Dirt Barrel

When your project involves a lot of milling, sawing or other sources of insane amounts of dirt, the vacuum cleaner just isn't enough.

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I turned a standard plastic barrel into a cyclone separator that can be attached to a vacuum cleaner. Bagless vacuum cleaners use cyclone separators to separate dust from air, but the barrel variant is an order of magnitude larger. This is quite handy - especially when using a router. One key feature (besides separating particles) is that the barrel can be attached to/removed from the vacuum cleaner without tools.

No special tools are needed and this thing can be made within a few hours - and that includes searching for suitable leftovers.

This isn't the first time this has been done, but I think that's fine as long as there are not more cyclone separators than reflow ovens on HAD.

Cyclone separators are very simple and common devices in process engineering. In such a separator, centrifugal force is utilized to separate particles from the raw air, which is passed into the device tangentially. The cleaned air exits through a straight pipe in the top lid:

The first thing to note here is that the barrel I used doesn't change in diameter, but it works anyway.

This device is very simple to build, it's robust, and it will make cleaning a fun thing. Depending on the barrel, it's also

  • easy to carry around
  • easy to open
  • easy to empty
  • and easy to close.

Here are some images of the dirt barrel in use. After cutting some wood parts, the floor in our workshop looked like this:

Vacuum cleaner and barrel are ready to go:

(skipping the cleaned floor image, I don't have one)

The dirt is not in the bag...

...but in the barrel:

I think I won't have to empty that dungeon until 2016.

  • 1 × Plastic barrel with lid
  • 1 × extra vacuum cleaner tube
  • 1 × some plywood 12mm (1/2 inch) thick is enough
  • 1 × some screws Some of your leftovers will do
  • 1 × plastic pipe sockets for the vacuum tube

View all 7 components

  • Note to self / TBD

    Christoph01/28/2015 at 21:53 0 comments

    I haven't measured the dirt barrel's efficiency. How I'd do it:

    • clean the barrel
    • prepare reference dirt and weigh it
    • vacuum it
    • weigh the mass of the dirt in the barrel
    • compare to original mass

    The pressure loss would also be interesting, especially for comparing with values obtained with the simpler cyclone separator models.

View project log

  • 1
    Step 1

    These instructions are pretty coarse, but I think you'll get the idea.

    Two square pieces of plywood and some screws hold the tube that is attached to the vacuum cleaner. They are attached to the lid, one on the inside and one on the outside:

  • 2
    Step 2

    The inlet is built in a similar way.

    A piece of PVC pipe is prepared with some slots to allow clamping of the inlet tube:

    The pipe is held by two square pieces of plywood, four screws and a 90 degree bend is attached on the inner barrel side:

    I also sealed the inlet with some silicone, but if that is necessary depends on the build.

  • 3
    Step 3

    Um, yeah, that's it.

View all 3 instructions

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PointyOintment wrote 01/29/2015 at 03:31 point

Have you considered adding a Thien baffle? Here's a characterization of cyclone performance with one, and here's a conversation with the inventor on the advantages and disadvantages of the baffle.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Christoph wrote 01/29/2015 at 08:35 point

That looks interesting, thanks for the suggestion. I'm actually building a second one and I'll consider a Thien baffle then. Looks like it's easy to build, and won't make the device heavier or harder to empty.

  Are you sure? yes | no

DainBramage wrote 01/28/2015 at 22:18 point

Brilliant! I've used (and cleaned out) commercial (read: expensive) cyclone separators. It's very cool that you were able to make one out of inexpensive components.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Christoph wrote 01/28/2015 at 22:31 point

Thanks you! It can certainly be improved, but seeing it work right away was great.

  Are you sure? yes | no

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