5 Basic Clamps for Every Woodworking Shop - Router Forums

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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-10-2017, 11:14 AM Thread Starter
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Default 5 Basic Clamps for Every Woodworking Shop



There are enough clamp styles available to woodworkers that it's tough to know which tools you absolutely need to have in your shop. Whether you're a beginning woodworker who needs a full clamp setup or a veteran looking to re-evaluate a career's worth of basic clamps, separating the necessary from the nice-to-have isn't easy. Here are five basic clamp styles that every artisan or craftsperson should have in their workshop.

C-Clamps

The basic workhorse clamps of every craftsman's arsenal, C-clamps are so versatile and in such universal use that they're often overlooked. They generally range in size from four-inch maximum capacity to eight-inch maximum capacity. They're inexpensive enough so you can buy a whole set and versatile enough that they can act as an extra set of hands. They fit into tight spots and are perfect for odd jobs around the shop, such as keeping your router fence piece in place.

F-Style Clamps

F-style clamps, also called bar clamps, are the main clamps most woodworkers use on a day-to-day basis. They range from small four-inch capacity clamps to 30 inches or above and they do everything from holding the fence in place to helping assemble cabinets and drawers. With bar or F-style clamps, you can apply direct pressure to joints and keep your wood in alignment as you twist the handles of the clamp.

Parallel Jaw Clamps

If F-style bar clamps are the workhorses of the woodworking world, parallel jaw clamps are the show stoppers. The draw of these clamps – which are nice to have but not strictly necessary – is that the jaws stay absolutely parallel as you tighten the clamps. Parallel jaw clamps perform every function that other clamps can, as well as a few they can't (like standing on end as glue dries). Like other clamps, they’re available in a variety of sizes starting at 4 inches; unlike most other basic clamps, they're both quite heavy and expensive.

The original parallel jaw clamps were manufactured by Bessey, although several manufacturers have introduced their own versions. The consensus seems to be you either love or hate parallel jaw clamps. If you love them, you already have a preferred brand.

Pipe Clamps

Pipe clamps are the most affordable option for large jobs like bookcases or tabletops. They perform a similar function to parallel jaw clamps at small fraction of the price. The clamp heads attach to a standard piece of plumber's pipe, meaning you can make a clamp in nearly any size you need. Keep an array of high quality pipe couplings and fittings on hand and you'll have a set of clamps customized specifically to your needs, whatever they may be.

Spring Clamps

Spring clamps, like C-clamps, are so basic they're usually forgotten when we talk about basic woodworking clamps. These clamps act and look a lot like clothespins or binder clips and they perform a similar function: holding smaller things in place as you work on them or as they dry. With a variety of sizes available and an incredibly low price point, it'd be a crime not to have an entire collection in the shop.

Although these basic woodworking clamps allow you to perform almost every job that comes your way, there are endless variations on these styles as manufacturers continue to improve on basic designs. As you work with your tools, you'll discover what works for you or doesn't and what features you like or dislike. Then you can search out more specialized clamps based on those preferences and needs.

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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-11-2017, 07:07 AM
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Always good to get back to basics...thanks...

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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-11-2017, 07:39 AM
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The list about says it all. However, I don't use many "C" clamps. I find, that, it is too easy to damage a project unless you are really careful how you use/apply them. I really like parallel wood clamps. Once you learn how to use them properly they are great, versatile tools to use. However, can be a little bulky and hard to position in some instances.

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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-11-2017, 09:39 AM
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The clamps I use as often as any other are the quick-grip type of one-handed clamps. The good ones are pricey though. There are some real junk ones at the cheap end of the market, though I did recently buy some sold under the "Craftright" brand that are usable.

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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-11-2017, 09:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AndyL View Post
The clamps I use as often as any other are the quick-grip type of one-handed clamps. The good ones are pricey though. There are some real junk ones at the cheap end of the market, though I did recently buy some sold under the "Craftright" brand that are usable.
These are must-have for me... on nearly every project I use them: drawers, boxes, tables etc.
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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-12-2017, 05:31 PM
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There are many more clamps than the original 5 listed. The first photo shows some plastic ones that are similar to vise grips. They are also used one handed like the pistol grip type but sometimes I find the pistol grip style awkward to squeeze. These have a much more limited range but they are often more ergonomic to use.

Also an important one that is missing is the aluminum beam clamp made from an aluminum tube. These are great in lengths of 36" and up. I've seen 72" but mine is a 60". At that length pipe or bar clamps start getting pretty heavy. The aluminum clamps can be managed one handed which gives you a chance to get your parts held together so that you can get some heavier clamps in place using both hands.

There are some small plastic screw clamps in the photo made by DeStaco. I got these on sale from LV once. They see limited use but once in a while they fit the jog well. One good thing about them is that the tips don't bind if you have the clamp on a little crooked.

