Monday, April 30, 2018

DIY Shop Vac Cyclone Cart

This blog entry is about an experiment I wanted to try.
The day before starting this new project my house vacuum was replaced by this new one - which is actually identical to the old one.

I paid $40 about 2-3 years ago for the old one, and paid the same amount for the new one.  I bought this one again since it is very good at picking up pet hair from my carpets.  

The bagless vacuum uses a cyclone dirt separation system instead of a bag - which is exactly what all those "Dust Deputy"s and similar products use.  Essentially, when this plastic funnel is connected to a shop vac, the dust and dirt collect here instead of inside the actual shop vac.

This prolongs the life of the shop vac and requires very little cleaning or replacing the shop vac's filter.  The only catch is that the Dust Deputy and other such products are usually very expensive.  

So since I have a spare vac with a such cyclone system, I might as well try making my own.  I started by disassembling the old vacuum.

I removed the old motor and bottom to the vacuum and was able to Jerry-rig a tube where the motor would suck air from.

Then I cut parts of the upright vacuum's housing to allow the tube to come out of the side.

Then I put back the cyclone dust collection...

...and connected it to my shop vac.  I then connected the other hose to my house vac and started vacuuming.  And it worked great!  The cyclone collected all the dust and the shop vac's insides were empty.

But this is a lot to move around when trying to clean my garage, so I need to simplify things.  I think I would like some sort of cart that can hold the shop vac and the cyclone, similar to the image below.

   I would prefer to use only the cyclone part and not the majority of the old upright vacuum.  So I think I will try to connect the cyclone to a bucket.  This can also be seen above.  I have a few buckets in my workshop, but they are all being used.  I'll just get a new one since I need a bucket top as well.

The back of the cyclone (where air is sucked from) has a rectangular opening...

...but if I remove the top and filter I have a circular opening...

...that perfectly fits one of the vacuum hoses I have.

The fit is perfect but the hose can easily come out, so I need to make it a more permanent fit.  Since I don't need the top anymore, I cut it off.

The hose that fits in the top is connected to one area of the old vacuum housing - so I cut that area on the band saw...

...and attached it to the underneath of the cyclone top - making sure the hose doesn't come out.

A quick test with the shop vac will show if this joint works.  I quickly connected all my hoses, but I will need to shorten them later.

To test it out I'll borrow some saw dust from my table saw's dust bin.

The shop vac connected to the cyclone's new joint fit, and another hose was connected to the side of the cyclone.  Then I started vacuuming.

It's working!

It's working very well!

It took about 10 seconds for the cyclone to fill up with dust.

And the shop vac has virtually no dust inside!

With this test a success, I emptied the cyclone...

...and started filling the joint with some caulk.

I did this on both sides of the joint to make sure no air escapes.

Then I let the top joint dry.  While waiting for it to dry I now need to make a hole on the bottom of the cyclone.  I'll leave the blue bottom of the cyclone intact since it has a rubber gasket to keep air from escaping.

I drilled some holes on the bottom...

...big enough for my jigsaw's blade to fit through.  Then I cut out the bottom part.

The hole I just cut out will let dust fall into the bucket I plan on getting.  The remaining bottom lid will also let me screw the cyclone to the bucket.

But I needed to get a new bucket with a lid.  While I waited to go out, I was able to rearrange the hoses.  A shorter hose works best to connect the shop vac to the cyclone.

And a longer hose connected to the cyclone itself is better for cleanup.

A little later I bought a new bucket, lid and a cheap sheet of 3/4" plywood.  The plywood will eventually be for the mobile base.

I took the bottom of the cyclone and traced it on the bucket lid.

Then I cut it out.

I attached the lid to the cyclone bottom with some 1/2" screws...

...and some more caulk.

Then I put it all together.  The bucket lid is very thin plastic and rather flimsy.  This is why the cyclone looks like it's slanting.

But it should be good enough for another test.  I hooked up everything to the shop vac and brought out the table saw dust bin again.

