Building Your Own Vacuum Press

Tips on rigging up your own vacuum veneering system. August 22, 2008

Does anyone have input on building a vacuum system vs. buying one? Money is not the issue as much as quality, flexibility and ease of repair. We just picked up a job that will have a good bit of curved cabinetry - some flat panel doors, some raised panel, some slab doors. Although we are not new to this, most of our previous curved stuff was one cabinet here or there, not an entire house. This is a new builder for us and we will be doing more curved stuff soon. Thanks for any advice.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor J:
I don't get the sense that building one would be all that complicated, but I'm also not sure you'd save a lot of money except by using cheaper components, omitting some features that tend to be standard on commercial units, or ignoring the cost of your own time.

From contributor T:
We have a vacuum pump and bag we bought from veneer systems and it all works great. About 90% of our work is bagged up in a hinged system we produced ourselves out of aluminum and silicone rubber sheet. The silicon has an almost infinite stretch ability so you don't have to pad the corners of your product to keep from tearing the polyurethane bag.

Our silicone sheet was recycled from a local company that manufacturers membrane press thermofoil doors. They use the heck out of these and replace them fairly regularly. For our purposes they work just fine. We got ours for the popular price and they saved space in their dumpster.

From contributor T:
I was contacted off-line about how we built our hinged vacuum system. Others might be interested in this so I thought I would post the answer here. We started with a test of some really super glue called RTV 157. It comes in a tube similar to toothpaste and costs about $12. This stuff will glue anything to anything. The aluminum frame was welded at the corners. The silicone rubber makes a direct contact to a flat piece of melamine. We don't use a latch but one might be handy. You just push down until the perimeter forms a seal.