I have constructed a vacuum press. It has two additional canisters that feed additional vacuum into the bag to minimize the cycles to complete the pressing. When testing the system (without any bag attached and the line blocked), I can pull 27Hg, but the pump recycles within 4.5-5 minutes.
I have resealed every connection, trimmed and replaced every hose connection and clamp. I have run the system and used smoke to detect where the leak might be and have yet to find one. The pump is new. Any ideas how to detect the leak?
From contributor T:
I think 27 Hg is so much vacuum that it's bound to leak! Does it leak at 20 Hg? Mine shuts down at 21 Hg and restarts at 16 Hg, averaging 18-19, and it presses well. 4 or 5 minutes between cycles seems good to me. Try applying fresh sealant around all the fittings for a minute while the vacuum is high and then release some vacuum so it doesn't get pulled out again and let the sealant cure before using it again. Maybe the check valve has a slight leak, but I think your system is good to go as is. It is leaks in the bag that are going to drive you crazy, and they are usually at the bag opening in the corners or at the vacuum hose connection. I am finally confident with my homemade kit, bought venturi system after about 10 pressings on paying projects. It's a real moneymaker for me. My next system will use a pump, so large leaks won't matter!
The system is set to run up to 20Hg of vacuum and then shut off. After 2Hg drop, the pump cycles back on. The 4-5 minute cycle time is now down to 15-30 seconds. I have located and repaired any leaks I found in the bag, but suspect the hose to bag connection.
I have a top line check valve installed and all fittings, connections, and canisters have three coatings of silicone followed with duct tape. I am at the point where I am going to start over with the installation and test each and every component as it is installed and correct any leaks before moving forward to the next component. At the current cycle rate, the pump will wear out 10-20 times faster.
I agree that sealing the open end of the bag is probably the problem. Cauls are always a problem as you never get them just right while in a hurry to close the bag. The bag material when folded over and clamped can always leak. It takes just a little crease in the material and it's game over. The other problem with cauls is that you cannot see where the leak is because it's covered with wood. I use a butyl tape in our kits (Roarockit) that, when applied to the sealed end of the bag, allows you to actually see where the leak may be. There are a couple of different types of this material you can buy online if you do a search. If there is a local Woodcraft store close to you, they also have it as a replacement component for our kits. C channel type systems are also a problem and can also leak, especially at the seams of your bag. The sealing tape we use is very aggressive and there is an acquired technique you need to learn to open the sealed bag. Check valves. I bought an expensive one once and it leaked.
My rule of thumb with vacuum veneering is, keep it simple. The fewer joints and connections you have, the better. Now, some people may not agree with me on this one, but if you have a good vacuum bag, check valve and regulator, there is no need for a reservoir. These only add more connections that can leak and really do little to maintain constant vacuum pressure. If you have a leak, it's going to drop in vacuum, reservoir or not.