. They busted the myth.

    I can also tell you that my parents have been in the home insurance business for a combined 50+ years, and neither have ever had an insured’s shop burn down from static produced by a shop dust collection system.

    I’d be more worried about solvent-soaked combustable rags, or the errant magnifying bench light left near a window on a sunny day.

    My dad almost lit his reloading room on fire that way. He showed me the burned arc in the bench where the magnifier lens concentrated the sunshine while he was inside the house watching college football. The light is still bolted to the bench next to the window, but now he tosses a rag over the lens when he’s not using the light to make sure that sunlight never catches the room on fire. 

    Shop fires definately happen. But I think there are greater risks than a PVC dust collection system. That’s why we have insurance. 

    And while we are on the topic of insurance, it’s an excellent idea to document what you have in your shop for insurance purposes. You can write everything down, but a much faster approach is to videotape yourself taking a tour of every drawer and cabinet. As long as everything’s visible in the video you can always go back and make a list later (post fire, theft, etc), while watching the video. Just remember to save the video off site, and not … in your shop. Put the video in a safety deposit box, online (if it’s digital), or swap videos with a buddy (odds are both shops won’t burn down simultaneously), etc. Although I guess a tornado could hit both shops on the same day, so if you’re in tornado country the buddy-swap system wouldn’t be the most secure.

    Most of the large equipment will still be there, charred but visible after a fire. But the smaller hand tools, plastic tools, etc will be buried under wet ashes and harder to sort out. Trust me, you’d rather pour over a video to make a list of tools for the insurance adjuster than sift through ashes. And if you get robbed and they clear out your tool boxes, you’ll be able to remember most of your tools – but what about the ones that you haven’t used in years? Those are easy to forget. Every couple of years I end up moving and I’m constantly discovering tools that I forgot that I own. Those wouldn’t get replaced because I’d forget to claim them. 

    Anyway, food for thought. I hope you never need to file an insurance claim. But make a video just in case. 

  7. That makes me feel a bit easier.  I really have had no indication of static.  Besides, in our wet climate it may note even exits.  In Colorado if you walked across a carpet and touched someone you would get a big shock.

    I did some pictures of shop items a few years back and it is really out of date.  I don’t know how they settle claims but it would really  be costly to replace the tools, even older ones that are doing the job.  I think I will do that next week.  I boosted up my insurance amount the last time I did it.  Things really add up.

    I have been rebuilding my mill.  I am getting tired of the smell of grease when cleaning up things.  There seems to be no easy way to do that, at least that I have found.  Next week I should have every bearing in the had replaced and get my rebuilt quill back.  I like to paint everything but this one might be the exception because it would be hard to get into my paint booth. 

    Regarding the table and knew mechanisms, I am not sure how I will handle those.  I think I will just get it running and see how they seem to track. 

    I am looking forward to doing something with it, like the power wheelbarrow modifications.

    Jim

    Oh, by the way, do you know anything about the suspended electrostatic shop filters?

  8. I grew up with an electrostatic filter in our home. My dad has terrible allergies and my parents purchased a filter system that sat over the air intake vent of the central air system. So whenever the heat or AC was running, the air passed by the filter.

    The filter definitely helped. We had to take it apart every month or two and run the screens through the dishwasher. They were covered in dust, pollen, and pet hair.

    The only downside was the thing sounded like a bug zapper. Always snapping and clicking. You got used to it (it was on the other side of my bedroom wall, so I heard it the most) but when people came over they always gave us funny looks from the noises coming from the utility/laundry room.

    After about 20 years the system needed to be replaced. The new unit was 75% smaller, more efficient, more effective, and nearly silent. So a huge improvement over the original.

    So I can’t speak to a shop system, but if its anything like what I grew up with and what my parents still have, it’ll be effective to remove a lot of the dust and any other particulates suspended in the shop air.

    One recommendation, get a system that lets you wash the filters rather than buying replacements. That’s definitely the cheaper way to go in the long run.