Tips for Better Gluing & Clamping
Nothing left to know about gluing and clamping? Here are some tried-and-true methods for ensuring your success.
Secure odd shapes with bags of lead
I've seen companies bragging about how their clamps can hold odd-shaped workpieces, but nothing holds like my "bag-o-lead" clamping system. Plus, it's less expensive than those specialty clamps.
To make mine, I bought some 25-pound bags of #9 shot (for reloading shotgun shells) at a sporting goods store. When I need to glue up an unusual shape, I put the piece to be clamped on my bench and put a bag or two of shot on top of it. They conform easily to most shapes.
The bags are pretty durable, but be careful not to puncture them. The shot is very small and even a tiny hole will quickly cover your shop floor with shot.
– Rick Kling, Chesterfield, Mich.
Bar clamps offer a leg up when facing a carcase
The easiest way to glue banding to the face of a plywood carcase is with the case on its back. You can't lay it on a benchtop because you have no room for the clamps, and sawhorses always seem to get in the way of what you're doing.
Here's how I solve the problem. Before applying the banding, I clamp two long bar clamps to each end of the carcase as shown right. Then, I glue the banding to the side pieces and clamp them with bar clamps shorter than the "legs" on the ends. To face the ends, I move the "leg" clamps around the corner to the sides and re-clamp, then glue and clamp the banding to the ends.
-- Jan Svec, WOOD® magazine staff
Clamp sloped sides with tapered blocks
I always had a tough time clamping a tapered project until I devised these tapered clamping blocks. To make the blocks, I cut a few 3/4" scrapwood blocks 2" wide and about 1" longer than the height of the item to be clamped. (Sometimes I need one per side, although one for every other side works for the splined joints in the glue-up shown.) I rip an angle on one edge of each block to match the slope on the side of my project. Next, I attach a stop of scrapwood or sheet metal to the narrow end of each block. After dry-fitting the clamping setup, I glue and clamp the project as shown at right.
-- Eugene Cockeram, Florence, Ore.
Extra biscuit and slot ease corner-bracing woes
To clamp corner braces in cabinets, I cut biscuit slots in all three sides of the brace as shown right--two to glue the brace to the case and a third to position a temporary clamping block. Then, I glue the brace and corner biscuits as usual and put another biscuit (with no glue) in the slot between the brace and block. A pair of short bar clamps, acting on the temporary block, keep everything snug until the glue sets.
-- Frank Orthmeyer, Sioux Falls, S.D.
Teacher's-pet safety clamp
My junior-high students have made hundreds of heart-shaped keepsake boxes following plans that call for slicing off the box's lid on the bandsaw. Doing this requires that the blade guide be raised about 5" above the table. This exposes a great deal of blade and places the operator's fingers too close to the blade for this woodshop teacher's liking. To help my students complete this project safely, I devised the adjustable jaw safety clamp shown at left. The key to the installation is that the rear jaw of the clamp must be at a right angle to the miter slot. This clamping method also works great for other projects and on other tools, such as a tablesaw and shaper.
-- Jay C. Peterson, Lancaster, Calif.
Two ways to prevent clamp marks
I always worry about marring the wood with my clamps during dry assembly or glue-up of a project. Rather than buying the costly custom pads available for most clamps, I purchased some hard-felt chair glides. They have self-adhesive backing and come in various sizes and shapes, so it's easy to find some that are just the right size for your clamps.
-- Sonny Rains, Carbondale, Colo.
To keep C-clamps from marring project surfaces, I reuse the plastic caps found on milk jugs as pads. The caps, which normally aren't recycled with the jugs, are held in place with a dab of hotmelt glue.
-- Jerry Pasley, Raleigh, N.C.
Link your clamps to fit the work
Band clamps work well on large or irregular-shaped objects, but as a turner, I often need multiple clamps spread out along the length of a cylinder blank. I found that stainless steel hose clamps are an inexpensive alternative. Available in a variety of sizes, several clamps can be linked end-to-end when I need to encircle larger pieces. Added bonuses are that glue squeeze-out is easily scraped off the clamps and they don't rust.
-- Wayne Gaul, Shannon, Ill.
For tiny details, try clothespin clamps
When you're gluing miniatures or small pieces of stock, even the smallest conventional clamps often turn out to be too big or exert too much pressure. So if you sometimes feel like Gulliver wrestling with a Lilliputian-size project, head for the grocery store and pick up a bag of wooden clothespins. You can use the clothespins as they are to clamp flat stock. But for things like half-rounds, buttons, and extra-small details, you can custom-shape the ends of the clothespins like the examples shown.
-- Bill Rohde, Germantown, Tenn.
On big projects, pull straps tight with one-handed bar clamps
When you don't have enough band clamps or your band clamps won't reach around a project, you can fashion a good substitute from any strapping material and a one-handed bar clamp. The one-handed bar clamp also will give you considerably more clamping pressure than the screwdriver-operated tension mechanism found on band clamps. Start by opening the jaws of the clamp as wide as they will go. Then, tie one end of your strapping material to the non-moving jaw of your clamp. Wrap the strapping around the project with a loose fit, as shown at right, tie off the other end on the movable jaw, and squeeze the handle.
-- Aaron Preisch, Lockport, N.Y.
Bolt clamps together for extra reach capacity
When need arose for some extra-long clamps, I developed this trick for increasing the capacity of my one-handed bar clamps. First, I drove out the retaining pins at the ends of the two clamps. Then, I drilled two 1/4" holes in the bars where shown at right. Next, I removed the movable jaw on one bar, reversed the movable jaw on the other bar, and screwed the bars together with 1/4" machine screws and nuts. To turn this arrangement into a spreader, I bolt them together with the movable jaws on the bars in their normal positions.
-- William McGee, Westboro, Mass.