Civilization: a thin veneer over barbarianism

John M. Shanahan

And there is one truth with all veneers: the last thing you want, is a veneer to be painfully obvious. And that means how the veneer is attached is vitally important.

So why use a veneer at all? Isn’t it just a huge cheat, for the woodworker, and for the recipient?

That really comes down to what is done, where and why. There are many reasons why a veneer is a good choice. Sometimes where a timber is in too short a supply to do the job otherwise, or so vastly expensive as to be prohibitive otherwise. If you are doing a large pattern -bookmatched tabletop for example with multiple leaves, then veneer is a definite way to achieve the multiple bookmatches required to achieve it.

Some items only come in a form that must be attached to a substrate to use it, and again, they have to be attached well.

So how do you clamp down a veneer when you are gluing it?

Some people use a pile of bricks, some a screw-press arrangement (similar to a flower press). Me? I intend to use the significant weight of air. And a significant weight it is too, yet surprisingly easy to harness, and manipulate to create an even distribution of pressure over a whole surface, even complex shapes, perfect for gluing a veneer.

It is harnessed by drawing a vacuum – nature abhores a vacuum as they say, and even by creating a partial vacuum, nature attempts to crush it out of existance.

Carbatec sell a simple vacuum press kit, by Roarockit. You may have seen the kit on numerous occasions without realising what was hidden in a plain box – the veneer of cardboard hiding the power of the contents.


Inside is a strong plastic bag, that can be closed at one edge with a very sticky seal. There are two sized bags available in a kit form (which contains the sealing tape, pump etc), and can also be purchased as additional or replacement bags as required. I preferred the square version- still significantly sized at 26″ x 28″. There are much bigger as well – 36″ x 52″


Veneers are not just for gluing a flat piece of figured timber to a plain core stock. It can also be used to create bent forms, by gluing multiple veneer layers together, and bent over a form.

In this example, it is the simplest version: a flat veneer glued to a core of MDF. I didn’t actually use any glue, or softening agent for these photos. (Veneers buckle easily, especially veneers from burls)


A plasic netting is laid over the top of the veneer, inside the bag. This prevents any pockets of air from preventing a full even pressure over the whole surface.


With the bag sealed shut, a simple hand pump is used to evacuate the bag. You won’t get all the air out- machines that can achieve a near perfect vacuum cost 10s of 1000s more than the $99 this kit cost, but that is not necessary. Even pumping out a small amount of air quickly results in the external air pressure crushing in, squashing the contents together.


For a small investment, this kit is a real asset in the workshop, and can be used to make easy work of what can be very complicated clamping situations. Create a vacuum, and let nature do the rest.

Vacuum Storage

The other question I had recently was about the CT36 – the Cleantex Vacuum from Festool (Ideal Tools)

Storage of the components (particularly for transportation) for the CT36 is very easy – there is a holder at the back of the machine to wrap the power cord around.

The hose coils up into the cavity in the top of the machine, and you can also store the floor nozzles and tubes in there as well.

Hose Storage

Alternately, you can use a Systainer1 which is a perfect size, and of course attaches directly to the top of the Cleantex

Systainer for Nozzle Storage

Finally, as far as the size of the cavity – 36L sounds like a lot of dust, but what the dust collection area looks like:

Dust Compartment

No – I didn’t suck up a blade – I put it in there to give a sense of scale!  That is a 10″ blade (250mm), so just a little more capacity than the standard house vacuum!

I’ve given up on house vacs (even though I was buying them cheaply) for the shed.  My record so far

Vacuum 1: barrel model: melted, to the point that the motor physically fell off the back of the vacuum when it had melted its way free.

Vacuum 2: modern barrel: caught fire.

Vacuum 3: shop vacuum (upright barrel): became better at producing ozone than suction, then became useless at both.

Vacuum 4: ShopVac: current, and still going strong (still pretty new), using a cyclone as a preseparator

Vacuum 5: Festool CT36: what can I say!

Sometimes it pays to buy quality.

