Phil Thien inspired cyclone separator

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Blog entry by rmoore posted 11-19-2011 05:58 AM 11627 reads 3 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch

For those who already have one of these, you’ll understand my enthusiasm. For those who don’t, get busy building one.

I don’t have a dust collection system, just a 16 gallon shop vac. I’ve been looking at these for months now. I finally got a barrel from work and started building. After cutting the first baffle too small, I got the second one right. I wasn’t expecting it to work as good as it does, but, boy am I happy with the results. When I first turned it on I put my fingers over the inlet and it sucked the lid down. I thought I had broke it, but it kept going.

This is the lid and baffle.

I started testing by cleaning out the filter and dumping out the bucket. Here is the filter before cleaning.

This is the filter after cleaning. All that dirt is from the filter.

Here is the pile I dumped out and then sucked up through the separator.

You can tell the cyclone action is happening by the swirl in the center of the barrel.

This is all that was in the vac after sucking up all that dust.

-- The more I learn, the more I realize I don't know. Ron, Crossville Tn

3 comments so far

View Lifesaver2000's profile


556 posts in 4356 days

#1 posted 11-19-2011 08:38 AM

These separators like this are wonderful. I built my first one almost two years ago for use with my shop vac (that seems to be about the same size as yours) using a 10 gallon pail that I had. I started using the separator at the same time I started using the vac for dust collection. For the all this time, I have only had to clean the vac filter on perhaps a monthly basis, even though I was dumping the separator pail regularly.

Well, about six weeks ago it was rather cold outside, and I was trying to dump the pail. It slipped out of my hands, and being cold plastic, it cracked from top to bottom when it hit the ground. I was unable to find a replacement pail (this pail had contained chlorine granules from back in my water system operator days), and since I had a lot of work to do I started using the vac hooked directly to the table saw and miter saw.

To say there was a huge difference would be a major understatement. Without the separator, I could barely make it through a day of fairly slow paced cutting without the filter becoming totally clogged just as you show above. It would be worse in a day than it ever was after a month of use with the separator.

Needless to say, I have already built a new separator, this one a top hat model that will work with a range of different container sizes so that I won’t be stuck having to run with just the vac by itself anytime soon.

View thedude50's profile


3613 posts in 3721 days

#2 posted 11-19-2011 09:25 AM

I like this idea there are a ton of these being sold on the market today and if you like diy that’s cool to make your own. I want one for my 2php jet dust collector it will end the rough bag changes mine is older so it don’t have one of those new filters. but i know adding this type of separator will work on the Dyson principal and give me constant suction till the 2ndary bag is full. i need a see through drum and a lid. I wonder if there are other way to do this kind of dust collection. how to put a vortex on a shop dust collector humm??? any ideas will help me Id like to do this before i put the duct work in permanently. i will look at all ideas and things to buy if anyone know where to find a working model to buy ill take it

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View Lifesaver2000's profile


556 posts in 4356 days

#3 posted 11-19-2011 04:05 PM

Thien has a discussion board at this address:

There is a gob of information. I recommend you start at the last page and work forward, since a lot of questions have been answered over the years. There are also discussions on adding his baffle to the two-bag type collectors, and those that use it say they get a lot less dust in the upper filter.

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