Lessons Learned #2: RIP shop vac

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Blog entry by sry posted 09-23-2008 01:34 AM 8236 reads 0 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Getting started Part 2 of Lessons Learned series Part 3: Glue joint strength »

So the story goes like this: I’m in the garage minding my own business routing a groove down the center of some 1×2 poplar when I hear a loud pop and smoke starts billowing out of my shop vac/dust collector. I turn off the router, yank the shop vac cord out of the wall and get outside. It’s then that I remember that I unplugged the garage opener because I needed the outlet, so I had no good way of getting all the smoke out of the garage. So I hold my breath and plunge back into the garage, plug in the opener, and air out the space. Finally, I drag the smoking shop vac out to the patio and hose it down.

Let’s look at what went wrong here:
  • Underpowered shop vac used for dust collection. Perhaps little 5 gallon vacs from Target are not meant for woodworking. Go figure.
  • Dust collection bags. These things are actually fantastic, but apparently when you don’t empty them soon enough the motor gets unhappy and goes out in a blaze of glory.
  • Inadequate shop space. Probably time to get my basement space all ready to go, or at least add a few more outlets in the garage, so I don’t have to unplug the opener to plug things in (although it’s quite convenient, as the opener is right at about head level…)
  • I probably need to be more in tune with the sounds of my tools. Between my hearing protection and the sound of the router, I never even noticed the strained sounds I’m sure the shop vac was making.

On the plus side, I get a nice new (and bigger) shop vac now, and hopefully soon a small dust collection unit as well.

And of course, the aftermath:
Melted casing and burned up paper filter
Shop vac top

Dust collection bag stuffed full of dust and such
Shop vac bottom

And a good overview shot
RIP shop vac

Thanks for reading

11 comments so far

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3709 days

#1 posted 09-23-2008 02:02 AM

Just to pass on an experience of mine, even though there is evident abuse here. I had a larger model shop vac with a motor failure. I called Shop Vac and they told me their motors don’t fail on the newer machines. So the guy says, give me your address and I’ll send you another, free.
So if this vac wasn’t an antique, you might try giving them a call. If it was, just keep it in mind for your new one.
You might also want to make some kind of mini chip catcher or cyclone to catch most of the dust. I use an Onieda Dust Deputy, but they do cost as much as two large shop vacs.

View motthunter's profile


2141 posts in 3764 days

#2 posted 09-23-2008 02:03 AM

Nice pics.. I think that you should sell it as modern art… Glad you are ok.

-- making sawdust....

View ryno101's profile


388 posts in 3629 days

#3 posted 09-23-2008 02:48 AM

Wow… that’s rad… At least it went out in a “Blaze of Glory”

-- Ryno

View brianinpa's profile


1812 posts in 3688 days

#4 posted 09-23-2008 02:57 AM

I think you need a bigger vacuum. Your photos and story have me rethinking my dust collection method: maybe it is time for me to upgrade…

-- Brian, Lebanon PA, If you aren’t having fun doing it, find something else to do.

View RobH's profile


465 posts in 4014 days

#5 posted 09-23-2008 04:13 AM

Another one bites the dust! (Pun intended).

Steve, if you have the money, go straight for the small dust collection unit. You rightly said the Shop Vacs are not made for using as dust collectors. That said, I am still using a shop vac. When the right time comes though I am going to buy into something bigger.

Have fun shopping,

-- -- Rob Hix, King George, VA

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 3693 days

#6 posted 09-23-2008 05:19 AM

Proof that you aren’t exaggerating!

View Sawdustonmyshoulder's profile


474 posts in 3593 days

#7 posted 09-23-2008 05:46 AM

Question… could the fire have been started by vacuuming up sawdust that was so hot that the volume of air running through the shop vac caused it to catch fire? May need to call in the Fire Department CSI unit!!!

I just happen to be routing 1/4 inch tempered hardboard late yesterday and when I finished the cut, I looked up and the sawdust was on FIRE!!! Got the fire out and I waited a little while and used my 16 gallon shop vac to clean up the smokey dust. THEN I had a premonition and saw my shop vac catching fire late in the night and burning down the house. I emptied it right away.

Well, just a thought. I didn’t want us deriding the little Target shop vac if it wasn’t at fault. It is kinda cute.

Yeah, motthunter, MODERN ART!

-- The more skilled you are at something, the worse you are at it when someone is watching.

View Partridge's profile


296 posts in 3921 days

#8 posted 09-23-2008 07:37 PM

and now we Know….........

-- I get out in the shop when I can

View sIKE's profile


1271 posts in 3719 days

#9 posted 09-23-2008 10:01 PM

Do what I did, make the base a mobile trash can, this way you can say you recycled….

-- //FC - Round Rock, TX - "Experience is what you get just after you need it"

View KnotWright's profile


258 posts in 3453 days

#10 posted 12-24-2008 06:50 AM

Steve, as part of this lesson is your shop space now equipped with a fire extinguisher? Installed in an easily accessible location? As a firefighter, I would remind you to empty your shop vac every time you’ve finished using it for dust collection, since there could be smoldering embers you don’t see right away, and later that evening you get a nasty surprise.

I’ve got a large dust collection system in my workshop finally and I check it every night when I get ready to call it a day, no one wants that kinda of surprise.

Keep it SAFE and have a Happy Holiday!!

-- James

View sry's profile


147 posts in 3573 days

#11 posted 12-24-2008 07:04 AM

That’s actually a really good point, that I hadn’t really thought of. In the garage, my fire extinguisher was the hose, but I haven’t purchased one for the basement. I guess that’s now at the top of my list of things to buy.

After all, safety first.

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