by Yuya Zhou / in MATERIAL & TECHNIQUE RELATED / on 01/30/2022
Based on the shape you want, you need to build a mold first.
Use MPD( Medium density fiberboard) to build the structure of the mold. The reason of having these intersected wood blocks is for supporting the structure and offering enough strength to withstand the stress of vacuum.
Then you cut a piece of bending poplar and staple it to the mold. The thickness of the bending poplar should not be too thin or too thick. The thickness of the poplar I picked is one quarter.
Sand the edge and wrap with plastic tape–It is really important. You don’t want the sharp edge of your mold punctures the vacuum bag.
Be careful not to leave any tape folds on the surface. A tiny fold will leave a significant mark on the laminated piece.
Then you need to cut some sheets of bending poplars in uniformed shapes. For example, I want to make a curved seating surface in one inch, and the poplar I have is one eighth. Thus, I need to cut eight pieces in one uniformed shape in total. However, I was suggested to use odd numbers like three, five, seven…I don’t quite understand the reason but I laminated seven layers eventually.
Besides the bending poplar, another material you need is the resin glue. (or just regular wood glue)
It sells in powder. So, you need to mix the powder with water by yourself. Make sure you have a clean bucket and a stirring stick.
Okay, now you have a mold, layers of cut poplars, a bucket of resin glue. The next thing is setting up the equipment.
See the picture on the right. It includes a vacuum pump, a vacuum bag, and a baseboard with grid slots on the surface.
Clean the working space, set up the vacuum pump and vacuum bag, put your mold on the baseboard in the bag, and make sure there’s nothing sharp inside.
Then, you are ready to go.
Place the first layer on the table and paint the mixed resin glue on the upper side of the poplar with a brush. Paint another layer on one side and gently close them together( don’t get the direction reversed). Then repeat the process. It could be messy because of the resin glue, so, it is better to wear a apron and a pair of gloves before you start.
After all layers get glued and overlaid, put them into the vacuum bag and place them on the mold.
Clamp the bag with the plastic pipe and adjust the glued layers. Then you can start the vacuum pump.
It needs you to press the glued layers to the mold tightly for about five to ten minutes at the beginning to make sure all layers are in the right position.
Lamination is a complex technique which needs several steps to complete. Don’t do it alone! Ask some friends or the shop assistants for help!
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