Adventures in Vacuum Veneering #3: Adding a Frame Press

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Blog entry by SPalm posted 12-27-2009 03:02 PM 16216 reads 5 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Pimpin’ the Pump Part 3 of Adventures in Vacuum Veneering series Part 4: First Lessons Learned »

I have been using a shower curtain liner for my vacuum bag. It is folded over and clamped with wood strips and spring clamps. This was really hard to get to work effectively as there were a lot of moving parts. I want to make a proper bag someday, but for now I really wanted to build a frame press. The concept is to make a frame with vinyl stretched across it and weather stripping foam on the bottom. Then I only need to set the veneer glue-up on a melamine assembly table and place this frame on top of it. When I apply vacuum, it will pull the frame tight against the table and pull the vinyl tight against the glue-up. It makes working by myself a lot easier and allows me to place the work a bit more precisely.

So I built a 2’ by 4’ frame out of some white oak from the scrap bin. This was the first time that I used pocket screws. It was fast, but really hard to get the two pieces to lay flat. Not sure I really like them. I am sure that I need to practice more. Maybe clamping better would help? I wish they had an indexing spline or something like a miniature biscuit. Anyway I recovered by sending the assembled frame through the thickness sander one corner at a time. It worked like a champ. I am impressed at the strength of the joint.

This picture shows the frame after I sealed it with shellac to make it more air tight. It is sitting on wax paper.

This picture shows the frame after adding the gasket to the top, stretching vinyl across it, and then screwing down (spalted) oak to hold the vinyl. And yes, it is still shower curtain liner. 8 mil. The screwed cauls allow it to be replaced.

I then flipped the frame over and added two strips of the gasket stripping to the bottom. This is pretty special gasket tape foam designed for this type of application. It is super dense and meant to be compressed.

And I added a new improved quick release connector through the vinyl in the corner. It has grooves in the bottom to allow the vacuum to spread around. The nature of the frame improves the way the vacuum can disperse as there is always a small triangle all the way around the frame where the vinyl cannot pull all the way down.

The test drives did not go without some problems. Mainly the frame did not always completely seal against the melamine when the vacuum was first applied. If I added some spring clamps to the two long sides, I was able to complete the vacuum. I could then remove the clamps and maintain good pressure. So maybe I will try to come up with some easy and light duty clamps. Maybe just weight might even do it.

The 8 mil shower curtain has been holding up quite well. Lots of test drives. I obtained some better breather mesh that lies between the glue-up and the vinyl. It does make things remarkably easier as compared to using flat wooden cauls. The plastic mesh also smoothes the edges and corners from poking through the vinyl.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

6 comments so far

View Ger21's profile


1074 posts in 3100 days

#1 posted 12-27-2009 03:27 PM

Wow, do you ever work fast. I’ll be lucky to have my frame press done in a year from now. Nice work. You might want to consider switching to polyurethane at some point for more durability. My 30 mil vinyl has some small pinholes from corners poking through after about 8 years of use. But if you do get any holes, duct tape is a quick patch that seals remarkably well.

Since I’ll be building a dedicated table for mine, I planned on using some threaded inserts and studded knobs to hold it in place until the vacuum pulls it down, to help with the initial pull. Mine will be about 3×7, so it’ll probably be a bit trickier to get started.

Anyway, again, nice job.

-- Gerry,

View Karson's profile


35111 posts in 4370 days

#2 posted 12-27-2009 05:16 PM

Steve: A fast worker, Great looking frame. Nice job on the build. You’ve given me some ideas for my frame.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View cabinetmaster's profile


10874 posts in 3527 days

#3 posted 12-27-2009 05:24 PM

I have got to favorite this blog. Thanks for the great blog. Really got me going now.

-- Jerry--A man can never have enough tools or clamps

View PurpLev's profile


8534 posts in 3618 days

#4 posted 12-27-2009 06:46 PM

very cool adventure. even though you end up running into some minor issues, it looks pretty spot on. thanks for posting this Steve. It’ll come into use in the future (hopefully).

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View degoose's profile


7228 posts in 3324 days

#5 posted 12-27-2009 10:18 PM

I know I mentioned the Roarrockit kit before… but as to sealing the bag they have available rolls of sealant tape… reuseable…works a treat … this might be of help I hope…

-- Don't drink and use power tools @

View Karson's profile


35111 posts in 4370 days

#6 posted 12-02-2015 03:38 PM

Steve I was not overly impressed with the plastic mesh, because I found that it doesn’t give full surface contact and help in pressing down bubbles in the veneer. What i’ve been doing lately, is veneering upside down. By that I mean put the veneered side on the bottom and then your substrate becomes your caul. If I need to veneer both sides, I’ll let it sit in the press for a couple of hours, and then do the other side. Putting the new veneer on the bottom again. This has saved me from having a pile of different sized cauls.

Steve I’ve also fallen in love with butcher paper. It’s the paper that butchers wrap your meat in to keep any juices from seeping through to the outside. It has a plastic coating on one side. In my case it keeps glue from seeping through and gluing multiple pieces together. I may stack 3 or 4 pieces that are the same size on top of one another and veneer them at the same time.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

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