My Version of a Thien Dust Separator

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Project by Tradeturnhobby posted 01-09-2012 12:06 AM 14549 views 37 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I was so excited on how well this worked that I just couldn’t wait to post this project. This is my version of the Thien Dust Separator. It worked better then I even expected so I was just excited to share this.

My little shop is in my garage which is attached to the house and thus dust collection is a big deal. The issue is that a lot of dust could potentially get into the house. So my goal this winter is build some dust collection measures to reduce the dust. Those of you who are familiar with 5S will know that the best way to reduce clutter (mess) is to contain it at the source. Thus a Shop Vac works well for small shops in that you can hook the hose right up to the machines and catch the dust there.

The problem is that the Shop Vac will have the filter clog very quickly and lose suction. That is where this Cyclone connection contains the dust before it ever gets to the Vacuum storage.

So I found this post on this site (Lumberjocks) from SteveMI for his “Easy Dust Separator”. Thank you SteveMI for your post. This was where I sourced most of my information to build this and I encourage all to visit his post for ideas to compliment mine.

Here are some images of how I did it:

To seal up the joints and holes I used Silicone Caulk and then weather stripping for those parts that move. The hardest part for me was myself was the intake pipe on the side. Really I just had to get over myself and put the pipe in, but I fretted over it for a week in how I was going to insert that pipe.

Some keys I learned:

1. Make sure you run the intake pipe past the center pipe for the Shop Vac.

2. Don’t over fill the bucket. I found that I can fill mine up to 3” to the top before it will start entering the Shop Vac.

3. Don’t worry about which side you put your intake pipe in. There was a statement on Steve’s site about atmospheric pressure and Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere. You are only moving the air in the bucket not the atmosphere so you don’t need to worry about which way you spin the air.

4. Finally, watch your container that you use. I found that if I put too much pressure on the suction it would actually implode the bucket. That is why I have the bucket inside the bucket. Just make sure that your container doesn’t collapse under the pressure.

These last pictures just show the dust I vacuumed and that it entered the bucket. Note the fine dust that is dropped in too. I didn’t have enough room to show the Shop Vac, but the filter was spotless and nothing was in the Shop Vac container.

I hope this helps those who are looking. Steve – again, thank you for your post.

-- TTH, UT

18 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


117234 posts in 3723 days

#1 posted 01-09-2012 01:01 AM

wow that works great good job.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View jaykaypur's profile


4017 posts in 2554 days

#2 posted 01-09-2012 01:07 AM

I have NO vac system and this looks like something in my future. Good informative post.

-- Use it up, Wear it out --------------- Make it do, Or do without!

View Trev_Batstone's profile


317 posts in 2638 days

#3 posted 01-09-2012 02:27 AM

Looks like a success! I’m presently contemplating a dust control system for my small (garage) shop as well, so I’ll take this concept into consideration. Thanks for sharing.


View RussInMichigan's profile


600 posts in 2926 days

#4 posted 01-09-2012 03:29 AM

Thanks for sharing.

I wish every power tool in the marketplace had built-in dust collection hook-ups that allowed for good dust control.

What are you doing for collections of the fines that make it through the shop vac filter?

Your dust collection system can be nearly 100 %, but that small fraction that is not is what constitutes the health hazard in the first place. None of us breaths in the big chips from the jointer or the visible sawdust from the table saw. What we breath in is the really small stuff and that is what causes the problems.

Thanks again.

View D_Allen's profile


495 posts in 2929 days

#5 posted 01-09-2012 04:03 AM

I like the idea of the intake on the side. I may have to rework mine. I used 2 buckets bottom-to-bottom and the thing is just a bit too high with the hoses on the top.
To address the finer particles, I use the filter bag inside the shop vac. It probably isn’t a 2 micron filter but it does take up a lot of the fine stuff.

-- Website is finally up and

View dubsaloon's profile


621 posts in 2939 days

#6 posted 01-09-2012 12:39 PM

That is a wonderful idea that even works. I have the clogged up shop-vac issue weekly.

