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2000 Ford Ranger XLT
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hey guys! Wanted to share the latest endeavor- I've been slowly building a vacuum table and wanted to log everything. The ultimate goal is to use the device to make molds.

Some things to keep in mine- I am not a master woodworker. I simply chose tools and materials that I was comfortable with, already had, and made sense to me. None of this is the "Right" way to do this, just what made sense to me at the time. I'll be continuously updating the thread, as well as the BOM/Tool list in this first post.

If anyone has an comments/suggestions/questions feel free to add to the thread! I'd love some feedback. And if anyone builds one, please do share :) That's part of the goal, to build a guide others can follow if desired. As for the softwares, other comparable (and free) softwares will also work, these are my most practical.

Above all, PLEASE BE SAFE if you do this. I'm not responsible if you hurt yourself, so please follow common sense safety precautions (like unplugging the tools when switching blades/bits) and use relevant safe wear like goggles and ear plugs.

First- Tools and BOM(ish)

Tools:
-Power drills (standard and impact by Makita)
-Drill bits, Phillips Bits, Chamfer bit
-Power saw w/ wood cutting blade (Skilsaw)
-Jigsaw w/ Various Blades (Dewalt)
-Square(s)
-C-Clamps, Corner Clamps
-Pencil
-Pencil Sharpener (this is the most important)
-Tape measure
-Plunge router (Ryobi)
-.25" Router bit, 3/8" Router bit, Flush trim but and Chamfer Bit
-Shop Vac
-Big Straight Edge
-Level
-Chisel
-Gloves
-Safety glasses
-Mask (if in an enclosed space)
-Silicon corner squeegee
-Drill Press (Harber Freight - Central Machinery)
-Adjustable hole tool
-xbox kinect v2 with windows adapter, using windows 10. v1 also works with windows 8. Using this as a cheap 3d scanner.
-Softwares for scanning(Kinect Windows 10 App), modeling (Solidworks 2018), printing/slicing (CURA3.2.1 because im too lazy to update)
-3D Printer - Folgertech FT-5 with mods

Consumables:
-Wood and drywall screws
-Several 2X4's
-1/2" and 3/4" MDF
-Peg Board
-Wood Glue (Titebond III)
-Shop Towels/Napkins
-Vacuum bagging film (Trash bags work just fine for light duty)
-.060" Thick Kydex sheet for general tinkering
-About 6 tons of coffee
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
Let's get started.

I opted for peg board because it was cheap and saved me some drilling for my "bed". started by measuring and cutting out the members for the frame. I typically use a square and clamps since I dont have room for a table saw.

Once those were cut, I lined them up to the 2'x4'x0.5" MDF board. I noticed my peg board wasnt square to the holes so I decided to trim it down a little. Because of this I'll have some excess on the MDF that will be trimmed so the first 2 components are the only critical fit here.

I spaced out the support studs (wood screws) as I saw fit- about 12" apart or so, heavier in the corners. I traced out the location for the first 2x4 and marked a line 3/4" from the edge with an adjustable square to get the screws on the centerline of the width of the frame members.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
Laid the peg board over the mdf to get a rough idea of where my material was. Once I knew where I wanted to trim the peg board, I lined it up with the edge of the mdf and clamped it down so I could use it as a straight edge. I set my flush trim bit so that the length of cut (LOC) extended below the peg board.

SAFETY REMINDER
In case this is the first time you're using a rotating cutting tool (plunge router)... The direction you cut in is very important. With mine, the spindle rotates Clockwise. If you're cutting on the outside of a feature like this and go clockwise around the perimeter, the tool will try to pull the material towards the tool (or the tool will LITERALLY PULL ITSELF OUT OF YOUR HANDS) and could hurt you if you arent careful; this is called a "Climb" cut. Always death grip your rotating tools. You can combat this by using a "conventional" cut vs a climb cut to the detriment of worse surface finish of the cut if that matters to you; there are plenty of resources explaining this online. Any sensible machinist/fabricating/CNC forum or professional would also explain this in detail.

After squaring up the rest of the peg board, I traced the outline onto the mdf. I also drilled through the marked screw locations with a 1/8" drill bit. Then I used a jigsaw on the speed setting and rough blade to trim the mdf close to the outline, leaving enough material to flush trim later. the jigsaw cut can be rough since it'll get cleaned up.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Then, I set my corner clamps to locate one of the frame members (2x4 that was cut earlier). Loosen up the vertical clamps and remove the 2x4. Inspect your work and take your time unless you like to live dangerously, or having to do things twice.

Clean both surfaces to be bonded and apply a liberal amount of wood glue to the interface between the mdf and frame member; I typically use titebond III but just about any decent glue will do. you can always wipe up the excess. Replace the frame member. Line it up with the clamps and square it to the base mdf. Take your time here, as you cant adjust once the glue sets. You can always use C clamps and short drywall screws to locate things, just replace them once they're not needed. I've made boxes before using only drywall screws and wood glue and they seem to work fine, but I'm a little more picky now.

