Shop Made Thien Dust/Chip Separator

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Project by ajosephg posted 10-06-2011 03:12 PM 12790 views 32 times favorited 22 comments Add to Favorites Watch

After I purchased a Dewalt DW625 planer in 2010, doing something about dust collection was no longer an option. The DW625 has an internal chip blower that makes any shop uninhabitable in seconds. Since my budget doesn’t have room for a dust collector, I decided a dust/chip separator based on Phil Thien’s design was the most cost effective solution.

The purchased components were a 30 gallon steel trash can, two universal dust ports (from Rockler), and a 90 degree PVC street elbow. I used a piece of 1/4 inch underlayment plywood for the baffle.

The photos should be self explanatory, but here are are some supplemental commentary.

The street elbow was glued to the dust port using silicone RTV, and the dust ports were also sealed to the can lid using RTV. I used some vinyl tubing attached (with RTV) to the inside edge of the lid to prevent leakage around the edge of the lid.

Other Tips and Traps:
The first time I hooked my shop vac. to it, the lid sucked clear down to the baffle, so I installed some additional supports between the baffle and the lid. That solved that problem, but the sides of the can still collapse if the hose gets blocked or plugged. While that doesn’t affect the functionality of the system, it looks bad. Someday I’ll get around to making some reinforcements to fix that.

Using with DW625 planer: The Dewalt’s fan is so powerful that it blows the lid off the can, so I ran bungee cords over the top of the can (from handle to handle). While that partially solved the problem, additional cords were required at 90 degrees to the handles, which required drilling two holes and adding a couple of bolts to hook the bungee’s to. (Not shown in the photos.) When using the separator with the planer, the shop vac. must be disconnected as the planer blows much more air than the vac. can suck.

Here the link to Phil Thien’s web site. There is a wealth of information here including detailed plans by our own Dbhost.

It really does a great job of stopping the small and large chips. The only material that gets through to the vac. are the real fines, aka sanding dust.

-- Joe

22 comments so far

View blackcherry's profile


3345 posts in 4884 days

#1 posted 10-06-2011 03:32 PM

I’ve made one myself and love the unit, its been a real help in keeping up with dust collection. I really like how you incorporated the trash can lid into the design. I made my own lid out of plywood which took time to make, your way would of been a lot simpler for sure. Great work and plenty of money saved for sure, this only means more tool in the near future…lol

View lilredweldingrod's profile


2496 posts in 4168 days

#2 posted 10-06-2011 03:40 PM

Joe, Thanks for the detail. This is high on my list but not until I get moved to new digs, hopefully with more floor area.

View steliart's profile


2895 posts in 3749 days

#3 posted 10-06-2011 04:10 PM

Very nice work Joe, thanks for sharing :)

-- Stelios L.A. Stavrinides: - I am not so rich to buy cheap tools, but... necessity is the mother of inventions !!!

View Rick  Dennington's profile (online now)

Rick Dennington

7161 posts in 4255 days

#4 posted 10-06-2011 04:22 PM


Stellar job on the dust/ chip seperator… It should work great for you. I’ll bet the build was half the fun of making it. Since I have full d.c. to all my major tools, and also most sanders, I’ve never really needed one, but , who knows, I might just build one someday to work in conjunction with my shop vac…...Thanks for posting, and hope it woks for you the way you want it to…......

-- " There's a better way.....find it"...... Thomas Edison.

View ajosephg's profile


1897 posts in 4622 days

#5 posted 10-06-2011 04:36 PM

I actually made this about a year and a half ago, but never got around to posting it. There has been some recent activity by others on dust collection, so I went ahead and put it on.

It has proven to be one of the most worthy things I’ve done for the shop. I think that I only have to clean the filter on the shop vac. about once for every 10 garbage can fills. More often if there is a lot of dust in the shop due to sanding.

I also added a “cart” which is basically a piece (approximately 2’x4’) of plywood bordered with 2×4’s and some casters which holds the trash can and the shop vac. so I can maneuver it around the shop.

I’m glad I didn’t make it larger, because it would be pretty unwieldy manhandling a 55 gallon drum full of sawdust when it comes time to empty. I live next to a forest with a big dropoff behind the house so I just dump it over the side of the hill. One time the can got away from me and rolled down the hill. That would have been a major whoops had it been a 55 gallon drum, LOL.

