With all of that koa and etimoe veneer in my shop, I was eager to get started. There was one problem. I built my vacuum press from Joe Woodworker’s Directions while I was still living in the states. I had hoped I would be able to run it on a transformer. The only problem with that is that the electricity here isn’t only different in voltage, but in frequency as well (cycles per second or Hertz (Hz) is the second number in 110/60). I spoke with Joe to ask him if I would have any luck running my pump on a transformer at 110/50 instead of 110/60. He advised me not to do it. Running an AC electric motor at 50Hz vise 60Hz is hazardous to the motor’s health. That’s the same reason I left all of my big power tools in storage before I moved over here. Most military bases have well-equipped wood shops that DoD ID card holders can use for a small fee. The problem with these shops is that not everyone follows the golden rule: “treat everything that isn’t yours as if it were the last one on earth.” The tools in these shops are usually in less than tip-top condition as a result. Perhaps that is a story for another blog entry.
After replacing the 110 V/60 Hz pump in my vacuum press with a 220 V/50 Hz model (thank you, Joe!), I was ready to go. I went to a local cabinet shop and ordered enough 12mm (just shy of ½”) baltic birch ply to do the panels for the bed with plenty left over for jigs and/or the nightstands and dresser.
For the smaller panels, I used simple platens. For the larger panels, I made a dedicated platen with a frame to fit my 4×4 bag, pictured below. You can find directions for making these on Joe’s site.
I cut the veneer with a veneer saw and laid out the pieces in a bookmatch pattern, paying particular attention to the sequence of sheets and arranging them so that they flow from headboard to footboard. A little attention to detail here pays big dividends in the final piece. I won’t get into specifics for the process here, as there are plenty of resources on the net for veneering how-to’s; to include Joe’s site and a few tutorials right here on lumberjocks.
Here is the center footboard panel after it came out of the press and before I removed the veneer tape. Koa side:
It’s almost a shame that the etimoe won’t be seen. I feel guilty using such a beautiful veneer as a backer!
I used veneersupplies.com’s Ultra Cat plastic resin glue. This glue has a long open time and consequently a long drying time. When you use a vacuum press, the glue doesn’t dry at all in the press. The press just sets everything in place. If you leave a panel in the press too long, mold can actually form (especially on cherry for some reason) because the glue isn’t drying. Once they come out if the press, it is important to be certain that the panels get even air circulation on both sides. I set them on dowels instead of directly on my bench and I flip them over once or twice during the next 12 hours after they come out of the press.
Here are the panels after the veneer tape is removed and they are dry.
I’ll use my cheap-o block plane to remove the squeeze out from one edge and use that edge as a reference to true up the others and cut the panels down to final size at the wood shop on base. Later on, I’ll scrape and sand these panels and use a little bit of trans-tint dye to alter the color of the koa very slightly (sacrelidge, I know) to better match my design. Of course I’ll do this before my glue up so as not to stain the surrounding walnut (which I’m also darkening a good bit with trans-tint). I’ll post my finishing schedule later on in the project blog.
Up next: how to handle those beastly slabs of maple and