When posting photos of my shop or projects-in-progress on Instagram and Facebook, the questions I’m asked most are about my clamps.
Every craftsperson from woodworkers to furniture painters knows there are never enough clamps. If you’re just starting out, the first thing you find out is that clamps can be expensive. So how do you make the best use of your dollar/euro/pound?
I thought I’d offer a little insight from my 25 plus years working with wood.
So, here are my favorite clamps, in no particular order:
Ratcheting Bar Clamps
These are the clamps I use most often, but the ones in the big box home and hardware stores can be VERY expensive. But what I’ve found over the years, is that you don’t have to buy those.
I get mine from Harbor Freight. I hear a lot of complaints about the ones from there breaking. But, if you are breaking them, then you may be using them incorrectly. I know because I’ve done it.
Firstly, ratcheting bar clamps have two ends. One that is stationary, and the other slides up and down the bar. The sliding end has the trigger.
Let’s say you have two pieces of wood you need to clamp together.
Simply hold each end of the clamp on either side of the two pieces of wood, and slide the trigger side up tight to the wood. This means that your project is loose, but snug between the two ends of the clamp.
Then, to tighten it, you repeatedly squeeze the trigger just until the clamp is firm against the project and is holding it together.
This is where people break the clamps. They squeeze to hard to make it “super tight”. Simple as that.
These clamps are designed to keep pieces firmly together while they are being attached or until glue dries. They are not designed to squeeze parts together that require a great amount of force to move. (There are other clamps for that…I’ll get to that later).
When you’re done with the clamp, depress the quick release button located above the trigger. (sometimes it’s on the trigger side and sometimes it’s on the back) Doing that allows you to slide the trigger end back away from the project and remove it. (Its WAY faster and simpler to do in real life than to explain it in writing, LOL!!)
I own lots of these and have for many years. I’ve broken three. (Two times my fault, one time was a defect) The nice thing is that I took the broken ones back to Harbor Freight and they replaced them no questions asked…Lifetime Warranty. Nice, Right?!?! So I have no reason to spend a fortune on them.
So get on Harbor Freight’s mailing list or email list. Buy them when the lengths you want are on sale, use their 20-25% off coupons, and don’t forget to get cool stuff with the free item coupons. I love the magnetic parts trays and magnetic tool holders.
Remember when I said that I was gonna get to the clamp that can REALLY put pressure on your project?? This is it…
Unfortunately, I can’t recommend the cheaper ones on these. I only recommend Bessey. (And no, they don’t pay me to say that)
When you do get them, (I recommend the 3/4 inch version) you get the two red ends pictures below.
Then you purchase the length of 3/4″ threaded pipe that you need to go between the ends to make your new clamp the custom length that you need.
You can get the pipe from Home Depot, Lowe’s, etc. I like the black pipe and I usually get 48 inch long. (When you combine the clamps and the pipe, you’ve spent some money. That’s why I never have enough, LOL!!!)
Assembling them is simple. The end with the tightening handle, screws onto the threaded end of the 3/4 inch pipe, while the other part just slides over the other end.
They work a lot like the bar clamp. Put the ends on either side of the project, slide the smaller end snug up to the wood while depressing the bottom silver trigger. Then screw it up tight. And you can tighten it as tight as you want, LOL!!! (Don’t get the cheap ones, they can slip)
I like the 48″ length because I use these most often for gluing up tabletops, which are usually 42″ wide.
Note Above: Use blocks between all your clamps and finished wood edges to keep from denting your project.
I recently found two of the short orange ones above (first photo), for $5 each at an estate sale. In the video posted on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube, I demonstrate how to check and see if that garage sale clamp is gonna work without slipping.
These are specialty clamps used to hold two pieces of wood together at 90 degrees so you can attach them. I don’t use them very often, but when I need them, they are lifesavers.
They are really simple to use. The newer, larger ones (from Harbor Freight) have a release button that allows you to snug up the project and then finish tightening it up with the screw handle. (I need two more of the larger ones…hint hint, Santa)
Those vintage ones just tighten up with the screw handles.
I have other clamps, C-Clamps, Bar Clamps, giant chip clip looking things. They are good to have, but I only use them when I run out of my favorite three.
I hope my experience with clamps helps you decide which ones are right for you. If you have any questions, please ask away.
Thanks SO much for stopping by and having a read!!!
Check out the video too!!
Disclaimer: I was not paid to promote any of the products above, nor did I receive any of them for free. But I am open to offers, LOL!!