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Workshop Clamps - Overview

Among the basic tools for every homeowner are clamps for temporarily holding projects together while the glue dries or while you line up the nails or screws that will fasten the work pieces together. Hardware stores and home centers sell a wide variety of clamps, and some basic information about their features will guide you in picking clamps that best fit your needs—and making sure that you are getting the quality that you want.

Follow these links to learn more about these types of clamps:

  • C-clamps are the traditional workhorses of the shop.
  • Spring clamps are at the opposite end of the squeeze spectrum, but they are very convenient for light holding.
  • Pipe clamps have long been popular with woodworkers because nothing else works as well when you need to clamp over long distances.
  • Light duty bar clamps are similar to pipe clamps, but they come with a rectangular steel bar with notches on one edge that allow you to easily adjust how big a clamp you want.
  • Ratchet clamps are an improved version of the light duty bar clamps and they have become very popular.
  • Band clamp—which in concept is nothing more than a ribbon of webbing (like a narrow car seatbelt) with a mechanism for drawing the ribbon tight. For work on chair legs, bookcase carcasses and the like, they often work better than pipe clamps.

Clamps with any major amount squeezing force are likely to mar the project surfaces when they are tightened. The most significant factor is the size of the clamp pads, with

larger pads spreading the crushing force over a wider surface area. Almost invariably you will need to use scraps of wood between the work piece and the clamp to distribute the clamping force, so don’t overestimate the significance of whether the clamp you are buying comes with rubber or nylon pad covers.
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