Shop Vacuum Filter Cleaner Homemade Machines & Jigs

For the majority of my shop cleanup, I use my dust collector with a 2-1/2″ hose and wand to vacuum the dust and wood chips off the floor. Of course, this only works where it’s convenient to take the dust collector. For other cleanups, like when I’m doing a renovation project in my house (nearly always…), I use my shop vac. Being too cheap for my own good, I use it without bags. To be fair, I do have a problem finding bags for this model locally and use that as my excuse for not using any at all. Beside that, I used my old Craftsman vac (now in my sanding station) for nearly 20 years without bags, replacing the filter only once over that time.
The problem with using it without bags is cleaning the pleated filter. Til now, I have been carefully taking it out and carrying it outdoors, where I’d hold it out with a long stick and shake the dust out. Unpleasant, at best, and especially so if the breeze shifts and I get a gust of powder in my face.

On my last trip out to clean it an idea occurred to me: why not spin the dust out? I could build a box that the filter would go in and use a drill to turn it, letting centrifugal force clean the filter. Taking the idea further, I realized I could use a garbage can as the box and spin it out into it. All I would need to do is make something to hold the filter that was attached to a lid for the garbage can.
To hold the filter, I came up with a simple method involving end caps with rabbets that would fit on the ends of the filter. A piece of 3/8″ threaded rod is used as the axle on which it would spin and also be be driven.

To get started, I measured the filter for the end caps:

take some measurements

The end caps would need to fit inside the centre of the filter and also lip over the ends. To do this, they would need to be rabbeted.

I lay out the outer diameter with my compass. This defines the lip that grips the end of the filter. I’m using scraps of 3/4″ pine for the caps. Then, I cut it with the jigsaw

how to make a shop vacuum filter cleaner school compass
how to make a shop vacuum filter cleaner jigsaw cuts

A band saw works too, but the jigsaw cut is as precise as it needs to be.

Drill the centre hole for the axle shaft with a 3/8″ bit.

drill a hole how to make a shop vacuum filter cleaner

A rabbet is then cut into the end caps. With the fence adjusted correctly, I raised the blade slightly to create the rabbet. This is called ‘nibbling’ and doing it freehand is a bit tricky and not really recommended for anyone who is inexperienced or uncomfortable with the procedure.
The rabbet doesn’t need to be very deep. In this case, I made them about 1/4″ deep and took this in two passes.

rabbet some wood how to make a shop vacuum filter cleaner

A Threaded rod is cut to length. Doing ‘stuff’ demands a ready supply of threaded rod! Good to have some in various sizes handy at all times.

how to make a shop vacuum filter cleaner grinder cuts threaded rod
how to make a shop vacuum filter cleaner good old osb

I use OSB as the lid for the garbage can. The one that came with the can is plastic, with a molded handle and not really suitable for this. The OSB was laying around and it just needed to be cut to size and a hole drilled through it.

A bolt holds the filter. The wrench really isn’t needed, since I couldn’t overtighten the nut – it would crush the filter. It needs to be snug though, or it could come loose.

how to make a shop vacuum filter cleaner attach the filter

And finally it’s ready for some action. I’m using a hammer drill and this seems to clean the filter the best – the vibrations help shake the dust loose. and, as you can see, it came out clean as a whistle.

how to make a shop vacuum filter cleaner drill-operated
how to make a shop vacuum filter cleaner very clean

It took out dust that I thought was trapped in there for good – I couldn’t even blow it out this clean!. What’s more, the process is very nearly dust free. I waited about five minutes before I took the lid off and by then the dust had settled.

how to make a shop vacuum filter cleaner dust in a bucket

Incredible just how much dust one of these filters can hold. That was after just a very small amount of vacuuming.

Bags? We don’t need no stinking bags!

Here’s a video of the build and the cleaner in action: