A Vacuum Separator Can Save Your Shop Vacuum

A vacuum separator can save your shop vacuum by reducing damaging stresses and loads on vulnerable parts.

The Vacuum Separator also referred to as a Bucket Separator are the most under utilized tools that will extend the life of your shop vac.  When working with heavy materials, the most vulnerable structural items, frame, wheels, tank and latches as well as the recurring cost items such a filters, can have their life extended significantly by using a vacuum separator such as the 7 Gallon Cyclonic Bucket Separator shown below by Cat 6 Tools. Vacuum drums, wheels, and handles take a beating when lifting and dumping shop vacuums.

A larger 16 gallon shop vacuum like the Ridgid can supply the flow rate and the capability of holding the weight but only in a stable flat configuration.  Most shop vacuums were made for cleaning up dirt on floors and sucking up spilled water.  Water weighing in at 8 pounds a gallon will tilt the scales at 128 pounds for a 16 gallon shop vacuum.

Emptying a shop vac with over 100 pounds can be awkward and sometimes dangerous.

While wet/dry vacuums have drain plugs for discharge, these fail to work when the contents are heavy such as clay, sand or gravel. This makes them awkward to unload.  These shop vacuums were not built to hold 16 gallons of sand or gravel. The resulting weight exceeds most persons’ capacity to lift. This becomes immediately evident when dumping the contents, and therefore, to discharge the contents the handle is usually used to tilt the vacuum over.  The solution is to have a smaller capacity bucket separator in front of your shop vacuum that holds less weight, has a good handle and is much easier to manage.

7 Gallon Cyclonic Bucket Separator with screw on Gamma Lid. Identical inlet/outlet fit standard 2-1/2″ shop vac hose connectors.


Another similar item is the Filter Separator also known as a Filter Bucket shown below, has a built in Filter Assembly.   The 7 Gallon Filter Separator shown below is made by Cat 6 Tools and includes a highly efficient tangential inlet, but also includes a filter holder that uses standard Ridgid Vacuum Filters.  The result of adding a separator in front of your shop vacuum is the complete reduction of material going into the shop vac.  In addition,  the material is collected into a much easier to handle bucket.

7 Gallon Filter Separator with Tangential inlet

The most underutilized capacity of a shop vacuum is moving dirt, sand and gravel.

The difficulty is lifting and dumping a shop vacuum shouldn’t preclude the user from taking advantage of its most under utilized capability.  That is picking up and moving dirt, sand and gravel.   The Ridgid Vacuum shown below, in a challenging test easily pulled in 1 pound of sand and gravel a second.  Think about how absolutely marvelous that is!  One pound a second converts to 60 pounds a minute.  That vacuum pulls in enough sand to fill two 30 pound sand bags a minute.

If you have ever filled and moved sand bags you will know how challenging that is. So how can one eliminate the downside of a shop vacuum, the lifting and emptying?  That is where a Filter Separator, Bucket Separator, or Vacuum Separator comes into play.

Vacuum Separators eliminate the awkward lifting and dumping part of the vacuum process.

In addition, a vacuum separator can eliminate dumping all together as well as significantly reduce the load on the vacuum filter.  A vacuum separator needn’t be hugely efficient to do just that.  However, when needed a filter separator bucket will satisfy that need. But all separators are not the same.  Many are inexpensive, made of light weight plastic with the goal of separating only light materials such as sawdust. As one would expect these sawdust separators to be highly efficient have lots of light weight particles to clog downstream filters.  As a result these separators must use both gravity and the highly efficient, cyclonic filtration. Therefore, with heavy dirt, clay, sand, and gravel, the gravity coefficient becomes the dominant factor. Thus the high efficiency requirement reduces.

The sweet spot in separator design, especially for dirt and heavier particles, requires a means of adding cyclonic action while providing enough distance for the particles to travel to the bottom of the collector.  The design needs to accomplish this while maintaining tolerable flow losses.  In reality the tradeoffs are more complicated to resolve.  However, an empirically derived design becomes a desirable methodology of zeroing in on the design.

Since, avoiding costly and hard to produce parts is the goal. A loss in a few percent in efficiency is necessary.  In short, design simplicity is the goal. The Cat 6 Tools’ builds the cyclone separators into the lid of a bucket.  This accomplishes the simplest design and more than adequate separation efficiency.

Lets take a look at the design parameters for a vacuum separator:

  1. Vacuum Drum – Strong enough to handle most shop vacuum suction.
  2. Inlet – Outlet hose diameter – larger enough to handle the largest expected particle size.
  3. Flow rate – High enough to keep heavy particles suspended and to create just enough cyclonic action
  4. Cyclonic Device – The most costly part of the system, mandates a simple design.
  5. Light Weight – for easy portability
  6. Easy to lift and dump – For buckets 5 to 7 gallons filled with gravel are manageable.
  7. Relatively inexpensive – It must do the job, and be easy to fix and replace.
  8. Durable – most importantly the separator must be able to stand up to typically expected work environments.
  9. Compatibility – must achieve the design goals as well as be compatible with most upstream and downstream devices.
Vacuum Separators like these prevent heavy materials from entering a shop vac


The Cat 6 Tools Cyclonic Vacuum Separator Lid


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