How to Convert a 55-Gallon Drum Into a Shop Vac

Tim Petruccio

There are many uses for an empty 55 gallon drum. It can be used for storage, made into a grill, or made into a shop vacuum. There are two types of tops on a 55-gallon drum. One type is a sealed top, and the other is a removable lid.

An empty 55-gallon drum can be made into many different things, including a shop vacuum.


The average cost of a 55-gallon drum vacuum head is between $300 and $2400 as of 2011, and can be purchased online or through an industrial supply shop. The average cost of a 55-gallon drum dolly, or caster dolly starts at around $43, and can be purchased online, or through an industrial supply shop.


Always wear safety glasses when using a grinder or Dremel tool. Small particles of debris can enter your eye and cause permanent damage. If you feel there is debris in your eye, immediately stop working on this project. Rinse your eye with cold water under a faucet for about five minutes. If you still feel debris in your eye after rinsing, seek emergency medical treatment immediately.

The best type of drum to use for this project is one with a removable lid, but the project can be completed with a sealed top. This project will work with both metal and hardened plastic 55-gallon drums.

  1. Put on a pair of safety glasses. Cut the top from your 55-gallon drum, using a grinder or Dremel tool with a cutting wheel. Turn the grinder or Dremel tool on and turn the handle sideways. Gently insert the cutting wheel into the metal or hardened plastic lid. Cut the lid in half, across the middle, and then cut the entire lid free from the top of the drum. Do not cut the upper ridge or lip off of the drum, because it is an essential part of a shop vacuum.

  2. Remove the lid pieces after they fall into the drum. If the drum is metal, turn it upside down and dump the lid pieces out rather than reaching into the drum. The severed metal lid from the metal drum can severely cut you. Dispose of the metal or plastic lid immediately so someone else does not get cut on the sharp lid pieces.

  3. Install a 55-gallon vacuum head into the drum from the top. Clamp the vacuum lid onto the drum, making sure the extension cord from the vacuum is free from the drum.

  4. Lift the entire drum and vacuum assembly, and place the entire assembly onto a drum caster dolly. Placing the drum and vacuum on wheels makes it much more maneuverable when the vacuum needs to be moved.