Automatic Dust Collection For The Whole Shop

If you’ve got a woodworking area, or even if you’ve just got something that really churns out dust like a belt sander or table saw, there’s an excellent chance you hate sawdust with a passion. It gets all over your clothes, jams up everything mechanical, and as a fun little bonus can be explosive if not handled properly. Thankfully newer tools tend to come with their own dust collection bags (back in the old days, you weren’t really a man unless you were coughing up wood fibers), but if you’ve got a half a dozen tools with half a dozen different dust bags you’ve got to empty, that can get pretty annoying.

Especially if you take woodworking as seriously as [Brad Wright] does. Over on his YouTube channel [DIY Builds], he quickly runs through the construction of a whole-shop dust collection system with some very neat features. Not everyone needs a system this intricate, but the tips and tricks he shows off during the build are great and can certainly be adapted to less grandiose setups.

Dust collection connector with closeable gate
One of the scratch-built gates.

[Brad] goes into a bit more detail in this gallery, revealing that the heart of the build is a Harbor Freight dust collection system that he modified into a cyclone separator. Big chunks fall down into the 55 gallon bucket, and what’s left gets blown out of the shop via a louvered vent through an exterior wall. An intricate system of 4 inch PVC pipe is then used to connect up each individual machine’s dust collection port. Even individual hand sanders get into the act via a three way manifold. His table saw lacked a dust port, so he enclosed the motor with a piece of plywood and made his own.

One of the most interesting aspects of the build is the scratch-built blast gates. These are essentially valves which open and close the different sections of the PVC where they mate to the individual stations. This prevents the dust collection system from wasting suction by trying to pull from all the stations at once when only one is in use at any given time. [Brad] even wired up the blast gates with switches that will turn the dust collection system on when the gate is open, and off when it’s closed.

This isn’t the first time we’ve covered the lengths people will go to rid their shop of dust. Cyclone dust separators are an especially popular build, using everything from sheet metal to 3D printed parts.

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The Internet Of Blast Gates

There’s nothing quite like building out a shop filled with tools, but even that enviable task has a lot of boring work that goes into it. You’ve got to run power, you’ve got to build benches, and you need to build a dust collection system. That last one is usually just fitting a bunch of pipe and tubes together and adding in a few blast gates to direct the sucking of your dust collection system to various tools around the shop.

For most shops with a handful of tools and dust collection ports, manually opening and closing each blast gate is an annoying if necessary task. What if all of this was automated, though? That’s what [Bob] over on I Like To Make Stuff did. He automated his dust collection system. When a tool turns on, so does the vacuum, and the right blast gate opens up automatically.

The first part of this build is exactly what you would expect for installing a dust collection system in a shop. The main line is PVC sewer pipe tied to the rafters. Yes, this pipe is grounded, and s otherwise not very interesting at all. The real fun comes with the bits of electronics. [Bob] modified standard blast gates to be servo-actuated. Each individual tool was wired up to a current sensor at the plug, and all of this was connected to an Arduino. With a big ‘ol relay attached to the dust collection system, the only thing standing in the way of complete automation was a bit of code.

This project is a continuation of [Bob]’s earlier Arduinofication of his dust collection system where all the blast gates were controlled by servos, an Arduino, and a numeric keypad. That’s an exceptionally functional system that gets around the whole ‘leaning over a machine to open a gate’ problem, but it’s still not idiot-proof – someone has to press a button to open a gate. This new system is, for the most part, completely automatic and doesn’t really require any thought on the part of the operator. It’s neat stuff, and a great application of cheap Arduinos to make shop life a bit easier.

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