Veneer / Marquetry Press with Heated Cauls

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Project by shipwright posted 06-17-2011 01:23 AM 12549 views 34 times favorited 29 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I am the last person I would ever have expected to be building a mechanical press like this. I have been a strong proponent and user of vacuum bags of all sizes and shapes for 25 years. However since I’ve become interested in marquetry and in traditional methods and materials, things have changed.

This press incorporated a capacity to apply “hot pressure” by heating 1/2” thick aluminium cauls (20” x 20”) in the large bed or smaller 10” x 20” x 1/4” aluminium cauls in the two smaller beds. I first read about heated cauls in Pierre Ramond’s book “Marquetry” where he describes their traditional value for flattening and stabilizing veneers and veneer packets. They are also very handy for re-activating and re-gluing veneer surfaces that have for one reason or another (read some mistake of mine) failed to stick properly the first time. It works very well and I use the caul heaters far more than I ever thought I would. (OK the BBQ’s.)

The whole press framework is made of D Fir from the building supply, fairly dry but by no means “dry”. The only fastenings are in the bottom rail and the short cross beams and they could come out now. All other fastening is 192 gm hide glue. The non-metal platens are MDF and the blocking is D Fir 4” x4”. The screws are from Lee Valley.

Photos 1 and 2 show the press in action.
Photo 3 shows one of the platens being heated, also the other parts can be seen disassembled.
Photos 4 and 5 show the joinery
Photo 6 shows the last dance for my fine old kettle gule pot. I got my genuine Hold-Heet pot yesterday.

Sketchup Model here:

Critiques, comments and of course questions are always welcome

Thanks for looking

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

29 comments so far

View peteg's profile


4436 posts in 3831 days

#1 posted 06-17-2011 01:35 AM

Paul, the building of the press is a masterpiece on its own, I had a laugh, I have a small back up BBq same as these with the same Gasmate bottles for the overload when a few extra turn up. As I have said before I cant comment on the Marquetry as its outside my field, but I love following your revisit of the old masters techniques.
Cheers Mate

-- Pete G: If you always do what you always did you'll always get what you always got

View Frank Strazza's profile

Frank Strazza

10 posts in 3574 days

#2 posted 06-17-2011 01:35 AM

Paul It looks great! I have heard folks talk about heated cauls but this is the first I have seen of such. I have seen presses, although I don’t have one. I currently use wooden Jorgenson clamps with cauls.
The whole idea of a heated press is interesting as compared to just simply using a veneer hammer. You can view Patrick Edwards video here on hammer veneering,
This is very interesting but I am not sure I understand when you would use the press as compared to the hammer veneering. On the other hand I have had much more success by clamping my veneer as opposed to hammer veneering. If you want to expound on this it might be nice.
Thanks for your input.

-- Heritage School of Woodworking

View shipwright's profile


8678 posts in 3806 days

#3 posted 06-17-2011 02:17 AM

I have no problem with hammer veneering for solid veneer but it can really go sideways fast with a hundred or so tiny pieces of marquetry. Don’t ask how I know that, I just do.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

12301 posts in 4436 days

#4 posted 06-17-2011 02:43 AM

your shop made tools are nicer than my furniture!
That’s a right nice piece of work, friend.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View Mathew Nedeljko's profile

Mathew Nedeljko

715 posts in 4838 days

#5 posted 06-17-2011 06:33 AM

Paul…that really looks great. That finger joinery really looks awesome and that deck beam joint is very cool. How much deflection are you getting in the top beam when you apply pressure with the screws?

I know I have one of these in my future too… I will be asking you lots of questions for some more time to come :)

-- Aim high. Ride easy. Trust God. Neale Donald Walsch

View shipwright's profile


8678 posts in 3806 days

#6 posted 06-17-2011 06:50 AM

Thanks Mat, Gene and Pete
No discernible deflection and no sign of any weakness in the glue joint that’s holding the top beam in place, but then it’s hide glue. BTW I’m really impressed with the amount of pressure you can apply with those six screws.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View Jacquelyn Smith's profile

Jacquelyn Smith

96 posts in 3575 days

#7 posted 06-17-2011 06:52 AM

I love it! Very exciting. I’m looking forward to seeing what you produce with it.
Thanks for sharing.


View Billp's profile


804 posts in 5208 days

#8 posted 06-17-2011 06:57 AM

Excellent Paul, I just purchased Pierre Raymonds book and should be getting it in a few days. You just keep adding to my list of things I have to build. So whats you recipe? How long do you cook your’e aluminium cauls for and do you use news paper between them and the packet with the aluminium on top and bottom? How long do you leave in the oven? I have the same glue pot.The piece that is by the chiesel is that the lower cross member?

-- Billp

View shipwright's profile


8678 posts in 3806 days

#9 posted 06-17-2011 08:07 AM

To reach the 140 degree range ( glue prep temp) suggested for flattening veneer glued to paper it only takes a minute. I have tried the 200+ degree temp to flatten unglued veneer but I don’t have a surface reading thermometer so I’m not really sure haw accurate I was. It took about three min to get to what I thought was boiling. (water droplets danced).
For the hotter cauls , yes, I use newspaper, un-printed of course.
The piece by the chisel is the deck beam joint Mat referred to. I’s an old boatbuilders’ joint and it goes here:

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View cathyb's profile


844 posts in 4252 days

#10 posted 06-17-2011 09:50 AM

Ahhhhhhh…....this is just delightful to watch. The joinery is sweet. I’ve got to give it a go- maybe tomorrow. I’m sure I’ll slip up somewhere, but it sure will be fun to try. Thanks for the tutorial. You always inspire me.

-- cathyb, Hawaii,

View Ken90712's profile


17972 posts in 4197 days

#11 posted 06-17-2011 11:04 AM

Very interesting post! Thx for sharing and well done!

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4342 days

#12 posted 06-17-2011 11:32 AM

An impressive press and versatile too.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Richard's profile


297 posts in 3545 days

#13 posted 06-17-2011 12:44 PM

Only a true artist can make a tool look like a piece of art!

-- 'I sand, therefore, I am'. Richard. PNW.

View SPalm's profile


5338 posts in 4890 days

#14 posted 06-17-2011 02:19 PM

I love the joinery, a lot.
You got skills, my man. Fun to watch.

Interesting idea, with the heat. So much to learn.

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View CaptainAhab's profile


214 posts in 3805 days

#15 posted 06-17-2011 04:10 PM

Nice work, Paul! I get the feeling you’re not a half-way kinda guy!

-- Dave

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