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I'm trying to put together my shop. I've been finally blessed with an area I actually have the room for one, and am piecing it together.

Something I know I need are clamps. Up till now I've made some smaller furniture but I'm starting to venture in to making some larger things. I looked to buy some clamps and my God there are a ton of different one. Crazy amount of clamps....

I would like to know what you guys would do if you had basically no clamps and wanted to Start getting some. I've tried pawn shops and yard sales to no avail, so if I take the hit and buy some here and there on internet, where should I start?

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For quantity, but not the greatest quality, venture over to Harbor Freight. They work for most stuff. Then you can start adding some better ones once you see what you'll need. Then buy em as you need em. They'll accumulate rather quickly.
 

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I second the Harbor Freight clamps suggestion. I have a bunch, and buy more as I need them. They aren't great, and sometimes don't last long, but they do the job without breaking the bank.

If money were no object, I would buy a bunch of Bessy F-clamps in 12-36" lengths, a dozen pairs of pipe clamp ends, and have a variety of lengths of pipes made. I would buy a couple of those cabinet corner clamps, because I am often doing assembly solo, and they would be handy.

My $0.02 worth
 

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I have a mixture of HF, Bessey and others.
You can never have too many clamps! :surprise::grin:

I have a bunch of these in 6 inch and a few in 12 inch length.

And some aluminum bar clamps in several lengths.

And a few Bessey K Body Parallel clamps purchased when Lowe's closed out the line at their stores.

And some pipe clamps...mostly 1/2 inch diameter pipe.
 

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One of the first things you should know is that the primary cause of joint failure is over clamping, as in applying too much pressure on the glue. That fact should have some impact on what you buy.

Aluminum beam clamps are nice in lengths from about 36" to 60" because at that length the steel bar clamps start getting heavy and hard to manhandle. You can't put a lot of pressure on a joint with them but that doesn't matter that often because (go back and read the above paragraph).

To do kitchen drawers or glue to the edge of countertops you'll need some 30" clamps. 24" won't be long enough most of the time. I find 24" to be a bit of a bastardized size and you wouldn't automatically think that.

Pipe clamps are handy and not particularly expensive. They will put a lot of pressure on something and if you use pipe threaded on both ends you can use pipe couplers to join the pipes together for longer lengths. I've had mine out to almost 12'. You might be able to get some cheap used pipe at salvage yards or where buildings are being torn down.

The most common size I use is between 4-6". I bought a box of 10 4" clamps from Lee Valley years ago for $40 and unfortunately they don't carry them anymore. Some of them are wearing out and I wish I could replace them with more of the same.

It's nice to have a couple of squeeze clamps that can be used one handed. They are great for holding something while you position and get a pin or screw in or add another clamp. It doesn't hurt to have some clothes pin type squeeze clamps too.
 

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Cam clamps is the route I took. Years ago I needed clamps, a lot. Found free plans on-line for making them - except they had metal in them. Revised the plans a bit, glued the parts together, and made clamps from about 6" to 48". Used 1/2" plywood to make them, a bit of sanding here and there, they worked perfectly, and I figure they came out at around $.25 each to make. Later the need for them went away, started making different things, and they were all integrated into different projects - like two planer sleds for example. I do have metal clamps, a load of spring clamps, but if I wanted a bunch of clamps now, I'd probably make more cam clamps. The first one will seem hard to make, but once you make one, you will realize just how simple they are to make. Plenty of free plans on the web, I think most call for metals in one part or another, but like I said, mine were all plywood and glue, no metal at all - at times I like to plane some of my old projects when re-modding them, and do not want any metal to mess up my blades. Or, you can just buy some, not as much fun, but probably faster.
 
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I will second the Harbour Freight clamps. I've had good luck with the bar clamps, and for the money, you can't beat them imho. The quick clamps aren't good for anything but light duty stuff.
 
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I would also recommend HF as a starting point. You can pick up a variety of clamps at a very reasonable price and that gives you a starting point. From there add as you need them which will spread the costs out for you.
 

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Those black Bessey clamps in MT Stringer's first pic are on sale at Home Depot. They package two 6 inch and two 12 inch and sell them for $20 every Xmas. I always grab a pack or two. For Father's Day, they are on sale for $15 for four clamps. You can't beat that.

I have found the handles can be a bit slippery for my old hands. Look for a Youtube video by Rob Cosman about Hockey Stick grips. It will greatly improve the amount of pressure you can develop.
 

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I will second the Harbour Freight clamps. I've had good luck with the bar clamps, and for the money, you can't beat them imho. The quick clamps aren't good for anything but light duty stuff.
I have had really bad luck with HF's quick clamps but good luck with their (F) style clamps and their aluminium bar clamps.
 

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No one has brought up the question of what projects you will be working on. If you are only working on small projects under 12" right now then you don't need 48" parallel clamps for panels or furniture use. You might be able to get buy with a few homemade clamps or a box of plastic spring clamps. Don't discount the ability of opposing wedges to take care of a lot of your clamping requirements. If all you will be working on are large furniture type projects you will still need a few smaller clamps but use your money for larger clamps to fit the size of project you will be building.

It is really hard to clamp that 4" x 4" x 6" box together with 48" bar clamps and also hard to build a dining room set if all you have is a hand full of spring clamps and a dozen 6" F style clamps.

