How to make a vacuum press for woodworking

Written by finn mccuhil
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How to make a vacuum press for woodworking
Laminating oddly shaped wood pieces is easy with a vacuum press. (contemporary seating image by Christopher Dodge from Fotolia.com)

When even clamping force across the surface of your project is critical, a vacuum press is your best option. Widely used for veneering furniture and laminating lumber, a vacuum press applies even pressure across large surfaces that would be difficult or impossible to clamp conventionally. Small vacuum presses are commercially available starting around £195. Larger systems cost considerably more. Reduce your investment in a vacuum press by constructing your own. Except for a vacuum pump, everything you need is at your local DIY centre. Vacuum pumps are available online or at medical supply houses.

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Things you need

  • Plastic laminate countertop or laminated medium-density fiberboard
  • Mild soap solution
  • Clean rag
  • 30 mm (1 1/4 inch) or heavier plastic film
  • Clear packing tape
  • Flexible PVC water line
  • Vacuum pump

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Place your laminated worktop or MDF on a flat surface. Worktop material is good for small projects. Laminated MDF comes in 1.2 by 2.4 m (4 by 8 foot) sections and is ideal for larger projects. This surface acts as a platen for the press. Plastic laminate is non-porous and will form an airtight seal.

  2. 2

    Wash the working surface of your platen with a mild detergent solution and a clean rag. Allow it to dry thoroughly before use.

  3. 3

    Glue up your project and place it in the middle of the platen.

  4. 4

    Cover the project loosely with 30 mm (1 1/4 inch) or heavier plastic film. Allow enough excess material to conform to any irregularities on the surface of your project.

  5. 5

    Tape the sides of the plastic film to the surface of the platen with clear packing tape. Leave a 2.5 cm (1 inch) gap on one corner. This will be used to insert the vacuum hose.

  6. 6

    Attach one end of the hose to the vacuum pump. Insert the other end of the hose into the gap left in the corner of the plastic.

  7. 7

    Tape the hose to the platen. Place a double layer of tape on the edge of the plastic film where the hose enters the gap. Making the edges of the film as airtight as possible will reduce the amount of work your pump must do.

  8. 8

    Turn on the vacuum pump and allow it to run until the recommended clamping time for your adhesive has elapsed.

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