Airfield Models - How To

Make a Dual Axis, Variable Height Vacuum Holder

May 05, 2015

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Airfield Models ( a Dual Axis, Variable Height Vacuum Holder

Generally I don't mind too much if whatever I'm doing causes wood chips to spread over a fairly wide radius.  However, there are times when the chips can not only interfere with your work but can actually ruin it.

Without going into the math, I've found that I can make magnetic model-building fixtures most efficiently as sixteen sets of thirty pieces (twenty-two fixtures plus eight vertical presses).  All fixture sizes but the 1-1/2" tall have three holes drilled in them.  The 1-1/2" tall fixtures have only two holes.

Including the vertical presses that comes to 1,248 holes that need to be drilled.  I've set up a fixture for my drill press that allows the holes to be very accurately placed.  It's basically a pair of fences on an X-Y table.  The problem is that when a hole is drilled and the work is removed there are chips that remain on the table and prevent the next piece from snugging up against the fences.

I've tried a couple of fixes such as putting under-cuts in the fences and opening the corner between the two fences but the undercuts eventually clog and I'm back to having the same problem.  Up to now I've just blown the chips away which is probably good for my lungs but bad for my attitude and noticeably slows down the process.

At first I thought I'd do the same thing that a lot of people have done with their scroll saws get an aquarium pump to blow the chips away.

While I was studying the problem I was gazing over a workbench that was covered in wood chips from the fixtures I'd already drilled.  Making a device that blows the chips around even more wasn't the best solution.

So I decided to make a fixture to hold my vacuum.  My first version was quickly rigged and worked very well.  There were two problems with the first version.  The height wasn't adjustable and the vacuum couldn't swivel up and down.  The vacuum could swivel back and forth and I built it for the task at hand so the missing features weren't a problem.

Soon after I had another situation where this tool would have been the perfect solution.  But it was not the correct height.  I could have rigged something to the existing setup to make it work but I decided to make something more universal so I wouldn't be adding rigging on top of rigging.

The only real problem with this setup is that the vacuum is on full time.  I don't know how much that affects my energy bill but whenever my vac will be on for more than a few seconds I wear hearing protection which means I have to turn off the music since I can't hear it anyway.  My life continues to be one of strife and hardship.

Also see

Vacuum Holder v1.0. My first attempt at this.  It worked extremely well but wasn't very adaptable to other situations.

The rotating vacuum holder is held to the base by a single screw tightened such that the holder can be rotated but will stay in place once in position.

A couple set screws retain the wand in the holder.  Again, this was quickly rigged and I grabbed what I had handy.  The hardware is expensive stainless steel and requires a tool to adjust.

My new deluxe version uses cheap thumbscrews.

Vacuum Holder v1.0. I used an extension wand that was sitting around doing nothing.  The end was cut at an angle which appears to have lowered the amount of vacuum due to the larger hole but it works.

The few stray chips that don't get picked up are easily scooted under the wand and away they go.

This idea made the task of drilling over 1,000 holes go much faster.

I had to experiment a bit by rotating the wand until it worked best.  That problem was quickly solved.

Parts to make the vacuum holder. Very little is needed to make the Dual-Rotational, Reversible, Variable Height, Bench-Mounted Vacuum Pickup Tool Holder v2.0TM.  I used scrap 3/4" medium density fiberboard (MDF) and miscellaneous pieces of hardware.

The actual holder (the small part with the big hole) has a 2" piece of threaded rod glued in.  A hole-saw was used to cut the hole.  Hole saw sets are inexpensive and available at hardware stores.  Alternatively you can draw a circle around the wand and use a scroll saw.

Two small thumbscrews retain the vacuum wand.

The post has several holes that allow the holder to be at whatever height works best for the task.  A wing nut retains the holder to the post.

The post is held to the base by a single wood screw. The post is held to the base using a single wood screw.  The screw is tightened to the point where the post can rotate but won't move unless forced.
Very simple assembly. Simple assembly.  This is a really quick project that I extended by applying a few coats of polyurethane.
Adjustable positioning makes this tool very versatile. Adjustable positioning makes this tool very versatile.
Mount the base to your bench using clamps. The base can be held to the bench any way you like.  C-Clamps will work well or the base could be screwed to the workbench but I don't recommend drilling holes in your bench unless absolutely necessary.

I used my board clamps.



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Copyright 2007 Paul K. Johnson