Luthier Tips du Jour Mailbag - Vacuum Fixtures

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Robbie O'Brien answers a question from a viewer from Canada about vacuum fixtures and then shows some of the fixtures he uses in his shop.

Video Transcription

[On-screen text reads: Luthier Tips du Jour Mailbag]

Mailbag question: What vacuum fixtures do you find useful in your shop?

Robert O'Brien: Today's Tips du Jour Mailbag question comes from Dave in Canada. "Robert, recently I watched your video on the use of vacuum. Could you talk more about the vacuum fixtures you find useful in your shop? Thanks, Dave in Canada."

[on-screen text reads:].

Well folks, we're not talking about shop vacs here. We're talking about the use of vacuum fixtures for holding and clamping. Using vacuum in your shop is certainly a luxury rather than a necessity. However, when you put vacuum in your shop, you're going to find a million and one uses for it. It is really a cool thing. So let me show you some of the vacuum fixtures I use in my shop.

Vacuum fixtures I use in my shop

The first thing you need to think about is how to create the vacuum. Now you could use a vacuum pump like the one I'm showing here. You could also use a fixture called a Venturi valve, which looks like this. The Venturi valve hooks up to your compressor. As the air escapes to the line, a perpendicular line comes in and because of the air rushing by on that line, it creates a vacuum or a suction on that line, and thus you have vacuum in your shop.

Use vacuum to hold things

Once you've created a vacuum, you can use it for holding things.

Hold, swivel, and pivot your guitar

Here's an example where I'm using a work holder made by LMI to hold the guitar. It allows me to swivel and pivot the instrument as I work.

Clamp bridges to soundboards

Another use of vacuum is to clamp bridges to soundboards. This is much easier than using clamps to the soundhole. You also don't run the risk of damaging the finish with the clamps.

Hold down radius dishes

Here's another hold down fixture I use in my shop. It is used to hold my radius dishes. This one is just attached permanently to my bench, but you could also make it thicker and put gasket material on both sides. This way it would attach itself anywhere it's placed.

Clamping braces

If you really want to get fancy, you could use a fixture like this for clamping braces instead of using a go bar deck. Vacuum bags are also very useful in the shop and you can use it to do things like double tops. 

So Dave, these are some of the vacuum fixtures I use in my shop. As you can see, there are many uses for vacuum. With some gasket material and rubber membrane, you can even make your own fixtures and you are only limited by the amount of creativity you have. So I hope this has been useful for you, Dave, and happy building.

[on-screen text reads: More Luthier Tips and online courses available at]



Robbie O'Brien

Luthier and Instructor, Lutherie Academy