Dust collectors keep your shop clean, but big chips fill up the bags rapidly. Cyclone separators divide the fine sawdust from the chips, but they're expensive.

You can build your own low-cost chip separator from a few pieces of 34 " plywood and materials available at any hardware store. Start by cutting the lid of your separator 4" larger in diameter than the garbage can you plan to use. Attach adhesive-backed, foam-insulation tape to the bottom of the lid where it will rest on top of the can.

Now, cut out the top and four sides of the box that sits on the lid, and also cut four 34 x34 " cleats the same length as the box sides. Miter the ends of the cleats, and glue and nail them to the inside of the box sides. Glue and screw together the box, and staple 14 " hardware cloth to the runners. Cut an opening in the lid that matches the inside dimensions of the box, and glue and screw the box to the lid as shown. Line the top edges of the box with foam insulation tape, and attach the box top with a hinge and hasp.

To make the dust-collector hookups, cut the inlet and outlet holes where shown. Use epoxy to glue PVC pipe connectors into these holes, and size the connectors to fit your dust-collection system. Attach the lid to the garbage can with the clamping blocks, and hook up your dust collector. When you start sucking up dust, the heavier material will fall to the bottom of the can, and the fine dust will be drawn into your dust collector.
—Nolan Thaler, Elgin, Texas