A shop vac and cyclone corral, plus a handy sanding station
Whether your shop is Lilliputian or Brobdingnagian, it’s hard to overstate the importance of dust collection. Airborne sawdust is hard on the lungs and (almost as tragically) can ruin that perfect finish. Sawdust lying on the floor or on machines isn’t much better; it can create a slip hazard, obscure small parts and tools, and trap moisture, which can cause rust on metal surfaces. Even if you have a dedicated dust collector, it is well worth investing in a good shop vac to connect to portable power tools and to do general clean-up.
One of the best things you can do to get more out of your vac is to add an auxiliary cyclone separator. These small plastic units allow most of the debris to drop out of the airflow before it hits the filter. This means less time cleaning the filter and better overall vacuum performance. By building a dedicated cart, the vac and cyclone can move together around the shop. To get even more use out of my setup, I also included a small downdraft table allowing the cart to double as a sanding station. The onboard iVac outlet even turns the vac on automatically as soon as I trigger whatever tool I have plugged into it.
Plywood, pocket screws, and few a fittings
Tall 3/4" Baltic birch plywood panels attached with pocket screws make up a tower. At the top sits a square of pegboard to form a downdraft sanding table above the vacuum. An upper front encloses the downdraft table, and the lower front keeps the shop vac in place. A few simple fittings connect the vacuum to a cyclone separator atop a five-gallon bucket contained on the open end of the base. This setup allows you to suck dust from the downdraft table, a tool’s dust port, or a handheld hose without stopping to swap. A sander platform next to the fittings also serves as a dust shroud for an iVac switch. And casters make the whole thing mobile.
Order of Work
- Build tower
- Make the downdraft table
- Add base and corral
- Run hoses and connect fittings
Build the tower
Cut the plywood parts to fit your dust vac and cyclone setup. Drill pocket holes in the back, side panels, and lower front—including those used to attach the base—but don’t bore the upper front’s pocket holes until after sizing the ramp. Drill holes through the right panel for the vacuum hoses, locating them based on the height and style of your particular shop vacuum. While you’re at it, drill a smaller hole for your shop vac’s power cord so you can easily plug it into the iVac switch. Screw the back, sides, and lower front together and temporarily clamp the upper front panel in place. Size the pegboard panel ledgers to fit tightly around the inside perimeter of the tower, then screw and glue them 1/4" from the top.
Remove the upper front, and locate the ramp ledgers as shown. Cut a 1/4" plywood ramp to sit atop the ramp ledgers, and slide it into place for a snug fit. After installing the ramp, mark and drill pocket holes in the upper front where they will be accessible above and below the ramp, and attach it to the tower.
Ramp it up. After attaching the pegboard ledgers, use a spacer to locate the upper ramp ledger 5⁄16" below the left pegboard ledger and the lower ramp ledger the same distance below the bottom of the dust collection hole. Slide the ramp into place before attaching the upper front panel.
Caulk it up. After installing the ramp and upper front panel, caulk the seams around the ramp to create a tight seal and maximize airflow through the downdraft table.
Add the base and tool holders
Attach the base through the pocket holes in the left, right, and back panels. Cut a semicircular arc with a 7-1/2" radius, centered 7-1/2" from the right side. Place the collection bucket in the semicircle and steady it with retainer blocks. The shoulders of the semicircle keep the base wide and provide a place to attach the casters. Attach the locking casters along the front edge so that they’re accessible when the cart’s back is against a wall. The sander platform mounts to the right side, keeping an orbital sander close at hand. Build it from a 7" square panel with 3" corral blocks glued around the perimeter. Cut a 15° miter at one end of each support, and pocket-screw them to the underside of the platform. Finally, attach the assembly to the right side.
Install the iVac switch to the right panel beneath the sander platform, and feed the vacuum cord through to plug it in. (See the Buyer’s Guide on page 62 for details on the fittings used to connect the cyclone, vacuum, and downdraft table.) Now, plug the tool into the iVac switch so that it activates the vacuum. The left panel provides plenty of real estate for hanging a dustpan and brush, clipping on a push broom, or mounting dust collection fittings and other clean-up necessities.