Unless you run across a really good deal on clamps you don't need right now spend your money where it will do the most good. You can add to your clamp collection as time and money permits.

On small projects tape and rubber bands might be all you need.
 

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I used the HF quick clamps to get started. I wouldn't recommend them, and no longer have them. I hear good things about their F-Style clamps.

The HF quick clamps did allow me to get the clamps I really wanted over a period of a few years, which are the Bessy Revos. I also invested in a bunch of Bessey and Woodriver F-Style clamps. I do have plans to buy more of each, as you can NEVER have enough clamps! :)
 

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I started with HF F and aluminum bar clamps, and still use them, but for furniture I popped for a set of Jet parallel clamps. Chose Jet over Bessy because jet has a quick release lever. The bars of the Jet clamps are very heavy steel and don't flex. Over several years, I bought sets of Bessy in short lengths up to 18 inches. They went on sale every Christmas season and came in a 4 pack, 2 short, 2 longer. Usually about $20-$30 depending on size. I prefer these to the HF, just beefier and the bars don't flex. HF's shorter aluminum bar clamps don't have a short gripping area, so I tend to use the really long versions. I will add a few more and cut them down to about 40 inches and install a simple stop at the end. Right now I use the jets for gluing solid panels together.

Don't over tighten is good advice. I have pipe clamp hardware, but no pipes. Just don't need them for the kinds of things I make. But if you use pipe clamps, be sure to get the black coated pipe since plain steel pipe can leave stains and ruin the finish. One other type clamp I use a LOT are the small Bessy F clamps. About 4-5 inches long, perfect for holding small projects together.
 

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Tom, Mike brought up the first question that hit my mind. What projects do you have in mind? Do you need them NOW, or just planning for future projects.

I'll offer some personal observations:

Buy the best quality you can afford up front. Buy cheap clamps and you deal with cheap clamps that WILL fail at the worst time and frustrate you the whole time until they do. I'll be the dissenting opinion here, HF clamps are cheap and they will FAIL. If you buy the quick clamps there is NO hope for you, the "F" type clamps will eventually start slipping on you and the aluminum bar clamps will fall apart.

It is easier to spend a little up front then to buy cheap and end up replacing them with a better quality clamp anyways. You just lost the price of the cheap clamp. Replace enough and it'll add up.

I, generally, figure on a minimum of four like clamps. Whatever the type you will use them in pairs for the most part. In the smaller sizes; 4-12" you will probably needs lots...they're cheap if you shop around and watch the sales.

Don't discount the better quality Quick clamps. They are handy as all get out but sometimes are bulky and the mechanisms can get in the way. The smaller sizes are great and wish I had more. The longer ones (24" +) can get a little awkward to use, but do a great job.

I have a bunch of "F" clamps in varying sizes (lots of 4"). Quick clamps, Bessy Revos, (Jets are excellent also), aluminum beam clamps and pipe clamps.

The pipe clamps have their place. However, the longer lengths can get really heavy and awkward to use. I would stick to 1/2" for the shorter lengths and reserve the 3/4" for the 48"+ jobs. The 1/2" will have a tendency to flex at longer lengths. You'll need to learn to adapt as needed.

As for where to get them. I'm always on the lookout for sales. Home Depot has an excellent deal on small Bessy F-clamps. Two 6" and two 12" for the price of two individual 12" clamps. That's two free 6" clamps. Watch the sales at the holidays and the weekly fliers. Like Mike I bought 4 50" Revo K's from Lowe's when they clearanced them. I have never found them that cheap again. I, also, bought band clamps, etc.

Bottom line, always be on the lookout for the sales and buy them even if you don't need them RIGHT NOW! A clamp here, a couple there every week or so and they will add up...you'll never regret having them and you will find that you use them.

http://www.routerforums.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=283746&thumb=1

Look close...these are just the ones I use the most...
 

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Those black Bessey clamps in MT Stringer's first pic are on sale at Home Depot. They package two 6 inch and two 12 inch and sell them for $20 every Xmas. I always grab a pack or two. For Father's Day, they are on sale for $15 for four clamps. You can't beat that.

I have found the handles can be a bit slippery for my old hands. Look for a Youtube video by Rob Cosman about Hockey Stick grips. It will greatly improve the amount of pressure you can develop.
Thanks for the tip, Ollie, I just got back from HD with 2 packs of those. Great buy, they are heavy duty for their size. 4ea. 6",and 4 ea. 12" for $30., that is $3.75/ ea.
I had a $25. gift card from Christmas that I used too.
@chessnut2 ,Jim, Yup those are the ones.

Herb
 

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Oh, another thought!

Joat had a good suggestions. You can make some for yourself. Paul Sellers has an excellent video on how to make cam clamps. Search for his website or on YouTube.
 
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Totally agree with the philosophy that you buy once, and buy quality.

Jet parallel face clamps are what I use for my cutting board business, and they've been there when I've made furniture as well. I currently own 3x 36" and 20+ of the 24". Much better than the previous best in class, the Bessey parallel face clamps. I still have 10x of those, but avoid using them now so that I can use the Jets which are simpler to use with better handles to grip.

F-style clamps? I have a few 8" clamps that I use for holding cowls as needed. My old F-styles that are 24"+ are hidden away & never used.

Finally, I have an end vise on my work bench, which has 3/4" holes drilled across the entire surface. I can clamp large assemblies on the work bench, up to 30x72.
 

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