Clamp-On Tool Guides
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Wood Magazine

Clamp-On Tool Guides


Clamp-on tool guides


Need a reliable straightedge to guide your power tools? We tested eight models and learned that paying more doesn't always get you more.

Since its debut in 1982, Griset Industries' Tru-Grip Clamp 'N Tool Guide has been king of the clamp-on-straightedge hill. Because of that success, more manufacturers have entered the fray and now at least eight different models compete for your time, attention, and tool-buying budget. With prices for the basic guide ranging from $35 to $140 (not including accessories that can add $100 or more to the cost), we decided to compare features and performance. Here's the straight scoop.

Note: You may also download the entire review including product ratings in the WOOD Store.

Pages in this Story:
    • Introduction      Chart
     Tool and Tool Buying Forum

Why would you want one?

A clamp-on tool guide's essential duty is to provide a straight and convenient edge for guiding your router (to cut shelf dadoes in a bookcase, for example) or circular saw (breaking down sheet goods into manageable sizes). Once you have one in your shop, you'll find many other uses: straightening one edge of a crooked board, or as a quick and easy bandsaw fence. Some models can even be used as bar clamps. For purposes of this article, we'll focus on each model's performance while routing.

Three components; three key performance areas

Clamp-on tool guides typically consist of:

  • an extruded aluminum rail
  • clamps to secure that rail to the workpiece
  • a carriage/subbase assembly (usually optional) that rides the rail with your router or circ saw mounted to it

Our advice: Pay the extra money for the carriage/subbase, if you can, for two reasons. First, the router can't stray from the rail whether by dust buildup or operator error. And, we found the rails deflected less because we pushed only parallel to the rail, not against it.

Here's what to look for in each of these three components:

  • A rigid rail. Most of the tested models come with at least one rail capable of working a 48"-wide or -long workpiece. To machine workpieces longer or wider, you must either join another rail onto the end of the first or switch to a longer version of the same guide.
  • Convenient clamps. Most of the clamps wrap around the edges of a workpiece, bearing against its bottom. Others use an edge-gripping design that can accommodate virtually any workpiece thickness without adjustment.
  • A stay-on-course carriage. Here's where we found the most differences in these guides. Some don't provide or offer a carriage/subbase, another has a sliding carriage arm that travels parallel or 6+" perpendicular to the rail.




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