Shopvac Sandwich Separator #1: Getting Started...

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Blog entry by jeth posted 10-17-2011 12:06 AM 2906 reads 2 times favorited 1 comment Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Shopvac Sandwich Separator series Part 2: Bits in the Middle.. »

Having spent the last couple of months getting the workshop sorted and installing new equipment my next big need is some form of dust collection and/or control. Unfortunately the process has left me flat broke , really :( … So the other day I was pondering a future solution and wondering how I would cope till I could afford one and I decided to just get something together with what I’ve got for now.

I already had a Ridgid shopvac and I had read online about the Thien separator concept, it seemed like my best option to improve on the capacity and performance of the shopvac to use as a stopgap for at least partial dust control until an upgrade.

The vac is one of the dumpy little 6 gallon models. It sucks ok when the can has been emptied and the filter is clean but it only takes a few minutes action for the waste to build up around the bottom of the pleated filter, which is mounted just a couple of inches from the bottom of the container. This results in a dramatic suction reduction..and cleaning the filter is no fast task and messy, releasing dust back into the air. It takes me around 30mins to get into each of the pleated folds with a brush and force out the caked on dust which is hard packed into every corner and crevice.

So, intent on building my version of the Thien Separator with materials I had lying around or could scavenge I poked about and found anything that looked vaguely useful for the task. I had some 5 gallon buckets, scrap wood, and the 2.5” pipes and fittings from the vac. In the end I spent about $2 US on a tube of silicone sealant and some superglue.

I made a coffee or three and sat to figure out the (rough) plan. I had originally thought to vent the separator straight up into the vac container, through a hole in the bottom as I had seen on a few versions on the Thien Separator discussion forum. I only had the one piece of flex hose so the connection between vac and separator would have to be fixed by one of the pieces of solid pipe extension that came with the vac.
Looking at the buckets I realized two stacked together leaves a near perfect sized chamber between the two bottoms for the separator so I decided to swap things round and use the Ridgid container for the below baffle collection. The Vac is 6 gallon nominal capacity but without that big filter hung in the middle it must be closer to 10 , plus I wouldn’t have to butcher the bottom for the separators outlet and the whole thing would still roll around on the vacs casters, so worked out better all round.

So from that basic idea I just made it up as I went along. I took some pics along the way and thought I would share them here, maybe someone else with this vac can get some ideas for tweaking it.

-As I would use the Vacs container for the lower collection drum I had to find a way of mounting the Vac motor housing to the top of a bucket. Just so happens the filter mount is fixed with a ring of screws on a perfect diameter to fix one of the 5 gallon bucket lids direct. First to cut a hole..

Having left my jigsaw elsewhere I made a circle cutter to make the cut with a small piece of scrap and an old utility knife blade. I chiseled out a notch for the blade and fixed it through its existing hole with a screw and washer. This worked great to cut the plastic lid to a tight fit around the vac collar.

-And I ended up with this, sealed with silicone.

First step done, further progress in part 2…

1 comment so far

View Radu's profile


330 posts in 3041 days

#1 posted 10-17-2011 02:56 AM

Jeth, thanks for the write up. That’s what I want to get done these days. I’ll keep an eye on your progress.

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