Know Your Tools: Clamps

Know Your Tools: Clamps

Johnny Williams
Sep 10, 2010

Without the proper tools, even the most patient do-it-yourselfers can come unglued. Though with a few good clamps at hand, you should have no problem holding it together! So which type are the best to buy?

A clamp may not be the coolest tool in the shed, but it gets the job done. Whether you're fixing a wobbly table leg or reattaching a loose drawer pull, clamps are the only reliable way of exerting steady, even pressure on a glue joint. Cabinetmakers like to say, "you can never have too many clamps." But where should you start if you've never had any?

Parallel bar clamps — As a woodworker, these heavy-duty steel clamps are a must-have. Their durable jaws exert parallel pressure over a wide span making it the perfect clamp for gluing up doors, drawers and boxes. Granted, these highly effective clamps are also highly expensive. Jet and Bessey make the best.

Pipe clamps — Fortunately, there is economical alternative. Pipe clamps are sold simply as a pair of clamping jaws. Attach these components to a common length of pipe (however long you like) and a cheap clamp is born. Jorgensen makes a good pair for around $12.

One handed bar clamps — These clamps are well-regarded for their user-friendly function. The handle on the lower jaw allows one to tighten the clamp with a simple squeeze, leaving your other hand free to adjust the workpiece. But bear in mind, this handy feature does limit the amount of pressure you're able to apply. Irwin's Quick-Grips are a good choice.

Spring clamps — These clamps are a low-cost, no-brainer addition to your toolbox. Try the two-inch type, perfect for quickly gluing up smaller-sized objects. Buy these at your local hardware store for a buck.

F clamps — Shaped like the letter, this is your general-purpose, "workhorse" clamp. Available in a variety of sizes, they are designed to put powerful pressure on a smaller surface area. But be careful how much you tighten, it's very easy to indent wood with this type of clamps. To avoid indentations, use wooden clamping blocks or "cauls" on either side of your glue surface. But remember to cover the cauls in packing tape so you don't glue them to your workpiece! Again, Bessey is a trusted source.

Of course, there are many other types of clamps, but these five should get you started. Best of luck and happy clamping!

Images: 1 Bessey Tools, 2 Woodcraft , 3 Irwin Tools, 4 Alzo Digital, 5 Bessey Tools

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