Here's how the inside of the shop vac looks before this test.

I turned it on and started vacuuming up the dust in the bin.

And it's working!

You can see the amount of dust inside the bucket.

I vacuumed out about 75% of the dust bin...

...when it was pretty much filled up.

I opened the shop vac and this is how much dust is in it now.  Not bad!

The bucket wasn't totally filled... the opening had became clogged with longer strands of saw dust.

A little shaking of the cyclone loosened it up.

All that shaking made the top hose become loose.  This I will need to improve.

I took the top of the bucket off and emptied it.

So I have a few things to correct, but all in all it's working nicely.  After taking a break I went back to try and strengthen the lid.  I had a piece of particle board that I used my circle making jig on.

I then cut out the circle on the band saw.

Then I screwed the circle on top of the lid with screws...

...and cut out a circle in the middle for the cyclone.

 Unfortunately I cut the inner circle too large for the bottom of the cyclone.

So I repeated the circle-cutting steps on a piece of plywood (that was previously painted blue).  I made sure I could attach the bottom of the cyclone this time.

And now the whole cyclone unit sits firmly on the lid.

To strengthen the hose joint I used a pair of nuts and bolts to make sure the joint doesn't get loose.

Then it was time to test it again.

This time it did not work.  There was a lot of whistling and the dust wrapped around the top of the cyclone.

This meant that air was getting in through the spaces in either the hose joint, or the new lid.  So I used more caulk to seal up the wood around the lid and bottom of the cyclone.

For the hose joint, I removed the nuts and bolts and used a good deal of epoxy to keep the hose in place.  I also sealed up the holes I drilled for the bolts with a little more caulk.

Then I let every dry for a couple hours.

At the end of the day I hooked everything up one last time to see if it worked - which it did.

Then I called it a night.  The next day I started by laying the plywood sheet on the floor and placing the shop vac and bucket/cyclone on top of it to mark the size.

Then I drew out the shape I wanted.

Next I cut the shape out with my circular saw...

...and my jigsaw.

Once the cutting was done I sanded all the edges and surfaces smooth.

Next I added casters on the not-so-nice looking side of the plywood.

And now it's mobile.

I somehow lost pictures of the next few steps, but in a nutshell I cut some spare wood I had to make a handle for the cart.

This handle makes it easier to move the cart around.  I had also removed the wheel s on the shop vac so it wouldn't roll off the cart.

But I also wanted it to have more of a function.

So I attached an extension cord holder on the back of it and a power strip on the top.

Since the power cord on the shop vac isn't very long, having the extension cord will make it easy to get to every corner of my workshop.  The power strip on the top will also make it easier for me to turn the vac on and off, as well as any equipment I may plug into it.

I put the shop vac on the cart and wrapped the power cord up the side of the handle and plugged it in.  Having the power cord wrapped up like this will also keep the shop vac from falling off the cart.

And it's not so bad so far.

I tested the whole system once more by vacuuming up my router table.  Everything worked smoothly.

But the bucket moves around and can fall off the cart easily.  So to fix this I used some of the leftover plywood and drew the shape of the bottom of the bucket onto it.

Then I used my compass to equally draw out a larger circle around the tracing.

Next I cut out the inner circle with the jigsaw...

...and the outer circle on the band saw...

...followed by a bunch of sanding.

Once done, I screwed the circle onto the cart and placed the bucket inside.

Now the bucket stays in place when I move the cart around and is easy to remove.

The last thing I did was attach my cleaning brush and dust pan onto the side of the cart.

And I think this thing is now done.

I had to rearrange some of my workshop furniture to get this to fit somewhere nicely.

I'm glad I finally was able to make this.  I had wanted a dust deputy for some time, and was getting tired of buying new filters for my shop vac.  The cyclone and bucket will help keep my shop vac working for some time now.  The extension cord and power strip are also great since I can move this cart around easily to all of my shop tools and help keep everything relatively clean.

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