This project was a test of my vacuum pump and bagging system that I had just built.
I made it at Techshop: http://www.techshop.ws
Step 1: Materials and Tools
3/4 inch plywood - less than a quarter sheet
veneer for top - 24 X14 inches
veneer for legs- 22 x10 inches
cold press veneer glue
220 and 300 grit sandpaper
Step 2: Design
The legs are attached to the top via a blind mortice. In other words, there is a pocket cut into the bottom of the table for each leg. The pocket fit should be tight, as the legs are attached with glue only. I designed for the smallest router bit I had (1/8) to cut the dog-ears in the pocket to maximize the surface area available for gluing.
Note that the legs are Shaker style, with a curve only on the inside.
Step 3: Attach Surface Veneers to Plywood
I decided to try gluing the surface veneers prior to cutting, and later applying the edge band under vacuum to avoid the glue line issue. This worked for the legs, but not as well for the table surface.
1. Apply the veneer softener of choice, and clamp /weight until dry (about 24 hours). This step can be skipped if the veneers are relatively flat.
2. A layer of cold press veneer glue is applied to the plywood (about the thickness of a coat of house paint.
3. The plywood is placed in the vacuum bag and held under ~20 Hg vacuum until the glue sets (about 45 minutes for the glue I used).
4. Wait 24 hours.
5. The veneers are sanded flat and a single layer of varnish is added. This minimizes tear-out when cutting the parts on the router.
Step 4: Cut on CNC Router
The pockets are 1/2 inch deep.
Step 5: Edge-band
2. Cut the strips for the edge bands very slightly larger than the thickness of the part. I used a laser cutter. a veneer saw can be used as well
3. Glue and press in vacuum bag. Use painter's tape to hold the edge bands in place. You will need to support and position the part so that the bag surface will wrap around the edge band. This worked well for the legs, but left some gaps in the tabletop edge where the curve met the straight edge. I was able to adequately repair this with some glue, clamps, and foul language.
Step 6: Assemble and Finish
2. Glue the legs to the top. If the fit is tight, no clamping is needed. Double check that the legs are square and that the table sets evenly on the floor before the glue dries. Wait for the glue to dry completely.
3. touch-up sand any scratches and apply the finish of choice.
Step 7: Retrospective
2. The vacuum veneer system works very well. A set of test cuts through a practice part revealed a uniform tight bond. The surfaces sanded flat easily.
3. Solid veneers require more work than pre-veneered plywood or paper-backed veneer, but provide many more choices of woods. Solid veneers are typically thicker as well, so a piece can be sanded and refinished in the future, extending its lifetime.
4. The main difficulty with solid veneer is applying the solid veneer edge banding to large curved parts. It the future, I will try cutting some jigs and clamping, or as a lest resort- do it the proper way of edge banding first with heat lock glue or contact cement, as is done by the professionals...