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DIY vac pac

Randy Wright

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Well to get this new area kicked off, I'm posting pictures of the Vac Pac I made a while back. Thanks to the help of some fellow prospectors on this forum it came out nicely :icon_mrgreen:

First step of order is to buy a good gas leaf blower. Gas because you don't have electricity in the desert, unless you wanna haul around a bunch of batteries. I think gas is safer personally. The blower in the pictures isn't the one I kept. It had to be returned because it was a POS. The one I have now is a Poulin Pro bought from Lowes (I think, maybe it was Home Depot). They also sell it at Wal-Mart. Anyway, it's only $100. DIY'ers like cheap stuff that works right?!!

So when you get home unpack the blower. Take the guard off of the intake side. It should be spring loaded because this blower is a vac too. If you buy a different brand make sure it blows and sucks. ahem.

After removing the guard it should look something like this:


Now what you want to do is take the lid from a 5 gallon bucket and attach it to this side. I got a Home Depot bucket. Some have recommended not getting these buckets as they have weak sidewalls. This is true. I haven't had a problem with mine yet, but I haven't been using it every day either. So get a good sturdy bucket. Cut a hole in the lid that will fit around the intake opening on the blower. Attach the lid. I used a combination of things to attach it. I used Liquid Nails to glue it on, and put a couple of screws in to hold it down real good. You need to be careful because you'll still want to be able to attach the large plastic pipe to the side (intake). Find where the big pipe attaches (should be a wing nut on one side) and cut any necessary holes in lid. You also wanna make sure you get a really good seal between the lid and the intake. This is very important to the operation of the device. Use some weather stripping if you have to, or whatever. When your done it should look similar to this:


Now we are going to attach the down pipe. Out of the box this pipe is very long. You'll want to use the blower attachment that came with the unit. This is why it's important to get a blow/vac unit. It comes with an extra pipe you can attach to use the unit as a vacumme. Well we're going to use it to put a screen on to keep dirt from getting into your motor. Now what you'll need to do is cut a hole in the side of the bucket where your intake hose is going to be attached. This hold should be around 2/3rds the way up the bucket from the bottom, high enough to fill the bucket, but not too high. You can see where I cut mine here:


Now to measure how long our down pipe tube should be we'll attach the lid with the down pipe in place. It should be held in place with a screw of some sort. Mine has a wing nut on it. With the lid attached and the down pipe in the bucket, mark a place on the pipe just below the hole in the side of the bucket. This is where you want to cut the down pipe. Having it run to just below the hole in the side of the bucket will help keep dirt and debris from getting into your blower. You'll want to attach a small piece of screen to the bottom with either glue or a bungee cord or something. This screens out the big stuff. I got mine at a hardware store for really cheap. Once you have the down pipe cut to the right length it should look something like this attached:


Now you need to attach the intake hose adapter to the side of the bucket. I believe one of these came with the hose I purchased. You'll need to go to Home Depot or Lowes and buy a shop vac hose. They're $30 or so. Glue (or whatever works) the adapter to the side of the bucket. Make sure it's well attached because if it comes loose your vac pac won't work at all. It could be quite annoying being 30 miles from town and have this thing break on you. Trust me. Remember it could get hot out there too and heat can loosen things up. Mine is just glued in with Gorilla Glue, but I'll tell you I need to fix it before I go out again. Anyway, outside the bucket it will look like the attachment above. Inside it will look like this:


Great, you're all done! This machine acts in 2 ways. With the lid attached to a bucket and a long shop vac hose attached to the side of the bucket you can suck dirt (and GOLD) into the bucket itself. It will get all the dirt out of bedrock cracks if it's made properly and doesn't leak. This thing is amazing. Alternatively, if you have a drywasher you can also use this to operate your drywasher. All you need to do is take the lid/blower off the bucket and attach a dryer hose to the output of the blower. They come with long plastic pipes you attach to the output for blowing leaves around and mine had a small "high output" reducer at the end. I attached the dryer hose to this reducer and hooked the other end of the dryer hose to the bottom of the drywasher. Works like a charm. You'll have to get a rock to set the blower on as with the lid attached it probably won't sit on the ground flat. There you go, 2 machines in 1, for cheap!

Here is a list of supplies:

Gas blower: $100-150

Shop vac hose: $30

Dryer hose: $5

5 gal bucket w/lid: $5 (I find buckets lying on the side of the road all the time, for free!)

Screen: $2

Bungee cord: $2

Liquid nails: $3

Screws: $1-3

So for less than $150 you can build a great Vac Pac and save yourself $350 from buying a manufactured one. Enjoy!

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  • 3 weeks later...

I bought the same Poulan Pro Blower Vac from Walmart for $99 but when I got it home and pulled the intake gaurd, realized I was going to have to make some modifications from Randy's version. I made a cardboard template of the shape I needed to cut out.