I Want to Break Free

I want to be dust-free
I want to be dust-free
I want to break free from the dust
This vacuum astounds even me….e
I’ve got to be dust-free
God knows God knows I want to break free

I’ve fallen in love
I’ve fallen in love for the first time
The Cleantex is the best I have se…en
I’ve fallen in love yeah
God knows God knows I’ve fallen for the Green

Its strange but it’s true
It is quieter than I even dreamed
But I have to be sure
When I vacuum the floor
Oh how I want to be dust-free baby
Oh how I want to be free
Oh how I want to break free

But life still goes on
I can’t get used to living without living without
Living without dust all around
The shop floor is clear
The workspace is clean
So baby can’t you see
I’ve got to be dust-free

I’ve got to break free
I want to break free yeah

I want I want I want I want to be dust-free….

Original lyrics and music (badly corrupted) by John Deacon (Queen)

Festool CT36

Yes, it rocks. Purchased from Ideal Tools, the CT36 Cleantex dust vac from Festool is quieter than my house vacuum, handles significant dust, connects to all my tools, has 36l of dust containment, fits Systainers on top, auto-starts with the tool, wheels easily, variable power, has a decent length of heavy-duty power cord, and a long anti-static hose. And that’s just a bit of a summary of features.  Add that it can handle liquids (I did not know that), has an electronic liquid depth sensor to cut out when it gets too full, HEPA filter, onboard hose storage, a nozzle designed specifically for shop floors and I could just go on.

I went to try it out last night for 5 minutes – ended up vacuuming the entire workshop (and felt like blaring out Queen while doing so!)

Tag Team

GMC Vacuum tagged out, ShopVac tagged in.

Despite cleaning filters, and introducing a pre-separator (home-made cyclone), it was already too late – the GMC has partaken of too much of an MDF diet (you could smell it each time the vac was turned on), and today it finally smoked itself properly.

And I mean SMOKED!

Power suddenly failed, as a circuit breaker blew, and all was surprisingly quiet in the workshop.  A glance over to the vac was all that was needed, seeing the smoke pour out.

So getting the ShopVac was excellent timing, and immediately I noticed a dramatic increase in the amount of suction that I have available.

That is the second vacuum that I’ve now gone through.  First one was a few years ago, and it smoked itself too, but to the point that it also melted and fell apart when it failed.  Hopefully the ShopVac will do better (it has an internal collection bag, and I’m still using the pre-separator, which is working very well).

SSYTC27 Vac Clamp

Vacuum Clamps from

Tools for February

Each of these will be looked at in more detail shortly, and put through their paces.

For Tool of the Month, I’m going for the Vac Clamp – another Aussie product.  It uses a very simple method for achieving a vacuum – using the venturi effect to draw down a vacuum from between the clamp and the item being held, resulting in a clamp that is strong, and releases immediately that the air is switched off.


Seen pictured here are both the single-sided clamp (is screwed to the workbench etc), and the double-sided, which uses a vacuum on one side to secure itself to the workbench (non-porous), and the other side for the workpiece.

There are no moving parts to achieve the vacuum. Nothing to wear out (the rubber seal itself will need replacement in time), nothing moving, wearing.  You do need a source of compressed air.  The compressor does not draw air from the clamp, unlike many other designs.  Air is blown into the unit, which ejects from the nozzle, creating the venturi which pulls additional out of the clamp void resulting in the vacuum.

Vacuum creating venturi effect nozzle

Air passes in through the fitting on the side, and blows through the brass nozzle you can see in the hole, which is then ejected out the side.

Closeup of Nozzle

The other item to mention is a new router bit received from Whiteside / Professional Woodworkers Supplies.

Whiteside 2 Flute Replaceable Surfacing Bit

This is a significant bit, with a larger diameter than either of the others I have tried – at 65mm diameter it is going to be fascinating when I get a chance to feed it.  Of course, the rule is never feed a router bit after midnight – not that it will turn into a gremlin, but your neighbours will!

Replaceable Tip

The carbide tips are replaceable, and also revolvable, meaning you get to use all 4 sides before needing to resharpen or replace the TCT.

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