Cheap Dust Collection Solution (Roast it?)

After a few cuts the dust in my garage was getting out of hand so I needed to come up with a solution. I considered picking up one of the harbor freight dust collectors but it is large and I am not sure how much I should trust a harbor freight dust collection bag.

My solution was a cheap 2 stage system using a shop vac, a HEPA filter, and a few buckets.

Below is my parts list:

I also needed wood shims, a hot glue gun, a brick, a bungie cord and some extra shop vac hose.

I setup the shop vac as you would expect, connected to the router, then made a small hose from the exhaust port in the shop vac to another bucket with a hole in the lid sealed by the HEPA filter. The shop vac is setting in another bucket with a brick in the bottom for stability.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Now when the shop vac runs the only air that escapes comes up through the HEPA filter with large dust being caught under the shop vac and fine dust being collected in the secondary bucket.

I would like to make the system quieter and once I am satisfied with it, I will likely build an enclosure to reduce the noise in the garage an house.

So let me know what you think! The whole point of this project was the improve the air safety and cleanliness in the garage. If I overlooked something please let me know.


Shop vacs are high pressure, dust collectors are low pressure high volume. Different goals, clean up vs steady state removing the more toxic fine dust.

I have the one hp HF with a trash can pseudo cyclone on my 16x42 lathe, gets the chunks and coarse dust but could be better on the fines. Looking seriously at Bill Pentz’s CV 1800 and the HEPA grizzes for the in-progress woodshop.

Check out Wynn Engineering and Pentz’s (some consider it a bit over the top) site. Check out cyclones, real, thien, and trash can. Souping up horror freight’s DC is popular, decent basics with could be better filtration.

I have the oneida dust deputy which is absurdly expensive, but that with my JET dust collector does an amazing job. After 2 years of use, I have maybe 3-4 cups of fines in the dust collector, the cyclone catches nearly all of them.

That said, I don’t use this for the Maslow, as it is way overkill.

The CV1800 and HEPA Grizzly filters look awesome but also start at ~$1200. My setup cost about $60. If I had a full wood shop and a larger budget these would be perfect.

I understand the shop vac providing more suction while the dust collector moving more air however I thought most hand tools were designed to be connected to a shop vac. I choose a weaker shop vac to keep cost down but also in hopes of preventing too much suction and friction at the sled.

Would my setup for the single tool be missing the “more toxic fine dust”? The ultimate goal is to safely (and cheaply) handle the dust from the router. Are there changes or alternatives I should consider to cost effectively handle the dust generated by the Rigid R2200?

I will be on the lookout for a higher volume (quieter) fan/blower solution to replace the shop vac. I am also planning to hook this ( ) up to my rPi so I can track some of the air quality in the garage.

@krkeegan Right now the dust port on my router is connected to a mini dust deputies (diy kit from about 10 years ago) and an older big Sears vac. If I bought one today it would be the us$20 Chinese versions, or maybe the slightly more expensive curvy model.

I tried the smaller (gallon or two) shop vac from the Zenbot, but not enough suck to pull the dust out. Worked great in recirc mode on the mini router’s enclosure.

Hope to run a full shop of tools on that big version. Just need the shop and to move/buy the tools😀. Have some dust allergies so going to get carried awsy

I think your setup is pretty good. For most materials the dust particles will be comparably large from the router. MDF however always seems to make fines.

The only change I could suggest, is if possible just vent the vacuum outside rather than using the separate filter, I use a shop vac and do this with my router. If that can’t be done, I think you are fine with what you have.

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Thanks for all of the feedback.

I do not plan to do anything with MDF at this time but would for sure revisit this topic if I start using MDF.

I considered venting the shop vac to the outside but then I would also want a return path for the air. Bugs are no joke in Texas so I prefer to keep the garage door shut in the evenings.

At least you don’t have swamp rats

It’s easy to screen out the swamp rats, but those 2 and 3 inch long Texas roaches can chew through most anything. Then there’s the giant spiders… Everything’s bigger in Texas!

@mooselake Those are a nuisance but its the mosquitos that are the real problem, if we don’t get a good freeze in the winter they are unbearable the following summer. Now they are starting to bring a side of Zika or West Nile with them.

@krkeegan I am thankful there are no rats. Mostly rabbits and bobcats in my neighborhood.

I keep a small bug zapper in the shop, mosquitos might be the only thing that’s bigger in the North woods than in Texas.

Bobcats don’t stand a chance against swamp rats, which fortunately only live in the Mooselake Swamp. They specialize in hiding small parts when you drop them, delaying ups packages, and generally being a nuisance

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If you want the cadillac IMHO, go with ClearVue. Their big cyclone has a 5HP 220v motor, and it one of the best available for a shop installation.