I could not figure out how to make the motor flat on the bucket lid, it had to be angled to seal and work with the vacuum down tube, but It did not seem like it would matter if the motor was angled or not on the lid.


I trimmed the stock vacuum tube down to length then put a layer of 1/4" hardware cloth to act as a support for the old metal window screen I had, then put a 5" hose clamp around the whole thing and tightened it down.


I needed a shim in front to be able to screw the front of the motor down tight to the lid. There is a seam in the middle of the case so I put one screw into each half of the case, through this shim. Also you can see a tab below the center of the motor, There is one each side, I also screwed the lid to the case each side here too. In the back the vacuum tube will also hold the lid, then I used a bead of liquid nails each side of the lid, this was messy on the top side, I drew a line on the case then removed the lid and ran a bead on the line first then replaced the lid and ran another bead from the bottom side.


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I could not figure out how to securely use the parts that came in the hose kit to make the connection to the bucket and those connectors would not fit securely into any pvc or abs fittings I could find. I had read you could use a 2" abs to metal sink drain pipe connector, but to do that it got reduced to 1 1/2" and I did not like that. The 2" connector did fit right on the end of the hose and I thought I would just cut a square hole and use the keeper that came in the hose kit, until I put the hose in the connector and it was a very tight fit. Could be glued but I did not at this point.


I got the longer pipe to make a short nipple to glue into the fitting on the bucket, but decided to try it out long like this and get an extra 2 feet of hose for the same money. My connector for the hose to bucket, is simply two couplers that convert 2" abs to a threaded pipe, one male and one female, then 2" holesaw the bucket and screw these together. Could be as simple as shoving the hose into here, it is a tight fit too. I just wanted something on the end of the hose permanently, instead of wearing the end of the hose and shortening it over time.


The connectors that came in the 2 1/2" hose kit. One would somewhat fit into the other, but it was not a very good connection and it was also going to be hard to securely mount it to the bucket anyway.


Connector installed, just screwed together tight, but will probably glue it too... Hope I did not make it too high.


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Lots of great details that people need GOOD JOB GUYS!

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  • 7 months later...
  • 1 month later...

hello, I am going to attempt to build a vac pac, all this info is great! very helpfull. my question is for pcarroll... did using that homelite mightylite work out for you. was also thinking of trying it when I noticed you purchased one to try it with. Any info would be GREAT as far as to how it worked out/ or not for you. thanks if not does anyone else have another name of a cheap and easy blower to use? thanks

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You get what you pay for.

Prospectors that don't like problems buy good equipment. Echo makes a nice blower, so does Husqvarna, and Sthil. Don't buy cheap stuff. Build your stuff for the long run.Good equipment always wins in the long run.

Happy Hunting-SteveT :coffeetime:

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hey stevet would the stihl bg 55 be an ok blower to use? I wish I had more $$$ to buy a better one, but what would be a good "starter" blower. As long as it gets me started I could always pass it on to a friend when I have a chance to upgrade. Any help would be greatly appreciated. thanks again!!!



You get what you pay for.

Prospectors that don't like problems buy good equipment. Echo makes a nice blower, so does Husqvarna, and Sthil. Don't buy cheap stuff. Build your stuff for the long run.Good equipment always wins in the long run.

Happy Hunting-SteveT :coffeetime:

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Any of the homeowner blowers will work.Husqvarna makes one for around$150. If you look at CFM, there all close to the same anyway. Toro makes a decent model too. Weedeater and poulan are owned by the same company and the motors arent that great. You need a motor that has roller bearings so it will last>

Happy Hunting-SteveT

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As Steve T. Said, Echo PB-251 is a quality blower and to attach it to the lid you can just remove the bottom guard moving it to the inside and put it directly on to the lid with the original screws, all that gasket stuff is unessary , you can put a peice of 1/4" hardware cloth in between the guard and bucket if you like.

Once it is sucking it don't matter about gaskets the difference in pressure will hold it in place.

I have built dozens of blower vacs for myself and others since 1992 when the plans where published in "Popular Mining" Magazine and used different motor/bucket combos. CFM is not all that critical, all but the tiny Weedeater have more than enough to power all the common DWs.

Echo blowers in the PB-1000,PB251 model range will lay flat and therefore do not turn over so easy when empty as do the Poulan/Sears and other upright models.

The upright Poulan model gave a guy that I met one day a fit he went through 3 of them in a single day due to the piston seizeing up. They all need a break-in period and follow the maintence instructions, they do not need to be ran at full throttle.

