Working with any material in any working environment, there are two main points to review when talking about work holding. Work height and orientation. If you cannot have your material in the location and orientation your work becomes increasingly less enjoyable and less comfortable. For discussion purposes, this blog will lean towards woodworking as that is Andy’s expertise and the main industry for the Festool Vac-Sys Vacuum clamping system but a lot of these points and discussion topics can be cross related to almost all other industries that require someone to hold a piece of material or part in place and complete a task with it.
There are a variety of different levels of woodworking shops that can be categorized into four levels. The beginner, weekend warrior, professional, and the production shop. Between these three levels you will find various different grades of equipment and abilities. Obviously the professional shop will have the bells and whistles but maybe a little more specific while the beginner will have exactly that. An introductory set of equipment and a more broad brush for applications. The production shop will have dedicated equipment for the repetitive tasks that they do. Typically this equipment is extremely specialized and expensive. It is meant to do a task efficiently and to the correct specifications. We can’t forget about the contractor on the job-site!
Work holding equipment is an extremely large and creative category. You can see clamps, bench vises, large vacuum tables, specialized equipment for dog holes, etc. All of these options have their own pros and cons but we have received an ultimate work holding piece of equipment in the shop that can apply to just about all categories. It is pricey so it maybe out of the reach for the beginner or weekend warrior but that is to be discussed later.
Festool Vac-Sys Vacuum Clamping System
An incredible way to harness the power of vacuum to hold your material in the orientation and the height you desire. Festool released their Vac-Sys Clamping Sytem March 1st 2016 and has been a show stopper ever since. “The Vac-Sys provides fast, easy, and highly maneuverable solutions for almost any clamping application” said Steve Rangoussis with Festool and we could agree more. The system relies on a vacuum pump to apply vacuum to the two clamping modules. We have the Vac-Sys System Set which includes the Vacuum pump (VAC-PMP) Vacuum clamping unit (VAC SyS SE1) and the Clamping module (Vac-SyS SE2).
This full system allows you to clamp extremely large objects such as doors, counter tops, or anything that requires two points of work holding. The main clamping module (Vac-Sys SE1) has an integrated foot pedal to release your material from the clamping force. It essential allows atmosphere to enter the system again eliminating the vacuum and holding power of the system. The user can quickly attach and remove their material from the units utilizing the foot pedal and the green plunger that is in the middle of the clamping cups. This green plunger gets depressed allowing the vacuum to have access to the clamping cups. With your material making a tight seal, the vacuum give some intense holding power to your material. The unit can be held down to the table with clamps, screws, or the integrated vacuum clamping on the bottom.
The clamping head can be rotated a full 360 degrees and/or can be tilted from 0-90 degrees.
Features and Specifications:
- Vacuum Pump
- Vacuum clamping unit
- Clamping module
- Can hold up to 200 pounds
- Two different shaped clamping cups
- Various accessories and clamping cups available
- Vacuums to your work surface
- Foot pedal to release the vacuum
Setting Up and How To Use
Setting up the Festool Vacuum clamping system is extremely easy. You first need to decide how you would like to hold the units down to your work surface. You can utilize the vacuum bases on the units themselves but will need a nice smooth and nonporous surface. You can screw it down with some wood screws or even clamp it down. It will depend on how often you will use it and how much space you have. For a dedicated space in a shop, securing it down with screws to your work surface is the best option. If you are in a shop where you have to tear it down quite often , like a weekend warrior or a regular shop without dedicated space for the setup, you can use the vacuum base or screw it to a piece of wood and then clamp the wood to your work surface. This is equally applicable to the person on the job-site. Festool also offers an accessory for quickly attached and removing from the MFT tables.
Once the unit is secured to your work surface, you simply need to turn on the vacuum pump and place your material on the clamping cups. Apply a little force to complete the seal on the clamping cups. This force will also depress the green plunger we discussed earlier. That will also the vacuum pump to remove the atmosphere in the clamping cup and apply an intense amount of clamping force to your material. You can either manipulate the clamping head before or after placing your material on. We find it easy to do it after with small pieces of material and before with larger ones. When you would like to remove the material, press you foot on the foot pedal to release the vacuum clamping force. The plunger will reseal the system and the pump will begin to build vacuum again and ready for your next clamping needs.
Fast, Easy, Simple
The Festool vacuum clamping system is extremely fast, easy, and simple to operate. This is exactly what everyone wants from any product. The vacuum clamping system is extremely fast. It allows a user to switch between clamping one part to another in a blink of an eye. The system is extremely easy and simple to setup and operate. This means that there is minimal training and risk with new employees and gets them focused on the actual task at hand rather than learning a new piece of equipment.
Applications and Uses
Oh boy! Where do we start! In a woodworking shop, typically the middle to the end of a project is when parts need to be held for sanding, scraping, planing, chiseling, etc. Cabinet doors, custom shapes, full sized doors, small parts, repetitive tasks, etc are all tasks that are common parts in a woodworking shop.
On the job-site, a finish carpenter or installer may need to hold some doors to trim them to size. The Festool Vacuum System is the perfect on the job-site clamping system. It is small and portable, easy and fast to setup, and is quiet. The vacuum pump barely makes any noise so it is perfect for the occupied space.
Two major applications that we believe this unit can pay for itself in efficiency and comfortably is edge banding and large man door work.
The Festool Vacuum Clamping System is expensive. We believe that expense is an investment to both your, your labor force, and your products. It will make completing the required task faster, make it more enjoyable, and allow you to get better results (over a long stretch of time).