For more the small hobbiest that still wants a pretty good one, just not great, the Harbor Freight paired with a filter from Wynn has been on my eye.

For a cheap solution, until I can get something better, I plan on doing a Banggood mini-cyclone on top of a bucket, and use a nice shopvac type (I happen to have one from Home Depot, 2+" hose, larger motor) to hook into the router shroud that came with the router I purchased for the MaslowCNC. I did upgrade the shopvac to a HEPA filter to try to get the small particles.

If you want to become a pseudo expert in the field, read Bill Pentz web site section on sawdust control. Bill operated for years without, and his MD said he had to stop or die. So to keep woodworking, Bill became a super knowledgeable person about dust control in small shops. He did the design for the ClearVue big cyclone.

BTW, ClearVue big cyclone also uses two large Wynn filters for sub-micron (down to .3 micron if I remember right) particles.

If you want a mini-cyclone, consider the small one from ClearVue. They are reported to good a great job for shop-vac type dust control.

If you need the links for any of this, let me know, I will find it for you. But it is just a google search away in any case. … I hope this helps.

I forget who’s blaming who, but there was a controversy over the smaller clearvue and Oneida, although neither is a particularly new and innovative design. The oriental mass production machine did an end run around both of them.

While actually getting one is premature (concrete/sledge/pry bar…) I’ve been trying to do my homework and find that the clearvue gets a lot of “I’m happy with mine” reviews. I don’t know how to compare it (CV1800/Wynn) with the HEPAized Griz in terms of sneeze and lung damage potential. Either will suck the Maslow frame through the router and down the hose, along with the shop walls if you don’t crack a window.

Youse guys are getting me stoked up to put one going, fur sure.

By the time you bought all those things and invested your time, you could have used the coupon and got the Harbor Freight dust collector for $150 and been done with it. I’ve been doing woodworking as a hobby for several years. Over that time, I’ve tried several things with different vacuums and separators. The HF one right out of the box works much better than any of the 5gallon bucket, PVC, shop vacuum contraptions I came up with.

As far as roasting your creation, I think you’ll find that your tiny 1" hoses clog up rather easily. You don’t have any clear windows into the tubes or the collector itself so you don’t know when its clogged or full. Its made from a 5 gallon bucket, but the vacuum takes up part of that volume, so its really like 3 gallons of sawdust till its full. The filter between the sawdust and the shopvac’s input will get clogged really easily and often. It’ll happen so often, that you’ll probably never get it clean again and the vacuum will operate at a pretty reduced capacity. And typically when you make a 2-stage collector, you don’t want to connect your tool straight to the vacuum. You arrange it so your motor pulls a vacuum through a first bucket that acts as a separator. It makes all the big stuff fall out on the first bucket and only the fine dust makes it even close to your motor.

Here’s what my 2 stage collector looks like. Its the Harbor freight unit. I went above and beyond and made it into a 2 stage system with a fancy filter and I’m in it for $200 materials and 1.5hr of work.


Nice looking setup! Is that a Thien baffle?

What did you use for a filter? – if you want good filter for your inexpensive single stage dust collector, check these folks out. They are willing to talk and suggest if you give them a call. … Not affiliated, just what I have heard or learned from others.

Yeah, mine’s a plexiglass and particleboard Thien baffle sitting on top of a 32 gallon trash can. The HF dust collector comes with a “5 micron” filter, but its made in China and I don’t really trust their measurments or QA. I’m using a Powertec 1 micron filter ($25 on amazon). The Wynn filters mentioned above do 0.5 micron, but they cost $200. I want one of them, but its hard to cough up that kinda dough.


Hi Daniel,

I was wondering how your dust collection system has been working for you. I am using a dust deputy knockoff right now, but when I do a lot of cutting I can see the fine sawdust in the air from the vacuum exhaust. I am thinking that I need a filter and yours looks like it would fit the bill.

I ordered a chinese cyclone to go with one of my shopvacs for now. I wonder how easy or not it would be to make a small electrostatic precipitator for the really fine stuff. That’s pie in the sky, of course. I also bought 2 bathroom fans from the habitat re-store to see if I can make a dust collector out of those. They were cheap as the re-store is like a Goodwill for house stuff.

Use a drywall dust bag and washable “HEPA” filter on your shopvac. The bag will catch most of the fine dust and extend the cleaning time of the the filter. It’ll fill up faster than the regular shopvac bags (not as fast if you use a cyclone, etc), but that’s the point. You want to only vacuum up the dust once, along with keeping it out of your lungs.

The CV-1800 is still at the top of the shopping list, probably with a particle meter for bragging rights. Shop project stalled till spring, 8 foot/2.5m pile of snow in front of the main barn door, plus a big rock pile underneath, winter got here before the end of the project list :frowning: