Brick, do you really love clamps are you just saying it because you can never have enough clamps? Credit where credit is due, my wife actually suggested this topic after going through some reader feedback and noticing I say “clamp” stuff a lot but don’t always say what kind of clamp.
There are a lot of clamps out there and a lot of different ways to use them. So I thought this would be a great topic for this particular week considering the single digit temperatures outside, the 10″ of snow we had and everyone in the house getting the flu which all combined into one ball of goodness that kept me out of the shop the last few days. Below you’ll find some of my favorite clamps I use in the shop. It’s by no means a complete list of all the clamps out there, just what I use, what projects I use them for and where to get them. Highlighted links will be affiliate links, which means you won’t get charged any extra if you choose to purchase them, but I’ll get a little kickback. It’s like a pyramid scheme, but less annoying. Ha!
The Bar Clamp
When I was a kid, my best friend’s dad had a sports car with the tag on the dash that said “He who dies with the most toys wins.” Well, if you’re a woodworker, chances are you have similar feelings about bar clamps. He/She who dies with the most bar clamps wins. When I’m assembling framework for a piece of furniture or building a table top, chances are I’m using every single bar clamp I have in my shop that will fit on it. I have a range of 12″ clamps all the way to 48″, but I’ll be honest… I know they go up to 72″ and I want those too (size does matter). But why so many? Well for starters you need to buy them in pairs (because they’ll get lonely). Chances are your early projects probably aren’t going to be massive furniture pieces so maybe you bye a few 24″ clamps, then you need 36″ clamps for the next project, then 48″ for the next project and so on and the collection grows. So why not just buy a bunch of the 48″ clamps and call it a day? Well because sometimes those big clamps won’t fit in the space you have or within that particular part of your project, so you really do need bar clamps of all sizes. Plus, there’s nothing more annoying in a small shop then having 30″ of excess bar hanging off your project getting caught on your favorite graphic tee.
Initially I started my collection with Jorgensen Clamps from The Home Depot, but recently they started carrying the much loved Bessey Clamps. I’d recommend picking up a pair of Bessey 36″ TGJ Bar Clamps to start your collection and then add with each project as you need them. In the land of table building, the bar clamp is king, from jointing planks to attaching the tops, you’re going to need an arsenal so starting buying! The benefit is that you control the pressure with just a twist of the handle, so if you need to attach a thick piece of farmhouse top like the pic above, you can slowly close the gaps without damaging your work.
The Speed Clamp
One Handed Clamps, Speed Clamps, Quick Clamps… they are all the same thing, and they are all ridiculously useful in the shop, especially when you need an extra set of hands (because good help is hard to find, or maybe you’re a one handed woodworker…). The beauty of these little guys is that you can tighten them with one hand with just a squeeze of the handle or quick release with a quick press of the trigger. Because let’s be honest, the smartest way to use power tools is one handed while trying to Super Man grip your project with your other hand. Have you ever tried to drill a small piece of wood without clamping it down only to have it go into a violent death spin of splinters? Of course you have. We all have.
Before I branched out into bigger woodworking projects, I already owned half a dozen of these. I use them for securing my projects to my work surface, clamping my Kreg Jig for pocket holes or even securing wood to my drill press so it doesn’t going spiraling out of control. The other benefit these guys have over standard bar clamps is that they are generally fairly small which means they are perfect for gripping things in small places. There are plenty of brands out there, but I’ve been using the Blue and Gold Irwin Quick Grips from the start and they’ve always been up to the task. Heck, I even use a set of these in my chicken coop each winter to hold up the heat lamp, which is saying something because a failure there would result in char-grilled pet chickens.
The Spring Clamp
If you grew up in a small town like I did, coaches would often tell players on teams to spend their summers working at a farm lifting hay bales. Come fall when school started back up, that string bean would come back jacked like Thor. I played tennis, that wasn’t part of our training regimen. What’s the point of that story? Imagine a clothespin that spent several summers lifting hay bales at the farm and you get your modern day spring clamps. These are the types of clamps where your brain tells you to clip it to your friend’s finger when they aren’t looking, it won’t hurt them. Then after a little yelling you get punched a few times and realize it was probably a bad idea. These little pinchers are strong and they’ll make those little piggies go wee wee wee all the way home.
I get the most use out of spring clamps when installing trim whether to the face of a project or directly to something like a door panel. Let’s turn that dial up to 11 though. I’ve been using Rockler Bandy Clamps that add another aspect to the traditional spring clamp. Rather than just using a spring to grip closed, within the jaws there is a thick rubber band that not only grips your work surface, but allows you to apply forward pressure to your project. So you’re not relying on just two points of contact at the pinch points, you have a continuous surface area within the jaws that fits to the contours of your project to make sure your work is secure.
The Bench Clamp
I’m relatively new to the bench clamp party, but I can tell you, I’m bribing someone so I can stay on the VIP list. Chances are I’m going to install these things on every flat surface in my shop in the near future. Using a track system or a bench dog hole (depending on the brand), these clamps look like hungry hungry hippos on your work surface, but rather than gobbling up marbles, they smash your projects down flat and help give you perfectly square builds.
I’ve been using the Kreg AutoMaxx Bench Klamps on my new workbench setup and I am in love. The caveat is that you do need to install the Kreg Trak or Bench System to use them, but like you really needed an excuse to buy new tools? I get the most use out of these when joining framework, table planks or even just securing projects to my work surface. The beauty is that if your work surface is flat, these little guys will give you one of the smoothest wood joints you will find because there’s no slippage like there might be with other clamps. We’re talking straight torque and “Hulk Smash” power that will give you perfect lines every time.
Of course there are plenty of other clamps out there like Pipe Clamps, C-Clamps and Strap Clamps, but I don’t have any in my shop, so clearly they aren’t important. Ha! Probably not the case, but with the clamps above, you should be able to complete 99% of your wood working projects. What’s your favorite? Do you use them for anything other than woodworking? A clamp is a lonely woodworkers best friend so be smart when picking these new friends, they’ll definitely give you a hand when you need it. Happy clamping!
~ Lazy Guy