Shop-made Vacuum Press Bag

Large vacuum press bags can cost several hundred dollars. Here’s how Joe Harmon and the Splinter supercar team made their own shop-made versions from home center supplies.

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  • Shop-made Vacuum Press Bag

    The compound curves and stylish lines of the Splinter supercar required numerous custom veneer glue-ups. Store-bought vacuum bags can cost several hundred dollars. To save money, the Splinter team created shop-made vacuum bags from commonly available, inexpensive home center products such as shower-pan liner and plumbing supplies.

  • Shop-made Vacuum Press Bag

    The seams of a large sheet of shower-pan liner are coated with contact cement on three sides, leaving the fourth for the bag opening.

  • Shop-made Vacuum Press Bag

    The team carefully spreads a second sheet of shower-pan liner on top of the first. The 2x4s act as temporary spacers to prevent the top liner from touching the contact cement and bonding prematurely. The edges are then aligned and pressed together as the boards are removed.

  • Shop-made Vacuum Press Bag

    Joe Harmon uses a J roller-commonly used for securing countertop laminate-to ensure a tight seal on the vacuum bag seams.

  • Shop-made Vacuum Press Bag

    Joe fits the lower fitting of a toilet fill valve in a hole that he cut in one side of the vacuum bag. The mounting nut is threaded into place sealing the hole with the valve's rubber ring gasket.

  • Shop-made Vacuum Press Bag

    Joe demonstrates the placement of the water supply line that will attach to the valve fitting. The other end of the line is adapted to the vacuum pump. This will be put into place just before vacuuming begins.

  • Shop-made Vacuum Press Bag

    Meanwhile, Joe Hunt preps the part for glue-up. One layer remains to be added to the layers of birch veneer that make up the dashboard of Splinter. Hunt applies epoxy in preparation.

  • Shop-made Vacuum Press Bag

    The team carefully places the finish layer of hand-woven cherry veneer strips. The basket-weave will conform to the curve of the dash as it is pressed into place.

  • Shop-made Vacuum Press Bag

    Joe Hunt applies a generous layer of epoxy. When a vacuum is applied, the epoxy will be pulled into any voids in the weave.

  • Shop-made Vacuum Press Bag

    A thin layer of fine mesh cloth creates a uniform finished look as the epoxy cures in the vacuum bag. Once smoothed to the surface of the weave, the cloth will also help prevent the epoxy from being drawn into any wrinkles in the vacuum bag. The cloth peels off after the part has been pressed and the epoxy cures.

  • Shop-made Vacuum Press Bag

    Joe and Joe tape screen door mesh over the top of the dashboard. The mesh creates small passageways for air to flow through ensuring that air is removed from the entire length of the vacuum bag.

  • Shop-made Vacuum Press Bag

    Next, the part is placed into the shop-made vacuum bag. It's a team effort.

  • Shop-made Vacuum Press Bag

    The open seam of the bag is then sealed by wrapping it around-and clamping it with-a tube and sleeve closure. The hose is attached the vacuum pump, and the air begins to flow out.

  • Shop-made Vacuum Press Bag

    As air is pumped out of the shop-made vacuum press bag, the team checks for leaks and smoothes wrinkles from the bag.

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