My current 2, a Ryoibi and its twin an Echo PB-251 I run at about 1/3 throttle for running a large size Goldbuddy dry washer and for vacuming I usually keep my hand on the throttle speeding up and down as needed, I also use another bucket with holes in it to keep it up off the ground when drywashing , put a screen door handle on the side of the vac bucket ,renforced from the inside to assist in dumping.( see Pics).

Another point; buckets are marked on the bottom as to thickness in MILS, 100 Mils is good, more is better, anything less than 75 will have a short life, Clorine buckets as used for swimming pool chemicals are best coming in as high as 150 mils, Home Depot buckets are 50 Mils, the green pickle buckets from the hambuger joints are some times 75 mils and some times free! Colored buckets last longer than white due to ultra-violent rays.

You can buy the bucket attachments at: http://www.lifestylestore.com/ dealers and most local prospecting shops and the hoses at Home Depot or Lowes.

My :twocents:


BTW: The DW/Blower pictured is for sale in the classified section.





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Thanks for all the info guys!

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Well to get this new area kicked off, I'm posting pictures of the Vac Pac I made a while back. Thanks to the help of some fellow prospectors on this forum it came out nicely :icon_mrgreen:

Randy, That's a nice set up, but I found two areas you will find you need to modify. First is the downtube. Take it off as it will pick up material as soon as your bucket is half full. You need no screen on the suction as all you will be sucking up is dust and very fine sands. No harm to the motor or impeller. Second is the suction fitting into the bucket. It needs to have an adapter inside pointing down at a 45 deg angle. Otherwise, you have a nice looking Vac Pac.


"break'n camp in deming"

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I found this and it seemed pretty indepth. I think I will try it myself.


Copyright © 1995 - Steven L. Katz

This faq describes the construction of a small gas engine powered vacuum cleaner for moss mining, bed rock cleaning or crevicing -- it is probably the best (if not only) method for thoroughly cleaning out a dry crack or crevice. Commerically made units are available using the Echo and the Mac blowers for roughly twice the price!!!

This description utilizes a Homelite HB-290 leaf blower (a model HB-180 can also be used) and a five gallon bucket. Echo and McCulloch blowers can also be used but construction using these two brands is a bit more complex. The Homelite has about the same efficiency as the Mac and the Echo. I estimate that the Echo is the highest quality motor of the three and the Mac the lowest -- Echo is the most expenseive, and the Mac the cheapest. The Homelite has a clearly marked idle speed adjustment screw, a good high speed lock (which is also the shutoff button), and the largest fuel tank of the three. Homelites use a 40:1 gas oil mixture rather than a 32:1 mix.

This project shouldn't take more than a couple hours once all the parts are in hand.


Qty Description Estimated Price

1 Homelite HB-290 leaf blower $110-$120

1 2 1/2" ShopVac brand 6 foot vacuum hose $15-$20

1 2 1/2" crevice nozzle attachment for hose $5-$7

6 #8 X 3/4" pan head sheet metal sheet metal screws (to attach blower)

1 5 gallon plastic bucket $3-$5

1 lid for bucket $1-$2

1 ShopVac hose adapter for bucket $6-$7

3 #8 X 5/8" sheet metal screws (to attach hose adapter)

Editors note: See note below for hose adapter source


1 pair ear protectors

1 plastic 1 gal gas can

1 2 1/2" to 1 1/4" vacuum hose adapter

1 1 1/4" crevice nozzle attachment (for smaller crevices & holes)

1 two prong garden weeder (crevicing tool)

1 ice pick (crevicing tool)

1 1 foot crow bar (for splitting open fractured rock)

1 wire bristled paint removal brush (for loosening dirt on rocks)

1 sharp pointed treasure hunter type small trowel (Gator Digger)

1 backpacking frame and 3 bungee cords (the unit can be carried easily

on your back)

1 shovel with rounded tip (not a digging tip) with full handle and

medium size blade (good for scraping large patches of moss off of

rocks and as a walking stick)

1 one liter aluminum fuel bottle (beats carrying a one gal can to mining

site if you anticipate being on site for six hours or less -- you

won't be running the vac continuously)

Virtually all of the above except the gas can will fit into the 5 gal bucket when transporting the unit to a mining site. The balance can be carried in a second bucket along with food and water.


electric drill

5/32" drill for #8 sheet metal screws -- for hose adapter

3/16" drill for holes in bucket lid

2 1/2" hole saw for ShopVac hose adapter

standard and phillips screwdrivers

utility knife with sharp (new) blade


1. The leaf blower unit can be purchased at any Homelite dealer. The model HB-180 will probably work as well but do not use the Bandit model because the bottom fan guard is molded into the lower housing of the Bandit model and thus cannot be adapted.

