View Full Version : Marquetry aid

Mitchell Andrus
06-25-2006, 7:20 PM
Dave and others...

During the three weeks I've had my laser, I've had one small problem... holding small veneer pieces in place. What with all the air suckage and wind blowing around, I've had a few small pieces move and get cut in half and end up out on the lawn. Soooo, I did something about it. I knew when I bought my laser (Spirit 60W) that the spacing on the normal vector table wouldn't work for the small stuff so I didn't buy one, I made my own instead.

I made a box with a 180 cfm range kitchen hood fan installed. The lid is the cutting surface, and it's plain aluminum screen stretched tight and epoxied over a frame. The frame is 3/4" ply with 1/4" ply strips standing in grooves with a border around the edge. There is about 1/4" air space for air flow. It's not pretty, but it works great. The cord comes in through the rear 4" vent (so as not to drill a hole in my cabinet).

There doesn't need to be as much air flow as you might think. Once the small piece of veneer is in place and the rest of the lid blocked off with paper, the whole she-bang only needs to hold a slight vacuum. A wavy hunk of veneer isn't going to miraculously lay flat, but mild bows flatten, small parts stay put (out of the way of moving parts) and flash-back at the underside is non-existant. Smoke gets sucked through as soon as the cut is made, so I've noticed almost no charring.

The inlay with the penny... well, tweezers were involved.


Dave Fifield
06-25-2006, 9:47 PM
Excellent idea Mitchell - I like it! I was toying with the idea of making a full sized drop in vac table, driven by a proper vacuum pump, but your idea is much simpler. I may give it a go. How did you get AC power to the fan through the 4" vent as well as have your 4" vent system run normally? Or, did you not have anything connected to the 4" vent previously?

For badly warped veneers (wavy stuff), I use lumps of 3/16" thick steel bar cut to various useful sizes to hold it down. I make sure none of it comes near the area that I'm going to cut! The 3/16" stuff is just heavy enough to flatten the most stubborn wave. Make sure that your auto focus probe won't hit the steel bars before you cut - it just clears the bars nicely in my Epilog laser. I always use manual focus when cutting veneers like this, just to make sure the auto focus probe doesn't get damaged somehow.

Dave F.

Mitchell Andrus
06-25-2006, 10:54 PM
My auto focus probe comes off, just unpluggs.

I cut a small slit in the flexible 4" hose just outside the laser and stuck a cord through, and installed a new female end on it. The cord coming out of the vac box has a male end, so I can remove the vac box by unplugging the cord. The female (hot) cord just stays in the laser when not in use.

The blower, hose, etc. have nothing to do with the vac table, and visa/versa. Once the veneer is stuck, air moves around the box like a normal table.

I thought of a vacuum pump, but I thought it wouldn't pull a vacuum fast enough to overcome the seepage. A pump will pull a heckova lot, but they are low volume. 180 cfm is probably at the low end, and I plan to make a collar to close the distance between the fan and it's shroud. That will improve its' efficiency a bit. I may look for a faster motor with a better fan - the more suckage, the better. 5 hp should do it.

I had thought of using small magnets, even got a bunch at Radio Shack. Imagine my shame when I saw that they didn't work on aluminum screen!!!! DUH!

Don't forget, anything held down by the vacuum will clamp the edge of the veneer too. Surrounding a piece on all sides with some stiff board stock or 1/4" ply flattens most anything.

Say NO to blue masking tape!!!


Joe Pelonio
06-26-2006, 8:22 AM

That's very clever, and thanks for sharing. I've been using an artists temporary spray adhesive but have to then put it onto something solid
which causes underside flashback. I'll have to find time to make one of those. I have one regular job where I cut 100 or more stencils from card stock and a lot of small pieces end up flying out onto the parked cars in front of the shop, and am hoping to do more with veneer soon.:)

Brent Vander Weil
06-26-2006, 12:53 PM

You need to harness the power of ventilated scraps!!! ADVERTISING MAN!!! Make sure you raster your shop name or web site on them... Heck it beats putting flyers on widshields at the mall!!! LOL

Jim A. Walters
06-27-2006, 12:13 AM
And then the litter police will know how to find you!