Private Woodworking Instruction in a Box
with Hendrik Varju

Produced by Passion for Wood, Ontario, Canada

ISBN 978-1-988901-01-5

As reviewed in The Australian Woodworker Issue 199

TIt seems fitting that this, the video that Hendrik Varju has said will be the last in his long series of ‘Private Woodworking Instructions in a Box’, explores a subject that takes us away from traditional woodworking. He leaves the familiar world of conventional tools and machines to examine the benefits of relatively recent innovations in the application of veneers.

The first topic covered is the special equipment required. Varju introduces the particular vacuum pump that he uses, discusses its supplier and many aspects of its operation. He then turns to the other components of the entire system necessary to vacuum clamp veneered panels after they are glued.

While this information will probably prove invaluable, it must be said that Australian woodworkers may find it necessary to also do their own research into possible local and overseas suppliers before deciding upon the specific gear they intend to use.

Rather than launch immediately into a description of the way in which a vacuum system is set up and used, Varju first describes the clamp and caul method of performing the same task.

He shows that even a relatively small veneered panel demands the use of a largish number of clamps, at least a couple of which must have sufficient reach to exert pressure on the centre of the panel.

While the method can be used quite effectively, the author employs its description to show how much easier and faster it is to use a vacuum pump and bag.

Since it is likely that anyone interested in establishing a vacuum system in their workshop will probably want to engage in making their own veneers, Varju shows how this is done on a bandsaw.

He demonstrates the cutting of fairly thick veneers consecutively from the one board, then using a planer/jointer to smooth the sawn surfaces.

He also shows how these veneers are laid up ready for gluing. Specially designed veneer saws are used to crosscut them to length and also to prepare the mating edges where they are to be joined.

This is an important phase in the operation since the joins must be practically invisible if the veneering is to be successful.

The work continues with the taping of the individual pieces of veneer to cover the substrate, the application of the glue, and the assembly of the veneer and substrate before their insertion in the vacuum bag.

As usual with all of Hendrik Varju’s presentations, there is at least as much value in his hints, tips and side remarks as there is in the main discourse.

For example, his method of arranging the edges of an assembly so as to make it quick and easy to later trim the edges, saves time and promotes accuracy. And his use of pencil marks to gauge the application of the correct amount of glue ensures that enough, but only enough, adhesive is used to form the desired bond.

While some projects may be satisfied by the use of custom-made veneers, others will require the use of commercial veneers and Hendrik presents some of his own stock to illustrate what is available and to comment on the suitability of specific veneers for particular jobs.

Commercial veneers are typically much thinner than those made in the workshop and they therefore require somewhat different methods when they are used. Varju discusses these in detail showing how the more fragile material can be handled with minimum loss to achieve perfectly veneered panels.

Ensuring precise joins between the sheets of veneer tends to be more difficult to achieve when using thin commercial veneers. Varju shows how the edges can be trimmed on a planer/jointer and also how the task can be undertaken with a router using a simple jig as a guide.

In addition, he describes methods he has developed for avoiding the problems that are apt to occur at various points in the process.

For example, he shows how he manipulates the vacuum pressure to avoid possible bleeding of glue through the veneer.

As Varju explains, veneer must never be applied to just one side of a substrate and while it is often necessary to complete veneering of each side separately, it is sometimes possible to save time by doing both of them together.

Eventually, the substrate, with veneer glued to each side, is removed from the vacuum bag and Varju discusses how long it should be left and details the methods of cleaning-up and trimming that are necessary to complete the project ready for sanding and finishing.

While it is dealt with as part of the discourse on vacuum clamping of veneers, the next discussion, which covers the veneering of edges and faces, is equally relevant to any other form of veneer work.

In addition to the actual techniques involved, many fundamental questions are considered including, for example, whether a face or an edge should be given precedence in the veneering of items such as drawer fronts and cupboard doors.

The last Chapter deals with unusual veneers. These heavily patterned veneers are often chosen for their dramatic appearance but they demand care and special techniques if the result is to be satisfactory.

The burls and wavy grained veneers that are used for the demonstrations in this presentation can only be successful if their natural fragility is overcome. It is essential that they provide a smooth surface; the veneer must be firmly bonded to the substrate without voids or cracks.

To this point, the entire discussion has centred on flat surfaces. Attention is now turned to the veneering of surfaces that are curved. As an example, Varju shows how to construct a curved drawer front, veneer it by vacuum methods similar to those used earlier and then trim it ready for use.

The video presentation is rounded out with some Thoughts on Woodworking – a defence of veneers, advice to let the wood do the talking and finally, and most fittingly, given that this is the last of his videos, an exhortation to Try New Techniques to Broaden Your Horizon.

At 9 hours and 20 minutes on 5 DVDs, Simple Vacuum Veneering is a comprehensive guide for anyone wishing to explore this extremely interesting and powerful method of achieving high quality results.

Varju’s many followers in this region will already be aware of the broad scope, meticulous attention to detail and high visual quality of his video presentations. But even they may be surprised to learn that woodworking is not his only passion.

On this, the occasion of the last review of one of his videos in The Australian Woodworker, it is perhaps not out of place to suggest that those interested may wish to visit:

The first of Hendrik Varju’s woodworking videos was released in 2007, the same year in which this profile of him and his work to that date was published in an overseas magazine:

Duration: 9hrs, 20mins, 5discs

DVD – English – NTSC


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