Workshop Dust Collection 2.0: Modding a Harbor Freight 2 HP Dust Collector

I’m going to warn you, this post sucks!

In 2017 I made my own cyclone dust separator with a Ridgid 16 gallon vac. It worked pretty well, but left me wanting something better. Some of the things I wanted in a new system are:

  • More power
  • Larger container
  • Stationary unit
  • Better filtration

What I needed/wanted was something around two horsepower and the clear winner in that category is the one from Harbor Freight. Nothing else even comes close to their price, especially after using a 20% or 25% coupon. In order to make it work really well it needs a lot of mods though.

I looked at some of the complete solutions available and they cost at least a grand. I spent about $540 and could have saved around $100 by going with a cheaper hose and getting creative with connectors. Here’s what I bought:

Sucked my wallet dry!

This is a common project in the woodworking community, so Google can show you to a lot of variations. This 2010 post on lumberjocks.com is almost exactly what I was going for, including the trash can Thien cyclone separator baffle.

Before I get into it, here is the what the Harbor Freight dust collector looks like when it’s assembled and not modified.

hf-dust-collector

I took a few photos during my build. First task was some knolling.

I installed the cyclone kit on the trash can cover and made a Thien baffle.

A very ugly cart was made using scrap wood. The only 2x4s I had were extremely twisted.

I wasn’t sure how the stand was going to support the weight of the motor. Does fine though. I can make it lean if I push on it, but it’s not going to fall over. Most of the time it’ll be sitting in a corner also supported by the trash can under it.

These risers combine with a makeshift wedge, propping up the trash can to mate with the motor.

img_2088.jpg

Here’s the “wedge” platform. I made a design change after the stand had already been built, otherwise it could have been much shorter.

With the trash can and motor jacked up, these layered blocks raise up the bag holder and filter.

img_2090

Two coats of black spray paint.

img_2091

Turned out great, but it takes up a lot of space!

img_2094.jpg

How is the performance though? I hooked the hose up to my table saw and it started pulling old sawdust out of the saw body. I could actually see things swirling around in there. Huge improvement!

As usual, this project ended up being more work than I expected. I’m really happy with the end result and how well it works. Another upgrade I could make in the future would be to install a larger Rikon impeller for even more airflow.

I’ll have to create some adapters for tools with dust ports smaller than 4″, though the hose kit did come with some for use with 2.5″ ports. Now that I have a system with enough power I can build something around the miter saw.

Clamp Replacements at Harbor Freight

In the post about my DIY clamp storage racks last week I mentioned getting most of my clamps at estate sales. I put together a solid collection that way, with most of the clamps being really old. There was a Pittsburgh sticker and a Harbor Freight price tag on one of the clamps. Knowing they have a lifetime warranty on this stuff, I went in to Harbor Freight with 2 of the clamps which had beat up pads like this…

broken-clamp-pad

The sales associate said, “Yep, we’ll replace them. There doesn’t even need to be anything wrong with them.”

“Really?” I asked. “I have a bunch of these old clamps.”

“Yeah, bring them in and get new ones.”

I rushed home and grabbed the rest of the old clamps.

old-pittsburgh-clamps.jpeg

In total I had 4 each of the 6″, 12″, and 24″ old clamps. Now everything matches the others I had purchased new from the store.

all-new-clamps.jpeg

Harbor Freight gets a bad rap because their products can be pretty cheap (in price and quality). According to reviews you have to be careful with some of their tools, but these clamps are one of the most recommended products in the store. The almost identical clamps cost 3-4 times as much at Home Depot.

logo_hft.png

I like it when a company stands by their products and policies. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve heard that Sears does the same type of replacement on Craftsman hand tools.