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I use a laser cutter to create intricate shapes out of 1/4 inch thick re-sawn pine, then laminate them together to form 1/2 and 3/4 inch thick structural elements in small boxes, corbels and briefcases. Sometimes my intricate designs defy easy clamping during the laminating step, sliding laterally out of alignment and leaving ledges which must be sanded away.

When the goal is 3 layers for a thickness of 3/4 inch or more, I've been successful using a corded nailer to pin the layers in place while the glue is still wet. That technique doesn't work for 2 layer thick constructions because the smallest pins which that nailer can handle are longer than the construction's 1/2 inch thickness.

What techniques are available to laminate small wooden objects together which provide precise lateral placement of each object in relation to each other, yet results in a strong, permanent bond?

  • Hi Henry, thanks for the post, but unfortunately product recommendations are out of scope for this site. It looks like you do have a valid question if you remove the "tool recommendation" parts, and just focus on suggestions on how to solve your issue, which might include using a different type of glue, alternative ways of holding the parts in place, using longer brads and trimming them afterward, or finding out how to locate a nailer that better fits your needs, for example. – rob Oct 7 at 15:29
  • @rob, I thought that was the case but then I saw the "tool-selection" tag which is a bit ambiguous on the point. If possible, could you enhance that tag's description to clearly state that it should not be used for product recommendations. Also, thanks for the pseudo-answer. Your "different type of glue" comment made me realize that I could be using CA glue for this purpose. – Henry Taylor Oct 7 at 16:03
  • Glad to help, and thank you for the suggestion; I added a note about purchasing recommendations to the tag wiki. Please still feel free to edit the question to remove the purchasing recommendation parts, and I (or one of the other mods) will be happy to reopen it. :) – rob Oct 7 at 22:04
  • @rob, I've edited the question to avoid the tool recommendation aspects. At this point, the question serves as an opportunity for knowledgable laminators to share their wisdom on this subject. That sharing might greatly assist future visitors to the forum. As for me, your alternative glue comment has provided what I need. I'm headed out to the garage right now to give CA glue a try. Thanks! – Henry Taylor Oct 7 at 22:22
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    Not simple or cheap a vacuum bag setup should work quite well for this. – Monte Glover Oct 13 at 3:39
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What techniques are available to laminate small wooden objects together which provide precise lateral placement of each object in relation to each other, yet results in a strong, permanent bond?

Obviously you can use nails or screws, both going into pre-drilled holes if necessary to help with exact location and speedy placement, and driven from the back if you don't want anything visible on the finished item.

But a great trick that's much more expedient is to use superglue like 'tack welds' in select locations, with your primary adhesive spread on the majority of the glue surface. This is a great trick for getting a strong initial hold without the use of any mechanical fasteners, or clamps, while still getting the strength and reliability provided by the main adhesive whatever it is.

However you should note that if you are using a PVA-type glue (white or yellow) maximum bond strength is only achieved by high clamp pressures. For small boxes and decorative pieces this may not be a particular concern, but where high strength is needed but strong clamps aren't available/can't be used and mechanical fasteners aren't an option (these act like tiny clamps) epoxy should be chosen as the main adhesive. In both cases the bond faces should be refreshed by a light sanding unless just revealed by any prior operation, see previous Question, What do I need to do to prepare wood for gluing?.

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You may consider making a clamping jig to hold the parts in alignment while the glue dries under clamp pressure.

  • Start with a thick piece of stock, maybe 3/4" plywood, or a piece of 2x4*
  • Draw the outline of the parts to be clamped
  • Drill holes just outside the outline of the parts
  • Insert dowels - metal ones should prevent PVA glue from sticking
    • Ensure that the dowel height is greater than the thickness of one piece being clamped, but less than the thickness of both pieces (i.e. about 3/8" should stick up above the surface of the jig for your 1/4" thick stock)
  • Line the jig with some wax paper to prevent the glue from sticking to the jig
  • Glue up your pieces and insert them in the jig
  • Place one side of the clamp under the base of the jig and the other on the top piece being glued and tighten.

* Plywood would probably work much better than dimensional lumber. Even better might be plastic stock (for example PVC trim "wood") to help prevent gluing your parts to the jig with squeeze-out.

The number and placement of the pins would, of course, depend on the shape you're clamping. I'll assume that you can figure out which way things would like to move and place the pins to prevent movement in those directions.

You could make additional jigs with taller pins to support the glue-up of 3-layer laminations as well. While I understand that you can pin-nail them together, you may decide that you like the non-nailed versions better and this would allow you to avoid that if you choose.

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