Which clamps should I buy first?

Q:

Having just bought a house with a three-car garage, I’m looking to set up a woodworking shop. I already own a few basic tools, but when it comes to clamps I’m not sure where to start, and have a limited budget. Can you help me invest wisely in clamps I’ll need?
—Gordon Dennett, Philadelphia

A:

You’re in luck, Gordon, because a good starter set will set you back only a few hundred dollars, and you can find all you need at a local home center or hardware store. First, get eight 34 " pipe-clamp fixtures (about $15 each), such as those shown above. Then buy 34 " black pipe in 24" and 48" lengths (four of each), threaded on both ends. Throw in four couplers and you can join any two pipes together to make longer clamps. These will handle any panel or case glue-ups you attempt.

Next, get yourself four 12"-long one-handed ratcheting bar clamps, such as those shown below. These work great for any quick clamping task, such as securing a workpiece to a bench, or small assemblies, such as gluing up a jewelry box.

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As your skills and projects grow, add more clamps to this collection as needed. That could include different lengths of one-handed bar clamps, band clamps for mitered frames and boxes, and hand-spring clamps for light-duty jobs.

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