2. The ShopVac hose/bucket adapter can be ordered through a ShopVac authorized service center. The ShopVac part number is catalog # 21720016, Inlet fitting-Black Styrene. Call ShopVac customer service to either order the part or find the nearest authorized service center. The number is 717-321-7050. (Many thanx to Brian Benn for updating this info)

3. Everything else can be had at any well stocked hardware store.

Since plastic five gallon buckets and lids get brittle with age and exposure to sunlight, try to use newer ones if possible.


1. With the utility knife, cut a seven inch diameter round hole in the center of the bucket lid.

2. Remove the six screws and the fan guard from the blower.

3. Center the fan guard on the bottom side of the lid and mark the six holes. Then drill a 3/16 hole at each mark. Now push the lid onto each of 6 mounting posts on the bottom of the blower unit (the mounting post must extend through the lid from the top side of the lid). Position the fan guard over the six holes from the bottom of the lid. Start one screw through a guard screw hole, then through the plastic lid and then into one of the mounting posts. Next, do the same thing with a hole on the opposite side. The lid should now be aligned with all six holes and posts. Tighten the two screws. Install the remaining four screws and tighten them. Then install the other four screws. THE LID IS SELF SEALING IN THIS INSTALLATION. No sealants or tapes are necessary. If you have not pushed the mounting posts into the lid, you may get air leakage and thus decreased suction through the bucket.

4. Mark the edge (lip) of the lid so that you have six equal sections. With the utility knife, remove about two-third's (2/3's) of three alternating sections from the lip. You should have three full sections of lip left which alternate with the cut portions. On the cut sections of lip, do not cut all the way back to the lid top. By removing this material you will make it much easier to remove the lid and blower from the bucket!!! If you cut all the way back to the top, you may lose sealing between the lid and the bucket when the blower is running. (Editors Note: Red arrows in photo.)

5. With the hole saw, make a 2 1/2" diameter hole about half way up from the bottom of the bucket in the side of the bucket. You can also trace a 2 1/2" diameter hole in the bucket and cut it out with the utility knife.

6. Insert the bucket/hose adapter in the hole orienting the adapter to match up with the curvature of the bucket side wall and so that the exit hole of the adapter points mostly downward (for some reason ShopVac chose not to have the hole point absolutely straight downward).

7. You will need to estimate where the three small holes will go which will be used to affix the adapter to the bucket -- mark the three holes and drill holes through the bucket. Now use the three sheet metal screws to affix the adapter to the bucket.

8. Snap the lid and blower onto the bucket.



1. The hose can be coiled up for storage in the inside bottom of bucket. All of the other items can be stored inside the bucket. The small trowel or the weed picker can be fitted inside the nozzle to save space.

2. Wear the ear protectors -- you will be working over bedrock so you will be hit with the sound twice -- once directly from the blower, and again with the echo from the rocks.

3. Point the exhaust away from you and heading downwind. Rock dust is not good for your lungs. In extremely dusty conditions, wear a dust mask.

4. Don't let the bucket get more than half full or you may find heavier materials blowing out.

5. Feed material steadily into the vacuum, or you may find the hose clogging. If the hose does clog, run the throttle at high and bang on the hose with the handle of weeder. It also helps if you can put the vacuum lower than the area you are cleaning.

6. With several passes of scraping and vacuuming you should find that you are leaving the rocks and crevices quite clean -- but it does take more than one round of scraping and vacuuming. Don't be bashful about going into crevices that others have worked before you -- without a suction device, particularly one as powerful as the one you have just built, previous miners could not possibly have cleaned the crevice out.

7. This gadget makes an excellent outside vacuum cleaner around the home.

8. You can vacuum up water and wet materials with the unit, but the corrugations in the hose will fill up, blocking the hose and making it very heavy. Banging on the hose and running dry materials through it should solve the problem -- or if you don't care about losing the materials, you can wash the hose out in a river (use a wash tub if you want to keep the material).

9. If you find the unit tipping over when empty (it is top heavy) on uneven ground, put a heavy rock in the bottom of the bucket for stability. The rock will reduce capacity but won't interfere with its efficiency.

10. Be sure to bring lots of water along -- you can keep it cool in the river. On a hot day you can dehyrate quickly, especially as the rocks you are working over accumulate the day's heat.

Thanx to Bill Westcott, Chuck Mitchell and Jeri Walsh in the prospecting section of the Outdoors forum of Compuserve for their assistance and critiques of this faq.

Comments and suggestions are welcome and can be addressed to me at CIS at 76630,2423 or at Steve-k@holonet.net.

This faq is copyright 1995 by Stephen L. Katz. You may distribute this material freely, but in its entirety, provided no charge is made except for the cost of copying and distribution, and provided proper attribution is made to the author.

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  • 1 month later...

wow, a real wealth of knowledge. it could'nt get any better than this. thanks much for sharing. ron :cool04: :yourock: :cool: :icon1:

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