Then of course are all the myriad of DeStaco toggle clamps or someone elses version of them. Some push out, some down, some pull. Virtually anything you could need one for they make.

I forgot to add in the first photo a Bessey Clipix. The jaws on these will slide up and down to fit your thickness but stay put once pressure is on. They are spring loaded like spring clamps. They come with one or two moveable jaws. I can't remember how much they were but Besseys are never at the cheap end but you do get a quality tool from them.

One other I forgot about and didn't take a picture of is strap clamps mike the tie down ratchet straps (which also work). Great for pulling chair rungs together.

There are still others. I know luthiers use a cam type clamp. If anyone has those please post a picture.
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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-12-2017, 07:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by schnewj View Post
The list about says it all. However, I don't use many "C" clamps. I find, that, it is too easy to damage a project unless you are really careful how you use/apply them. I really like parallel wood clamps. Once you learn how to use them properly they are great, versatile tools to use. However, can be a little bulky and hard to position in some instances.
Agreed. Hand screw clamps seemed out-dated to me when I first started woodworking. Bought a few on a really cheap Rockler sale, kept them dusty for a few years. Then I used one--i'm hooked. As Bill said, versatile...and I find them surprisingly quick if I take a second to get them close. They also hold tightly with seemingly little force.
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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-13-2017, 08:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cherryville Chuck View Post
There are many more clamps than the original 5 listed. The first photo shows some plastic ones that are similar to vise grips. They are also used one handed like the pistol grip type but sometimes I find the pistol grip style awkward to squeeze. These have a much more limited range but they are often more ergonomic to use.

Also an important one that is missing is the aluminum beam clamp made from an aluminum tube. These are great in lengths of 36" and up. I've seen 72" but mine is a 60". At that length pipe or bar clamps start getting pretty heavy. The aluminum clamps can be managed one handed which gives you a chance to get your parts held together so that you can get some heavier clamps in place using both hands.

There are some small plastic screw clamps in the photo made by DeStaco. I got these on sale from LV once. They see limited use but once in a while they fit the jog well. One good thing about them is that the tips don't bind if you have the clamp on a little crooked.

Then of course are all the myriad of DeStaco toggle clamps or someone elses version of them. Some push out, some down, some pull. Virtually anything you could need one for they make.

I forgot to add in the first photo a Bessey Clipix. The jaws on these will slide up and down to fit your thickness but stay put once pressure is on. They are spring loaded like spring clamps. They come with one or two moveable jaws. I can't remember how much they were but Besseys are never at the cheap end but you do get a quality tool from them.

One other I forgot about and didn't take a picture of is strap clamps mike the tie down ratchet straps (which also work). Great for pulling chair rungs together.

There are still others. I know luthiers use a cam type clamp. If anyone has those please post a picture.
The old adage, "...you can never have enough clamps", is true to a certain extent. The problem is, that, there are so many different types of clamps, intended for specific purposes, that it is virtually impossible to have the "best" clamp at all times. I think, that, the average hobbies has a basic variety of clamps like those originally listed. However, there are many more useful types that the average person just doesn't have. Some are better for the intended purpose, but if you don't have them you make do. It doesn't mean that the job doesn't get done properly.

As I stated, earlier, I don't use "C" clamps except on rare occasions. I've had bad experiences with them in the past (mostly due to my own fault(s)) and I prefer not to use them. I find other ways to do the job. Doesn't mean, that, they aren't useful.

Chuck is right, the list is only the start. I'm sure that all of us have at least one band clamp (and ratchet straps...very useful..), a variety of spring clamps, etc. in the shop. Do we use them on a regular basis, probably not, but I wouldn't be without some of them.
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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-19-2017, 08:31 AM
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Default Guess this qualifies as a clamp

Maybe this is between a clamp and a vise. Been toying with different ideas for the backsplash in the downstairs bath, couldn't find a tile we liked to match the other colors, didn't have enough laminate to glue to the wall (my preference), so just went with a standard backsplash - a little taller because the sink will double as a utility tub for cleaning paint brushes, etc.

I've used these clamps (made by Wolfcraft, label is still on them) for years to hold the backsplash while filing the edges - attach them to the edge of the workbench and just drop the backsplash in there and snug up the clamp - I have a couple pair so can work on longer pieces, makes the whole job go much quicker.

I've had these for years, don't remember where I bought them but didn't remember seeing them advertised anywhere recently so took a look and couldn't find them listed anywhere, even on eBay so thinking that they're not available any more which is a shame. Guess there just wasn't enough call for them - or there are maybe newer options.
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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-19-2017, 12:50 PM
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Actually the Workmate you show is a type of clamp too, either squeezing something between the two halves or using dogs with the dog holes in the tops. They can be very handy at times. I've used mine many times to hold boards so that I can do some free hand routing.
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