How to Use Woodworking Clamps

By | June 14, 2017

Most of us might be able to get by with a single hammer or one saw, but the same simple philosophy tool does not work when it comes to forceps. This is because it is not a clip that is versatile enough to meet all of our DIY clamping tasks. Fortunately, pliers come in many different styles, different sizes and finishes and as every carpenter will tell you you can not have to.

Here is a brief overview of the eight most important tweezers necessary repair projects in woodworking and processing. Remember that you can buy for example several of the same kind of clamps various sizes of C clamps or spring clips, but a tong tab or strip is usually sufficient.

  1. C-Clamp. Every clamp collection starts with a few C-clamps. Light-duty C-clamps are sufficient for most home and shop projects; I’d recommend getting six to eight clamps ranging from 4 in. ($9) to 8 in. ($19); the size indicates the maximum clamping capacity. Once you have a few basic C-clamps, consider adding some specialty models. Here are two of my favorites: The Three-Way Edging Clamp ($13) has three adjustable clamping screws, not just one. It’s handy for gluing and clamping strips of hardwood to the edges of cabinet doors, counters and tabletops. The Double-Headed Clamp ($11) is a cleverly designed C-clamp with three clamping points, not just two as on a typical C-clamp. Imagine holding two pieces of wood tightly together using just your thumb and forefinger. That’s the way a traditional C-clamp works. Now, imagine holding the wood pieces with your thumb on top, and your forefinger and middle finger below. That’s similar to the superior three-point pressure provided by a double-headed clamp.
  2. Pipe-Clamp Fixtures. When you need to exert bone-crushing pressure or securely hold very large projects, make your own clamps from pipe-clamp fixtures and standard black iron or galvanized pipe. Take the stationary headstock fixture and thread it onto the end of the pipe. Then slide the adjustable tailstock fixture onto the opposite pipe end. Clamping capacity is limited only by the length of the pipe. And you can use couplings to join lengths of pipe, so you can make clamps of virtually any length. Pipe-clamp fixtures are commonly available for both 1/2-in.-dia ($15) and 3/4-in.-dia ($18) pipe. The fixtures and pipes are sold at most hardware stores and home centers. Expect to pay about $10 to $12 for a 4-ft-long piece of 1/2-in. black iron pipe, and $12 to $14 for a 4-ft-long piece of 3/4-in. black iron pipe. I’d recommend making a minimum of two 2-ft clamps using1/2-in. pipe, and two 4-ft using the 3/4-in. Also pick up some couplings and extra 4-ft. lengths of pipe for extending the reach of the pipe clamps.
  3. Deep-Throat Bar Clamp. If you’re going to make a few pipe clamps, then you won’t need traditional bar clamps, but I do strongly recommend buying four to six deep-throat bar clamps. These versatile clamps combine the power and long-arm stretch of a pipe clamp with the deep-reach capacity of a C-clamp. They’re typically available with a depth of 2½ in. and 4 in., making them indispensable for a wide variety of home-repair and woodworking jobs. Deep-throat bar clamps come in clamping capacities ranging from about 6 in. to 79 in., but the most useful sizes are between 16 in. ($17) and 36 in. ($21).
  4. Handscrew Clamps. The average DIYer could probably get by without owning any hand-screw clamps, but they’re almost too cool-looking to pass up. They also happen to be extremely versatile. These traditional woodworking clamps have solid maple jaws and dual threaded-rod handles that allow you to apply tremendous pressure. You can also adjust the jaws to easily clamp tapered, sloping and offset workpieces, something that’s impossible to do with any other clamp. Handscrews are typically available in 12 sizes ranging from a 4-in. jaw length with a 2-in. clamping capacity ($15) to a 24-in. jaw length with a 17-in. capacity ($83).
  5. One-Handed Bar Clamps. The widespread popularity of one-handed bar clamps is no mystery. DIYers and pros alike love them because they can be tightened and released using just one hand. It sounds simple, but remember for most clamps you need one hand to position the clamp and another to tighten it. One-handed bar clamps typically have one sliding jaw and one fixed jaw. The sliding jaw is fitted with a trigger-grip handle. Each time you squeeze the handle, the sliding jaw advances along the steel bar toward the fixed jaw. Pressing the release lever unlocks the pressure. On some models you can remove both jaws and turn them around for use as a spreader to push apart two pieces. One-handed bar clamps are commonly available in sizes ranging from 6 in. to 50 in., but I’ve found that the 18-in. ($20) and 36-in. ($25) sizes are most useful.
  6. Spring Clamp. Spring clamps, also called pinch clamps, look like clothespins on steroids. And like clothespins, spring clamps are simply two handle/jaw parts joined together by a steel spring. But don’t be fooled by their small size-these are powerful little tools. Spring clamps are handy for making small repairs and for acting as a third hand to hold items for painting or gluing. I like the style that has rubber pads on the handles and jaws. They come in sizes ranging from a 1-in. capacity with 4-in.-long jaws ($3) to a 4-in. capacity with 12-in.-long jaws ($18).
  7. Ratchet-Action Band Clamp. For clamping round, oval, hexagonal and other odd-shaped pieces, nothing beats a band clamp. Unlike most clamps that have rigid frames, a band clamp uses a long, flexible nylon strap, or band, to secure workpieces. Models with 1-in.-wide x 15-ft bands are adequate (about $12), but I prefer the added support, capacity and strength of a 2-in.-wide x 30-ft band clamp ($25). Regardless of which size band clamp you buy, be sure it’s fitted with a ratcheting mechanism, which makes it very easy to tighten and release the band. Nonratcheting band clamps are tightened with a small open-end wrench, which is a tedious, frustrating chore.
  8. Miter Clamp. The challenge of holding two pieces at a precise right angle is made much easier with a miter clamp (about $25). This handy tool has two clamping fixtures set at a 90-degree angle. You simply slide in each board and tighten the screw-thread handles, and the clamp will automatically hold the pieces at a right angle. This clamp is useful for assembling miter joints, such as those used on moldings and picture frames, but also for right-angle butt joints and T-shaped joints.


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