-- Joe

View Rick  Dennington's profile (online now)

Rick Dennington

7161 posts in 4255 days

#6 posted 10-06-2011 05:17 PM


Yea… I see where you’re coming from on the size. A 55 gallon drum would be more than this fat man could handle… Actually…..the one you built would kill me, too….Watch out for them hills and hollors..they can be tricky, and don’t fall down one. We’re getting too old to be chasing things down a hiiside. That’s why I don’t hunt… I stay on flat ground where it’s safe (?). Like you though, I have woods all around and on my property, so I dump all of my sawdust there….I’ve even seen deer bedding down on the chips…...OOHHH, that’s soft…..:)

-- " There's a better way.....find it"...... Thomas Edison.

View Richard's profile


1944 posts in 3751 days

#7 posted 10-06-2011 09:41 PM

Rick if you keep dumping wood chips for the Deer to lay on, you might be able to Invite one of them to Dinner someday. :)

View Grumpy's profile


26811 posts in 4912 days

#8 posted 10-06-2011 11:32 PM

Clever idea Joe. With a few modifications you can make that one a go’er.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View TheDane's profile


5953 posts in 4724 days

#9 posted 10-07-2011 12:10 AM

Joe—So you use the same chip and dust “disposal” system that I do! We have a ravine behind the garden shed … at the rate I’m going now, I’ll have it filled up by the time I’m 153.

Seriously, I like the execution on this. I need a separator to keep from filling up the bag on my Jet DC-650A (bought it for $50 off CL!).


-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Rick  Dennington's profile (online now)

Rick Dennington

7161 posts in 4255 days

#10 posted 10-07-2011 03:11 AM

Hey Richard,

That sounds like an enticing idea, but I don’t like the taste of deer meat, or deer venson…. It’s too wild tasting for me. Now deer sausage to use for chili….....yum yummy….!!!

Sorry Joe…...didn’t mean to hi-jack your post….back to the subject at hand…..!!!

-- " There's a better way.....find it"...... Thomas Edison.

View ajosephg's profile


1897 posts in 4622 days

#11 posted 10-07-2011 04:15 AM

LOL, Rick, subjects evolve.

Like I just thought of a justification for dumping saw dust in the woods. Maybe it will attract termites and they will like it because it is pre-chewed and they will eat it instead of messing with your house!

And – they will get fat and lazy and get heart trouble and die.

-- Joe

View Rob200's profile


326 posts in 4230 days

#12 posted 10-07-2011 05:23 PM

I like the post and I am going make one

-- Robert Laddusaw and no I am not smarter then a fifth grader ( and no I canot spell so if it is a problem don't read it ))

View JohnMeeley's profile


255 posts in 3394 days

#13 posted 01-22-2012 07:21 PM

This post is a few months old, however, I was wondering if you may have tried your upgraded dc system with ‘free’ discharge. That is to say, no bag…hose or pipe to atmosphere. I have tried this without the THEIN separator and it scrubs my 30 gal can clean. I was wondering if the baffle would allow free discharge of exhaust and retain 90% ? of the sawdust.
One footnote… Prior to my quick experiment I have tried using a drum liner garbage bag in the 30 gal. can. After one flop, bag will suck up into exit port, I had some vinyl coated wire fence material that I cut and fit to the interior. Insert bag, drop in wiremesh and use as normal. (bag gets pulled around outside of can) When time to empty, pull out wiremesh and remove bag.
Just thought I would share that.

-- "The greatest pleasure in life is doing what others say you cannot do."-Walter Bagehot

View a1Jim's profile


118161 posts in 4638 days

#14 posted 01-22-2012 07:24 PM

Glad to see that this really sucks Joe LOL


View ajosephg's profile


1897 posts in 4622 days

#15 posted 01-22-2012 10:00 PM

John: Not sure I understand your question, but I let it discharge into the air when using the DW625 planer, since the planer is providing the blower. Don’t have a way of measuring % accurately, but I’d say it collects 99%. However – the 1% that goes through is microscopic in size and floats in the air. NOT A GOOD thing, so I wear a respirator when using the planer and for several hours after until the dust settles.

I have yet to get a real dust collector with a bag that will filter the fines. Maybe this year, since I turn 70.5 and Uncle Sam says cash in some savings or he will do it for me.

-- Joe

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