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How to Choose The Right Clamp and How to Use It

Aug 17, 2007
Being a device used to hold or secure an object to prevent it from moving, clamps are a staple if not indispensable tool especially among woodworkers. Types of clamps include Bench clamp, G clamp, Hose clamp, Magnetic clamp, Mitre clamp, Nipple clamp, Screw clamp, Speed clamp, Toggle clamp, Web clamp and Wheel clamp.

Even though they are common in most shops, clamps are probably also among the most often misapplied work-holding devices.

Improper clamp use can include costly damage to the machine or the workpiece, operator fatigue and even injury. Ergonomics too must be considered. Repetitive motion due to usage of clamps can cause injuries. Serious injury can also occur if a clamp accidentally lets go.

But damages to property and injuries can be avoided by following some general selection guidelines and consulting with clamp suppliers. Below are some of those guidelines for using the right clamp to get the best results.

1. Determine the strength of the clamp that you'll need. You won't need a clamp with as much holding power if the board is thin or the workpiece is small as you will with a job that is bulky or very heavy.

2. Calculate the size opening you need in width and depth. Deep-throat clamps should be used if more space is needed.

3. When you need one to eight inches of jaw space use C-clamps.

4. Wide objects should be held with bar clamps and pipe clamps. Pipe clamps come in 1/2-inch or 3/4-inch sizes, indicating the size of the pipe used. Bar clamps have tailpieces that lock into a notch for a secure fit.

5. Hand-screw clamps can be used for joins that are either parallel or angled. This type of clamps is gentle on wood projects.

6. Cut bicycle inner tube can be used to hold things such as chair legs and spindles.

7. Avoid using a clamp that has a bent frame or spindle.

8. It is dangerous to use C-clamps in building scaffolds or platforms.

Now that you know what clamp to use for specific requirements it's time to learn how to use them. Clamps are often used for projects that require gluing for a tight fit. Follow these steps and you'll achieve optimum results from your clamps.

1. Before you start your gluing project make sure that you have enough clamps that will fit.

2. Use a level work surface.

3. Apply the appropriate clamp after you glue your project.

4. Make sure the jaws of the clamps don't touch the work. Use felt pads, scrap wood or folded wax paper to protect the wood.

5. Distribute pressure evenly on the work by tightening the clamps carefully.

6. Alternate directions of the clamps.

7. Make sure that the work remained square while you were clamping by measuring the diagonals. If it isn't, loosen the clamps and readjust.

8. Stains and other finishes won't look right on dried glue so wipe off any glue that leaks out of the seams.

9. Reinforce the joints with finishing nails after clamping.

Follow these simple and easy to follow guidelines in choosing and using clamps and you can be sure that you'll finish your woodwork in no time. More importantly, you will be able to protect yourself from unwanted injuries that can occur if clamps are used improperly.
About the Author
James Monahan is the owner and Senior Editor of
ClampBase.com and writes expert
articles about clamps .
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