Lathe Dust Collector

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This article is from Issue 53 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Create a healthy turning station with this simple fixture.

Reader Jerry Bolin of Prattville, Alabama, sent in this dust-collector idea for mid- and full-size lathes.. It attaches to the ways via a pair of shop-made clamps. Convinced of its merit, I had contributing craftsman and turner Bill Sands build Jerry’s collector and test it out, hooking it up to a dust collector, and then to a shop vacuum. While it was never meant to draw in large shavings and chips, it effectively sucked in the fine, hazardous dust from scraping and sanding–the stuff that could otherwise end up in your lungs or cover shop surfaces. Of course the dust collector had more pull, but the shop vacuum also performed well.

The collector is simple to make, using 1⁄2ʺ Baltic birch plywood, scrap hardwood, jig hardware, and 4" schedule 40 PVC pipe. The perforated collector pipe is secured to a pair of base side assemblies that adjust in and out, depending on the turning’s diameter. A trio of PVC sleeves (or shutters) fit and rotate over the collector pipe holes, allowing you to concentrate the suction to just the turning at hand, whether a bowl or long spindle. Before building the dust collector, be sure to size the parts for your particular lathe, using the formulas in the box at right.

Hold the pipe to the drill press fence as you bore each suction hole at the marked locations.
Clamp each shutter pipe to a right-angle jig to hold it firmly and then rip along its length.

Cut the collector pipe and shutters

1 Crosscut the 4ʺ-diameter PVC pipes to length–one for the collector pipe (A), and the three for the shutters (B). (I used my 12ʺ mitersaw. Using a bandsaw, while supporting the PVC pipe with a miter gauge, also works.)

2 Using a metal rule, lay out two rows of 3⁄4ʺ suction holes, starting 3ʺ in from the ends of the collector pipe (A). Space the hole centers 11⁄4ʺ apart radially and linearly along the pipe. Using a 3⁄4ʺ Forstner bit, drill the holes, as shown in Photo A.

3 Using spring clamps to securely hold a shutter pipe (B) to a right-angle jig, raise the tablesaw blade to 1⁄2ʺ, and then safely cut a kerf in the pipe, as shown in Photo B. Cut kerfs in the remaining pipes.

4 Make a PVC bending jig by cutting a 1⁄2 × 41⁄4 × 16ʺ piece of hardwood scrap. Cut a centered 1⁄8ʺ kerf, 1⁄2ʺ deep along one edge.  Clamp the jig in a bench vise. Now, insert one ripped edge of a shutter pipe (B) into the jig’s kerf. Using a marking knife, cut along the jig’s edge to score a line 1⁄2ʺ up from the ripped edge. (Doing this helps with the bending when heat is applied.) Raise the pipe 1⁄4ʺ to expose the scored line and use a heat gun to apply heat evenly along the pipe length. Now press the pipe edge fully in the kerf, and bend the pipe flanges, as shown in Photo C. While the pipe remains hot, burnish the heated bend with a block of wood to form a 90° flange. Use only enough heat to soften the PVC for bending. Repeat for all ripped shutter edges.

Move the heat gun along the shutter pipe; when the plastic becomes pliable, bottom out the edge in the kerf and roll the pipe over. 
Turn the clamps to shape at the lathe, and then test-fit the clamp parts to your ways.

Make the base sides, end cap, and clamps

1 Lay out the end cap (C) on 1⁄2ʺ plywood. Using a lathe, form the cap to fit snugly in the headstock end of the collection pipe (A). Test-fit the piece. Remove it and drill a centered 1⁄4ʺ hole in the cap. Insert a 1⁄4 × 13⁄4ʺ carriage bolt in the hole, and fit the cap in the pipe, flush with the end. Drill a pair of opposing pilot holes, where shown in Figure 1, and secure the pipe to the cap with #6 × 1⁄2ʺ washerhead screws.

2 Referring to the Base Side Template, lay out a side on a piece of 1⁄2ʺ plywood, tack or tape a second piece of plywood underneath, and then bandsaw both sides (D) to shape. Drill a 1⁄4ʺ hole in the headstock base side for securing to the end cap (C). Scrollsaw a 41⁄8ʺ hole in the opposing (tailstock) base side. Now attach the flanged inlet fittings to the tailstock side with machine screws and nuts. Note that a full-sized lathe may require longer sides.

3 Cut the rails (E) to size, and then, using a dado set, cut the grooves shown in Figure 1. Glue the rails to the bottom edges of the base sides, flushing the ends. Cut and screw in the T-Track, flushing it with the rail ends.

4 From 1ʺ-thick scrap hardwood, cut and then turn two clamps (F) to size, as shown in Photo D. (See the Clamp Detail in Figure 1 for a look at the completed part.) Ensure that the grain, when the clamps are installed, runs perpendicular to the ways. The spigot should fit between the ways. Drill the 1⁄4ʺ hole in the center of each clamp. Add the hardware.

5 Using the hardware and plastic dust-collection fittings shown in Figure 1, slip the shutters on the pipe, assemble the base sides to the pipe, and then to the lathe. Give your dust collector a trial run. (Consider adding a blast gate if the connection will be a permanent part of a full-shop dust collection system.) If using a shop vacuum, fit on a 4ʺ quick-connect fitting that reduces to the diameter of your hose.  


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