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Technical Thursdays – Getting to Grips with Clamping

Wednesday 11 July 2018

Recently, I had a task that needed a clamp to do a specific job. I knew from experience that the components had to be clamped against the fence when cutting the fingers because the cutter can very easily kick the wood to one side, marring the workpiece. It was then that I remembered we had some Kreg clamps based on the old Mole-grip design, but in a variety of sizes that look like welding clamps. One of these did the trick. It was fast acting, had adjustable pressure and the swivelling pads wouldn't mark precious surfaces.


A spring clamp is perfect for holding working drawings or component lists. I think it proved to me yet again that there isn't a 'one size fits all' kind of clamp. One of the simplest and cheapest that I use at home are those pressed steel spring clamps you can buy at DIY stores, cheap and painfully strong if you don't mind the chance of denting the work.


Here the bench is being used as a clamping surface with a board on edge, with two packers in the middle acting as a 'caul' to ensure even pressure everywhere. There are the now ubiquitous 'quick clamps' which cover most capacity ranges and are quick to apply when you have a rapid glue-up to do. They come in lighter versions like the Trend ones or the heavier IRWIN type. There are also the cork-faced hornbeam guitar clamps from Germany.


Ever tried clamping mitres without a mitre clamp or band clamp? It's almost impossible using standard clamping methods to close mitred joints without the components sliding around. This gator clamp brings the mitre together tightly for a solid butt joint.


One of the great things about this three-point dogging method is the way you can hold irregular shaped objects. Here the surface is being scraped smooth. Since I fitted crosswise bench dogs, I've found them really invaluable for a variety of operations, such as holding boards for sanding, joint machining and finishing work. Lateral dog holes running the length of the bench would be useful for clamping long panels too.


If you need really flat panels there is no substitute for sash or T-bar clamps as the panel can be pressed down on to the bars to ensure flatness. There are all the pipe, sash, T-bar and other heavy duty clamps that still get called into action for panels and large carcass work. We have far more clamping aids than craftsmen of old to choose from, but we still need everything we can muster when a job requires it. It seems that there can never be enough clamps!