Tame tricky clamp-ups
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Wood Magazine

Tame tricky clamp-ups

Dry fit

Dry fit

Note: Before tackling a difficult clamp-up, walk through it first without glue (known as a "dry fit"). This exercise tells you whether you have enough clamps of the right type and size, which parts need more work to fit, and if you need any additional help or accessories. Plus, the dry fit familiarizes you with the assembly process before you find yourself racing against the glue's setup time.


Beat the bulk
2 boards on table
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On wide panels, use clamping cauls
-- shaped slightly thicker in the middle
than at the edges -- to help distribute
pressure evenly across the panel.
Red toolbox on boards
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If you don't have a long enough caul,
utilize something heavy, such as a
toolbox, to apply pressure in the
middle of a field.
2 photo together, clamping them together
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To get more from a limited number
of clamps, we glued in half of this
bookcase's shelves, and after they
dried, reused the clamps to install
the remaining shelves.

Beat the bulk

Large assemblies, such as casework and cabinetry, require loads of clamps, and big ones at that. To apply pressure to areas beyond the reach of the clamp's jaws, extend their reach with cauls (right), or use a heavy object instead (center right). If you don't have enough clamps to complete a glue-up, try making just a few clamps do the same job (below right).


Tackle it with tape
Blue tape with wooden pieces on it
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Align mitered box sides tip-to-tip on a
long strip of painter's tape; then, roll
up the assembly for tightly clamped
Blue tape holding up side of box
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On delicate clamp-ups where the
weight of the clamp could collapse
the assembly, painter's tape offers
a light but firm grip.

Tackle it with tape

Flexible, disposable, and adjustable, painter's tape -- available at most home centers -- excels at holding small parts securely. Use it when an assembly lacks adequate clamping area, has an unusual shape that makes it difficult to get clamps in place without creating a crisscrossed mess (right), or is too delicate for clamps (below right).


Overcome odd clamp-ups
Squaring up taper parts
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Fit the offcuts of tapered legs against
the legs they were cut from to
re-create parallel clamping surfaces.
In some cases, you may be able to
first assemble the parts when
square, and then taper them
Orange band around triangle piece
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For clamping jobs with out-of-
the-ordinary corners, a band clamp
applies even pressure to all joints.
Many come with corner blocks to
prevent crushed corners and keep
glue squeeze-out off the strap.

Overcome odd clamp-ups

When you can't clamp directly across a joint, such as in the assembly shown at the top of page 18, insert spacers between the legs to equalize the clamping pressure along the assembly's length. When cutting tapered parts, save the offcuts (right) to use as cauls. If you find yourself regularly building un-square projects, purchase a band clamp (below right) -- it greatly reduces the hassle of those clamp-ups.

More Resources

  • Watch clamping and sanding tricks for perfectly flat panels at woodmagazine.com/clampflat.
  • Find nine more clamping tips at woodmagazine.com/clamptips.
  • Check out our favorite clamps and clamping accessories at woodmagazine.com/clampreviews.



Wood Magazine