Shop-Tested Clamping Tips

Put these tips to work in your shop for quicker more efficient clamping.

  • Put some zip in your clamping with a drum sander

    If you're tired of taking the time to thread a knob onto a long piece of threaded rod, grab your portable electric drill and chuck a drum sander (without the sanding sleeve) into its jaws. Then, turn on the drill with the chuck spinning in reverse (counterclockwise) and gently touch the rubber drum to the knob. The knob will race along the threaded rod much faster than you could spin it by hand.
    –Tim Gant, Blooming Glen, Pa.

  • Try jumper-wire clips for small clamping jobs

    The next time you need small clamps, try filing off the teeth of some jumper-wire clips used by electricians. (You'll find these clips in the electrical-supply section at most hardware stores.) The clips exert a lot of pressure, and their jaws open up to about 34 ".
    —Harrold Keith, Cobble Hill, B.C.

  • Keep glue-ups flat with these toothy cauls

    Build two or three of these serrated clamping cauls, and you can prevent a lot of sanding due to uneven glue-ups. Serrated teeth provide even pressure so boards don't ride up when you tighten the bar-clamp jaws.

    Start by cutting 1-12 x 3" cauls 8" longer than the width of the panels you wish to glue up. To prevent dents in the workpiece, use a softwood (like white pine). Run the edges that touch the workpiece over a jointer to ensure that they are perfectly straight. Next, cut the 45° tooth serrations about 2" apart and 12 " deep. Finally, drill the vertical holes in the end for the carriage bolts and attach the hardware.

    To use the cauls, apply glue to the edges of your boards and assemble them, without tightening the bar clamps. Put waxed paper between the cauls and the workpiece to prevent the glue from attaching the cauls to the workpiece. Tighten the plastic knobs on the cauls, and then squeeze the boards together with the clamps.
    —Jeffrey Anderson, Melbourne, Fla.

  • Handscrew clamp stands in for vise

    I occasionally need an extra bench vise to gain more holding power. For a quick and easy solution, I position and clamp a handscrew clamp along the edge of my bench-top, then drill two 516 " countersunk holes through the clamp and the benchtop.

    Then, I install T-nuts on the underside of the benchtop. Flathead machine screws hold my new "vise" in place. By countersinking the holes on both sides of the clamp, I can flip it over so the jaws open in the opposite direction. With a pair of them mounted, I can clamp long workpieces.
    —Mike Reed, Woodbury, Tenn.

  • Cane tips save you from pipe-clamp dings

    I learned the hard way that the open end of a 34 " pipe can put a real ding in a workpiece or your noggin if you're not careful when handling your pipe clamps. To prevent future mishaps, I bought some 1" rubber cane tips and installed them on the ends of all my clamps.
    —Don Swanson, Plaistow, N.H.

  • Stick glue blocks in position

    Gluing blocks into the corners of butt joints provides good reinforcement. But the technique caused me untold headaches trying to keep things aligned and tight until the glue dried.

    Then, I figured out this no-fuss way shown above to clamp the glue blocks in place. First, I cut two equally sized scrapwood glue blocks. Next, I cut the right-angle clamp block so the length of the face opposite the 90° angle roughly matches the combined width of the joint and glue blocks. A strip of double-faced tape keeps the clamp block positioned while I install the glue blocks and tighten the clamps.
    —Roy Kirkpatrick, Sacramento, Calif.

  • Quick fix for one-handed bar clamps slips

    The yellow pads on one-handed bar clamps have a way of slipping off and getting lost. I've found that if you remove the pads and reverse them--that is, with the closed end toward the bar—they won't fall off.
    —Joseph White, Altus, Okla.

  • Thumbscrews keep bigger clamps in place

    I bought a pair of jaw extenders for my pipe clamps but found I needed three hands to keep them in place: The movable jaws kept swinging around whenever I tried to position them. So to keep them in place, I drilled and tapped a hole in the side of each sliding extender and threaded in a thumbscrew. Now I can set that extender at about the right spot and tighten the screw to hold it in place.
    —Tom West, Greenfield Center, N.Y.

  • Skip the clamps and pocket the time

    When making a pair of oval mirror frames recently, I was faced with (and dreading) the complex task of clamping up all those 22.5° miter cuts and keeping them snug in the process. After much thought, I turned to my pocket-hole jig for the solution.

    After laying out the oval on the dry-assembled pieces and cutting biscuit slots in each joint, I drilled pocket holes in the waste area of the joints as shown below. A dab of glue and a biscuit later, I simply screwed the joint together. After the glue cured, I removed the screws and sawed out the frame. With this method, I got tight-fitting joints and because I glued only one joint at a time, didn't have to rush through the assembly before the glue set.
    —Greg Fox, Tiffin, Ohio

Tip of the Day

Accessorize your glue-ups with a leather belt

To prevent clamp-jaw marks in an otherwise perfect project, crosscut an old leather belt with a... read more