-- The works of evil people are not the problem. It is the "Good" people standing by and watching not speaking up. Dubsaloon

View StumpyNubs's profile


7656 posts in 2946 days

#7 posted 01-09-2012 02:43 PM

I love to see someone make something themselves rather than buy it! Great job!

-- Subscribe to "Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal"- One of the crafts' most unique publications:

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 4020 days

#8 posted 01-09-2012 03:17 PM

Here’s SteveMI’s project …
Click for details

-- -- --

View skone's profile


147 posts in 2951 days

#9 posted 01-09-2012 03:24 PM

thanks for this. and thanks to steve and JP Thien. i’ll be revisiting my own 5 gallon bucket seperator for a refurb. it’s just like what is shown here only without the baffle. can’t wait to give it a shot.

-- "Take extra care not to lose what you feel" (Winwood/Capaldi/Wood)

View oldretiredjim's profile


206 posts in 2531 days

#10 posted 01-09-2012 04:48 PM

Great – I have been looking for something for my shop vac. I put both on my favorites and will copy soon. Again – thanks.

View Randy_ATX's profile


880 posts in 2587 days

#11 posted 01-09-2012 08:47 PM

Thanks for posting this. I also have a modest workshop in my attached garage. I just got a 16 gallon, 5.75 HP shopvac for Christmas and I have been looking at how to build this pre-stage chip separator to help keep the shopvac clean. One thing that RussInMichigan pointed out IS very important. I would suggest adding to your current setup the following fine filtration bag to the inside of your shopvac. You would then have your chip-collector, the fine filter bag and then your final traditional canister filter (this could be changed to a HEPA grade) also inside your vac. I just ordered some of these bags yesterday and the reviews look very good. IMHO you can’t be too careful with breathing in fine dust. I will probably continue to use my respirator mask in addition to my shopvac when sanding. I had a grandfather that loved wood working, but he died of lung cancer around age 69.

-- Randy -- Austin, TX by way of Northwest (Woodville), OH

View Tradeturnhobby's profile


35 posts in 2542 days

#12 posted 01-10-2012 12:18 AM

Hi Everyone,
Thank you for your feedback. It has been wonderful to have so many of the experienced view this and give advice. I love the adds.

I agree with everything in that you will want to add filter bags and still wear a mask for the fine dust. It is not worth your health to by pass that.

Eventually I was planning on building a fan filter for my garage to add to the air purfication, but this was my first step. I was just so excited how well it worked and in addition to how much fine dust is still dropped into the bucket. I will need to get a picture of the Shop Vac Filter, but it was spot less after filling the bucket. I am sure that there is still some coming through, but not nearly as much as before.

Anyway, I am happy to help with anyone who wants to try this. It was actually very easy to build.

-- TTH, UT

View AllorNoThumbs's profile


71 posts in 3427 days

#13 posted 01-13-2012 11:41 PM

Looks good, i was going to try to make the cyclone type with duct work but I like this better. Was thinking about having a small protable cart with a 1-gallon vac on top or below a fixture like this to create a small, single portable unit.

-- enjoy your wood...

View D_Allen's profile


495 posts in 2929 days

#14 posted 01-15-2012 04:23 AM

I’m wondering if there would be a downside to using a 90 degree elbow on the connection at the top.
In my case there is no lack of suction and since there are virtually no chips getting to that point, I’m guessing it would not hurt.

-- Website is finally up and

View  woodshaver Tony C   's profile

woodshaver Tony C

6175 posts in 3498 days

#15 posted 02-04-2012 06:52 AM

I put both ports on the top of my separator. It works ok but some chips and fine dust makes it to the shop vac.
I like how you entered the can from the side. I can understand how this would work much better. I’ll be looking into trying your method.
I’m glad I found your post and thanks for all the info. Nice job!

-- St Augustine FL, Experience is the sum of our mistakes!

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