Venturi Vacuum for Work Holding and beyond... #1: Intro


During a discussion here a few weeks ago, the issue of vacuum work holding came up. That's intriguing to me because I've become a pretty big fan of vacuum chucks for my lathe. When it's the right tool, it's most certainly the right tool!. I've got the Hold Fast chuck system, which is a Venturi system, and it works great on my Rikon 70-22VS lathe. I'm fortunate to have a large-ish compressor and routed airlines throughout the shop early on, so I've got lots of options when it comes to air. I initially looked at getting a proper vacuum pump for the chucks, but going that route meant buying a pretty expensive pump and, as I do historically, I couldn't see myself ever needing a vacuum pump for anything else.

Anyway, I found info about the Hold Fast system during a swap discussion online with this group and jumped down the rabbet hole on that one. The most beneficial piece to using a Venturi-type system for me is that I've already got to big piece to the puzzle...the large(r) capacity compressor. Venturi pumps tend to be less expensive, and there's very little to break on them...simple simple. But, you've got to have the compressor to run them... Now, one minor negative for me with this whole thing is that my compressor is in the shop...and it's not super quiet. Some day, when I'm a real woodworker with a real shop, I'll have the Compressor and DC cleanly walled up in a closet for noise reduction. But my compressor isn't terribly loud and it doesn't cycle all that often even when using the Hold Fast chucks, so I was already pretty happy with Venturi pumps.

When the discussion came up about work holding with a Vacuum pump (a la LBD), I saw potential for my shop in two areas. The first, and most specific, was for use with the Shaper Origin. I use that tool all the time, and I've made the setup about as easy as possible without having a dedicated station that stays out all the time. I use an auxiliary bench that I set up to receive the Shaper Workstation with a couple T-tracks and I've got an overhead DC line that's in place and easily accessible for the task. Power is readily available, including a dedicated work light that I set up for just the task. And the best part, in a small shop, is it all stores away under the bench in a very compact manner leaving the auxiliary bench useful for other tasks. While the setup is pretty slick and takes only minutes to make ready, one area that always takes some time is getting the work piece to sit still and be on plane with my Shaper Domino panels (which, for the uninitiated, is how the Origin optically keeps it's place in the space). I've used double sided tape for a long time and it works pretty well, but it can be a challenge in a couple ways, the biggest of which is that it takes time to size up and space out the tape properly to hold the piece in place, and that time is amplified if I'm doing the same operation on multiple pieces. I've also actually broken a couple more fragile pieces trying to pry them up from the work surface since the tape is so aggressive. Great in some regards to have that kind of holding power, not so great in others.

I'd become so accustomed to using the double sided sticky nightmare that I even started using it to hold down work pieces for some hand tool work (which also worked pretty well, but with the same issues). As such, the other use I saw for vacuum work holding was for hand tool work. My workbench isn't set up so well for working with hand tools. I make it work, and I've modified it over the years so it's much more useful, but I struggle a bit with work holding, especially for planing flat pieces. Tape is just my latest reincarnation. I use more traditional hold fasts and doe's hoofs (hooves?), as well as the obligatory bench dogs and clamps. I've wanted something more like a jewler's vise, but on a scale large enough to work with something larger than a ring! Something that could hold the work at angles and be moved about. More on that one later...

So, with more ideas in my head than $$ in my wallet, I started down the rabbet hole of vacuum work holding options. Lots of rabbets around this place... LBD was modeling a swanky little model called the GRABO. If you haven't seen it, check out his write up on it. Basically it's a stand alone tool designed to use vacuum pressure to grab and hold things that need to be moved. Pieces of glass, metal, slabs of rock, slow moving children, whatever. Izzy Swan makes a neat contraption that lets you place the GRABO on a 'dock' and use the suction through a 1/4' tube to apply vacuum against other jigs...thus the potential for work holding. Watching the video's Izzy made, it appears he's had success with it. From there, I came across and their vacuum pump kits for veneer applications. They make/market two types: a traditional pump type and home spun Venturi models. Did someone say Compressor???

I read entire site, including the articles Joe (the owner) wrote. Some really good stuff. He does a pretty good job of creating a sub-market for himself with work holding articles and equipment as well. Now, I don't see myself ever needing a vacuum pump for veneer stuff...but history says that'll change at some point.

I exchanged a couple emails with Joe and asked some questions specific to work holding. While it's clear his emphasis is on veneer 'stuff', he was able to provide some good insight on what I wanted to do. His suggestion, after discussing my shop needs and current equipment, was to consider the Venturi pump kits that he sells...mmm...compressor... The advantage, he noted, was a quieter environment (based on having a large enough compressor and reservoir to handle the vacuum needs), as well as reduced cost. 

So, I opted to press forward and ordered the V4 Veneer Vacuum kit, as well as some nifty little pucks called Podz...more on those later as well. The boxes arrived several days later and I tore into them. The next installment of this blog will cover the kit build itself... 

Ryan/// ~sigh~ I blew up another bowl. Moke told me "I made the inside bigger than the outside".

Ooh! Can’t wait for more!

May you have the day you deserve!

More’s comin’!

Ryan/// ~sigh~ I blew up another bowl. Moke told me "I made the inside bigger than the outside".