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Using a vacuum press is the most efficient method of veneering flat and curved panels and making bent laminations, which add decorative options to fine woodwork that can’t otherwise be made using hardwood. Even the smallest of shops can produce high-design wood pieces with the vacuum press because its components can be disassembled and stored in a small space.
In this step-by-step eBook and video, Darryl Keil explains and demonstrates how the vacuum press works; how to use it for veneering, wood bending and clamping; how to troubleshoot problems with the press; and how to maintain the equipment for effective, long-term use.
With an expert like Keil walking woodworkers through these processes, they’re guaranteed consistently predictable results.
Video run time for Vacuum Pressing Made Simple is: 60 minutes
About the Author
The very first vacuum press for use in the woodworking industry was invented by author Darryl Keil. In addition to building furniture and cabinets for 20 years, Keil has written for leading woodworking publications, served as a technical consultant to woodworking facilities, and taught veneering classes in the U.S. and abroad. No one is better equipped to write the book on vacuum pressing.
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Table Of Contents
Chapter 1: Vacuum press basics
Why use a vacuum press?
How a vacuum press works
Chapter 2: Choosing equipment
Vacuum pump specifications
Types of pumps
Choosing the right pump
Sealing a vacuum pressing bag
Chapter 3: Pressing a flat panel
Creating a platen
Setting up and testing your vacuum press
Choosing the right glue
Preparing the veneer
Veneering a flat panel
Making the platen
Testing the vacuum press
Pressing a flat veneered panel
Removing veneer tape
Chapter 4: Pressing a curved panel
Building a form
Making the curved panel
Pressing the panel
Veneering a curved panel
Making a male form
Gluing up the panel
Prepping the veneer
Applying veneer to the curved panel
Chapter 5: Pressing a bent lamination
Using the “outside technique”
Making a bent lamination form
Making the bent lamination platen
Pressing the bent lamination
Gluing up the laminations
Setting up for bending
Pressing an arched door jamb
Chapter 6: Using a vacuum press for clamping
Vacuum vs. conventional clamping
Commercial vacuum clamping pods
Making a hold-down clamp
Making clamping jigs
Setting up and using commercial pods
Making a vacuum hold-down clamp
Using a right-angle clamping jig
Using a double-sided clamping jig
Chapter 7: Maintenance and troubleshooting
Caring for your bag
Caring for your pump
Troubleshooting a pump that fails to reach vacuum
Troubleshooting auto self-cycling pumps
Maintaining a tight bag seal
Preventing glue build-up in bag
Identifying leaks in a vacuum bag
Patching bag leaks with a self-adhesive patch
Cleaning the pump’s intake filter jar
Metric conversion chart
Have you ever wanted to work a beautiful piece of veneer or a bent lamination into any of your woodworking projects? Or perhaps you’ve been using a traditional veneer press or method of bending laminations and want to learn a simpler, more efficient method of performing these functions? Is access to all surfaces of your workpiece inhibited by your clamp when you’re sanding? If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, you will be amazed with the simplicity and versatility of the vacuum press in your workshop and how it can improve your woodworking.
Why use a vacuum press?
In its simplest form, a vacuum press is an airtight bag connected by a hose to a pump that evacuates the air from it. The resulting vacuum acts as one giant clamp, applying enormous, consistent, pressure on the contents of the bag. If you’re veneering a flat panel, such as a tabletop, or a curved panel, such as a curved cabinet door, this pressure allows glued-up veneer to adhere to the entire surface of a substrate uniformly and tightly. If you’re making a bent lamination, like an arched jamb or a railing for a spiral staircase, it allows the laminates to be bonded together without causing waviness, sliding, and the use of many clamps.
Veneering opens up a level of design freedom and creativity that you cannot achieve with solid wood alone, and can take your woodworking project to a whole new level. A vacuum press can also be used with a variety of jigs to clamp projects to your workbench in lieu of traditional clamps. This method allows you to scrape and sand your workpiece without clamps marring the surface or getting in the way. In a similar way, a vacuum press can be used to clamp useful router jigs to your project blanks. Because a vacuum press can do so much, it’s clear that it’s a versatile tool for any shop. It’s especially useful for the small-shop woodworker, because it can be set up in a small space, such as on top of your workbench. When the job is done, it can be easily disassembled and put away for compact storage, which is not possible with conventional heavy steel plate presses.
How a vacuum press works
In a vacuum, spacer is devoid of air, which allows the weight of the atmosphere to press down with more force. In a woodworking vacuum press, the removal of air from the bag and its contents—in this case, wood—is called degassing, and the weight of the atmosphere pressing down on the wood is called atmospheric pressure. Degassing and atmospheric pressure work simultaneously for gluing.
When a glued-up workpiece is under vacuum, air is removed from the wood’s pores; the glue, which is much denser than air, fills the evacuated air spaces.For a simple demonstration of degassing, I filled two containers with blue-dyed water and submerged a highly porous block of wood in each container (photos at left). I used a vacuum pump to draw a vacuum on one container, and allowed it to sit under vacuum for 15 minutes. The other container was not placed under vacuum, but also sat for 15 minutes. As seen in the photo on bottom, facing page, the block that was in the container under vacuum has dye streaks running entirely through it. The process of degassing removed the air from the wood’s pores and allowed the blue water to be drawn deeper into the now-empty spaces. Imagine that the blue-dyed water is glue spread on your project, and picture the strong glue bond degassing creates between two pieces of wood.
Atmospheric pressure is the sheer weight of the air around all objects on earth and it acts as a giant natural clamp bearing down upon them. At sea level, atmospheric pressure is 14.7 lb. per square inch, which, per square foot, is 2,116 lb.--almost a ton. However, objects that exist in the atmosphere don’t get crushed by it because the air pressure within them matches that of the air pressure in the atmosphere—unless that air is removed. Air in the atmosphere disperses in all directions. In vacuum pressing, the air is harnessed within the vacuum bag and is only allowed to move in one direction—downward. To illustrate the power of atmospheric pressure, I took two pieces of 3⁄4-in. particle board, about 1 ft. square, placed two solid wood spacers in between them at two opposite edges, and placed this sandwich in the bag of the vacuum press. After I turned on the vacuum pump and air began to be drawn out of the bag, the top board began to bow (see drawing, facng page). At full vacuum, the pressure was so strong that the board snapped in half. That’s a lot of pressure! Obviously, the strength of atmospheric pressure on your project is optimal to create a strong glue bond. However, when you’re creating curved pieces over a bending form you don’t want it to break like this board did, so you’ll need to build your form appropriately for that task. With the great force of atmospheric pressure clamping down the entire surface of your glued piece, and with degassing allowing the glue to be infused deeply into the wood’s pores, a stronger and more uniform bond is created than what would be achieved with a surface layer of glue and conventional clamps. This gluing ability is why the vacuum press is so useful in woodworking.
Video Author Darryl Keil ISBN 978-1-60085-951-9 Publication Year 2011 Pages 96 Photo 187 Drawings 8 Video Download No Other Formats 71317 Cover eBook / Video Download Format N/A
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