A relatively new technology for woodworkers is the vacuum system. These systems have been used in other areas for a quite some time, but have finally, in the last ten years or so have made it to our industry, in practical sizes for smaller applications.
Once you become familiar with the capabilities of these systems, your woodworking world will explode with possibilities. Work that was at a one time seemingly impossible will become a reliably simple process. The speed and accuracy offered with using vacuum systems is nothing short of amazing.
These systems, which are available in many configurations, are usable in many applications. They excel in veneering, clamping and jig hold downs. Thru use of a manifold they can be quickly converted from one process to another. Also, the use of a foot pedal to turn the unit on and off makes very quick clamping possible.
My workbench has a three valve manifold mounted to the edge of the bench. With this setup, simply opening a valve controls which function it will handle. Quick connect connections are used to connect the main vacuum line to different jigs. Vinyl hose is used as the piping for the system.
The top of my bench has a 1 / 4inch hole drilled in the middle of the top, and a barbed fitting pushed into the hole on the bottom. The vinyl tubing connects the barbed fitting to the manifold. Any shape jig can be made, and with the help of foam self stick tape, applied the edges of the top and bottom sides, will form a secure vacuum seal. The jig also has a inch inch hole drilled through it. With this setup a rough cut "blank" can be routed to the exact shape of the jig. This jig, used along with the foot pedal will enable you to cut as many duplicate pieces as you desire, all of them being exactly the same. With the foot pedal, clamping is immediate, and very secure. Stepping on the pedal results in the blank being instantly secured to the bench. Stepping on the pedal again will release the piece just as quickly.
The front edge of my bench is also "piped", and with the same gasket material, allowing me to immediately mount a cabinet door to the edge of the bench. With the door mounted to the bench, I can plane the edge of the door, or set the hinges. Again, stepping on the foot pedal makes clamping it an instant application.
The final major application for the vacuum system is the use of a vacuum bag. These bags are available in several sizes and materials. They are also available in different gage materials, to compensate for the degree of abuse the bag will be subjected to.
The use of the bag requires a platen, which is a flat panel, typically made from melamine due to it's reliably a non stick surface. The platen wants to be larger than the piece to be veneered. The platen must have 1/8 inch saw kerfs cut in it on the top side, in square foot intervals, which will allow the air to be evacuated from the sealed bag. A top plateen is also required, and must be slightly larger than the work being glued up. Materials glued up in this fashion have a very secure bond, and is clamped evenly across the entire surface.
Certain glues must be used in these applications, as the requirements vary from standard woodworking joints.
I hope this brief introduction to the many uses of the vacuum system to woodworkers will open your eyes to the potential these invaluable devices have to offer you.
Source by Lee Jesberger