I am a cabinet/furniture maker/finish carpenter (18 years) and have never done any veneer work (always use laid up sheet goods). I am very interested in learning more in depth methods of gluing, edgebanding, vacuum pressing, laminating, etc. Can't find any weekend type classes in the Bay area. Any books out there? Should I just get a vac bag and learn by doing?
From contributor D:
I suggest you look at Darryl Keil's Vacupress for all you need. He sort of pioneered the process for woodworkers some years ago. He has two tapes (DVDs?) that will get you going in no time, with no sorting through the Internet flotsam. As you know, it is not rocket science, but his illustrations help you get up and pressing quickly, with success. Vacupress also has all the tools and glue you will ever need, and a forum for more advanced questions. I bought a bag, a vacuum pump, glue and a VCR tape, and it changed my life by allowing me to do veneer projects quickly and easily, without massive presses or equipment.
In my opinion, there are two basic pieces of equipment: the bag and the pump. Bags come in different sizes and shapes and can even be custom-made. Pumps can be powered by compressed air or electric.
Then, there are the tools that you need for cutting and assembling veneer. The Schurch videos go into a fair amount of detail on what works well. These tools can range from inexpensive veneer saws to expensive scroll saws. Again, it depends on the type of work you will be doing.
Get the videos. See what type of work interests you. Then you will have a better idea of what equipment you will need. When you are ready, talk to Vacupress on the phone and describe what you want to do. They will be honest with you. For example, you don't need a 5'x10' flip-top press if you will be working on 10"x12" marquetry panels.
Search out and read the information mentioned. Then, after you have some basic ideas of what might interest you, ask questions.
If you really, really can't wait to try out a vacuum bag, go to Walmart and buy a space bag (clothes storage). It uses a vacuum cleaner to suck the air out of the bag. They are made of cheap vinyl, so they will not last long at all. And they will not pull much of a vacuum. I have never tried to glue anything inside one of these. But it was fun to watch. Now my wife uses them for storing off season blankets and stuff.
Better yet, just go to spacebag.com and watch the video on their homepage. Then get the videos from Vacupress and watch a real woodworking vacuum bag.
I do remember curved work being on at least one of the two longer videos. Their website describes this, but you may want to get both of them as you are just starting. They are not that expensive, and certainly much less expensive than just guessing at what you are doing as a learning method.