Totally forgot to add the screw holes that will connect this frame member to it's perpendicular adjacent. Now is a good time. I also forgot to countersink the bottom of the screw holes so that the wood screws sit flush without having to displace so much material. Now is also a good time to do this; wood glue takes a while to set so no huge rush but its best to do this beforehand.

I then repeated this process with the rest of the frame members, using the first two as a starting origin. Apply some wood glue to the inside corners and use a squeegee to get up in there. Let it cure.

Finally, use the flush trim bit again to clean up the rough edges using the frame members as a template.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Then I sized up some 2x4 segments for center support of the bed (peg board doesnt resist deflection very well). I Ironed out the grid to hold these down with and marked my holes that were then drilled and countersunk on the bottom side of the base mdf board.

Random tip- If you arent countersinking the exit side of a drilled hole, you can always clean it up/deburr with a chisel to flatten out the bulge.

Clean and apply wood glue to the interface between the center 2x4s and the inside of the base frame. I just hung the table off the end of my work bench to screw it down from the bottom side. Secure with all the screws necessary and let cure.

Flip the table over and place the peg board in place. Mark all the horizontal holes on at least 2 of the center members, preferably the furthest ones apart. Mark a line all the way across all center members. These will be cut to allow air flow through the holes directly over the center members.

Using a 3/8 router bit, I cut slots all the way down each member. This was the most tedious task of the project. Taking shallow depth of cuts is optimal but does take longer. I wouldnt recommend slotting at full depth.

Now is the time to to create upper frames from the lower geometry if desired. You can do this before or after the slots if you want. It doesnt really matter as long as this happens before the peg board is glued.

I cut some 3/4" mdf to near net shape and then flush trimmed the outside of this "lid" using the outside of the frame as a template. Then I drew an inside offset outline of the inside cavity, drilled some holes and cut this out with a jigsaw. I then laid this back over the frame and the inside was cleaned up with the flush trim router bit and the inside of the frame as a template. set this aside.

Remove all the chips/dust and clean the upper interfaces that will contact the peg board. Apply glue, lay the peg board over the frame and secure after it's properly lined up. Allow to cure.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Forgot to mention the Interface for the vacuum hose.. This should probably happen before the peg board gets glued so you can get the chips out easier.

For this I used a tool I hadnt used before- an adjustable hole cutter for drilling tools. I'd never used one of these before so I just kind of winged it.

I took the measurement off of the business end of the vacuum hose (from the shop vac). It's tapered, so I measured min and max, and guesstimated a little closer to the min and would work my way up on a test piece of 2x4 before I cut on the actual part. I adjusted the tool: the cutting edge has to be a radius distance from the centerline of the drill's rotating axis. So I took the desired radius (Half of the desired diameter) and added the radius for the center post of the tool. This was my distance from the far end of the center post to my cutter's opposite edge. It took a few tries and adjustments but it was worked out until it was fitting nice and snug (tightening and holding with interference, under halfway through the hole).

I marked the location of the center of the hole I wanted on one of the short sides of the frame. I derped and when I drilled the pilot hole for this hole tool I hit a screw. So I just scooted over a bit and went to town.

It was going well when I realized I wasnt going to get deep enough since I was creating a concentric boss in the center of this hole. So I took a router bit to the boss and dropped it's height enough to clear the tool. It took a few depth cuts but man prevailed over machine. Not gonna lie, I was tickled pink when I pulled the slug from the side of the frame. I was 2" taller.

After the glue cured on the peg board, I laid a trash bag over the bed and turned on the vacuum. You wouldnt think so but let me tell you, this table really sucks (pun intended). Basically its a low pressure difference, but applied over a large area it generates quite a bit of force.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Rob feature- you the real MVP

Focused4door- Thanks! Yea same, thought I'd take the plunge and maybe make some cool stuff on accident

OCD66- That is the ultimate goal. I want to print or use an existing template, then do wet layup over it and vacuum bag it to get the excess out. However, you can do other stuff with it too. For example, the first thing I attempted was a kydex holster for my rubber-band powered marshmallow launcher.

I ordered 4 12"x12" sheets of .060 Thick Kydex on amazon for ~20USD. I scribed it a few times with a straight edge to get some smaller pieces for a holster mold.

It's rather cold in Arkieland at the moment, so it was hard to get the sheet any hotter than around 50C localized temp in an open garage. All I had was a heat gun, so instead of throwing the kydex in the oven like a sane boring person, I made a blanket for the sheet of kydex... out of aluminum foil. It kinda worked. A little experimenting took place but 180C on the kydex made it malleable enough to use. I laid the "positive" on the vacuum bed, heated up the material, laid it in the orientation shown and turned on the vacuum. Not bad for a very first run around and caveman tools!

The impromptu holster is not really useable at the moment, but a good dry run. More to come.
 

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