How many clamps do you need?
How many clamps do you need and can you have too many clamps? As many as you can get your hands on! In our workshop, we hold a large stock of clamps of all sizes and types and often get into situations where we just don’t have enough! You can never have ‘too many clamps’ when glueing wood together. This is true for us as our work often requires many woodworking clamps, especially when laminating timber to ensure a good glue joint.
Do I really need so many woodworking clamps?
Are work is architectural woodworking like the ‘#Volets’ you can order via www.wallybois.com but clamps are universal woodworking tools that are often used in artistic woodwork. Cabinets are essential for any workshop. Dedicated clamping benches are also great, complimenting your clamp collection. For most of us a collection of clamps is what we have massed a volume of clamps for a multiple of tasks. because they can be economically difficult to just buy all the clamps in one go.
Do you need clamps?
Even DIY tasks will at some point require some clamps, so a comprehensive clamp collection is a superb addition to any tool assemble and a woodworker must have if not a dream. So how many clamps do I really need? Well, this would depend on how serious you are as a woodworker artisan. Sorry, this sounds sarcastic but the real answer is that you need enough to get your job done. If like me you are working on a daily basis of laminating it will be necessary to have a large collection of clamps.
Clamping Pressure is important
Clamping pressure is important. When joining two pieces of wood together pressure applied to the joint will have a lasting effect on the final joint strength. Some situations will not dictate to having high clamping pressure such as veneers which vacuum lamination works well. Veneers respond well to moderate but even pressure.
A mortise joint may require high clamping pressure to mate the joint but the pressure can be pulled back a bit to just hold the joint together. We use some huge clamps with sole crushing power which would bring even the Brexiters in line. Be careful applying to much pressure as you are at risk of squeezing out the glue and making your joint weak as a result. Moderate even pressure is best.
If you are laminating thin timber you will require as many as one every 100mm so you may need 10 or more per m, thicker timbers will require fewer clamps but if you see an area gaping a bit then whack another one on!
Edge Glue ups
I touched on laminating but if you are glueing up a table top once you have all the edges true and additional jointing ready you might want to apply your favourite wood glue in the form of a PVA or Resin. The volume of clamps will be dictated by the straightness of the boards being used and you edge planing accuracy. In any glueing scenario it is not uncommon to look at what you’re doing and question yourself “do I have enough clamps on that new tabletop project?”
The best thing you can do is look along each join and check for any gaps or dry areas where the glue is not oozing out, then maybe you don’t have enough pressure? Answer: more clamps of or more pressure. You may also need a few large G clamps to vertically clamp the joins to aid alignment, especially on the ends.
The clamp of choice here for me is the British sash clamp but there are other options such as pipe clamps which I see in the United States the first choice. For small table tops, I use Record clamp heads on a hardwood bar of a length that is practical for the job in hand.
A biscuit joiner helps with edge glue up
A bit off topic but the use of a biscuit joiner will help align wood boards when doing edge table-top glue-ups. The biscuit joiner is a small semi-circular pressed beech joiner. This small but effective wood joining system is a great and simple solution for aligning boards. The biscuits are cheap and should not be confused with the Mc’vities digestives’ which will have not practical purpose in woodworking shop other than at tea break time!
Alternative joining methods of glueing up table tops
There are other methods of edge joining of table tops or any wooden surface. Unless you have decided to build that top using a composite board such as Plywood, MDF (Modified Fibre Board) or the budget construction material Chipboard.
ply slip joiner
A simple joining solution and a very strong option and a prefered option over biscuits. It mimics tongue and grooved boards like floorboarding! This method of wood joining is good for edge joining where waterproofing is important. In the marine industry ply, slip joiners are very good for deck boards or superstructure sides as it performs well in preventing water ingress.
Domino Dowellers by Festool
A new and superb wood jointing system. We use a Festool 700 XL in our workshop on a daily basis and swear by this wood joining system by Festool. As an edge joining system, it works especially well when structural integrity is required. Because the Domino joiner has a lateral tenon joining the edges together which supports the boards as well as providing alignment. Some kind of clamping solution is still needed in the form of sash or pipe clamps.
If you are keen on a bit of picture framing or need to build a mitred box then frame clamps are helpful but a set of corner clamps may a good idea. Skimping on clamps designed for mitred joints is a bad idea as glueing four mitres to form a square is very difficult and each corner will have a mind of its own. I personally am not keen on frame clamps of any type but I tend to opt for a 90° clamping board or a specific clamping jig made from scraps as I find this a far more stable method. Stanley 90 degree frame clamp is a substantial tool and should be in your toolkit. You can BUY this Stanley Clamp tool.
Cheap is value woodworking??
I admit I have used budget clamps from the ‘Pound land’ type stores but not always to the benefit of a good job. The major issue I have found that after a few uses the serrated bar wears smooth so the clamps arrangement slides down the bar. If I was to advocate these clamps it would only be for the purpose of one or two jobs then dispose of. I have a serious problem with this throwaway world we live in.
Chinese manufacturing has improved over the years and the lower cost of importing has also made a huge difference to our buying power. There is no denying that the lower end user cost will entice many to buy these cheaper Chinese alternatives but with cuts in costs affect the quality of these clamps. I have also bought these cheap clamps and it is obvious the design is poor and areas that would normally have reinforcement are thin and as a result mine broke. The iron used is not the same as you would find in the construction of proprietary brands like Record or Stanley.
When the need arises because you have a job on or cannot justify the cost. Homemade tools are often a suitable solution. Simple designs for jointing boards edge on can be just a pair of sliding wedges between two stops. or cam lock arrangements which work well for low-pressure jointing.
Iconic woodworking tool brands such a #Record or #Stanley are the first manufacturers that come to mind and the products last, I own many of these old tools which still serve me well just as they did when new. Should you invest in these basic but practical tools of the above-mentioned brands? If I had the money then ‘yes’ as the steel is superior and they are very unlikely to break unlike some of the cheap brands which use steel that is far from top grade for the high tensile job they have to do. Bessey, Record, Stanley, Irwin.
Yet another clamp that is named after it’s shape ‘The F Clamp’ a simple design which has been copied by many Chinese manufacturers but the best brand available to my knowledge is the brand ‘Bessey’ which have been around since Max #Bessey founded the Stuttgart based company in 1889 and since then it has evolved into a respected brand. The F clamp is a good clamp and is easy to use as well as being quick due to the sliding bar. Good Quality Bessey Alternative can be Purchased Here
These are available in a variety of lengths and strengths and the longer/stronger versions can be used as a sash clamp alternative. This is where quality matters and the cheap options are frankly useless. The cheap Chinese ones with crude wooden handles in red chromed bars are rubbish and available everywhere. If you are compelled in buying these then be prepared that they are only good for a few uses as the steel bar is too soft. Because of this, the serrated edge wears smooth so the F portion cannot grip so it will slide under pressure.
Fast Grip / Irwin Quick-Grip
‘Irwin Quick Clamp’ is very handy but not ideal for glue ups as they have a low clamping pressure but good as an extra pair of hands. Great for holding work while fixing or positioning. Many of these rapid style clamps are reversible so can help with pushing pieces of work apart or deconstruction. Being single-handed operation these have their place on the work site especially if up a ladder or step ladder securing your workpiece and if you’re like me and want to keep one hand firmly holding on! You can Buy Irwin Quick Clamp Here.
In recent years there has been a range of these rapid ratchet style clamps come on the market including many store brands and other budget offerings but mainly the best two brands available are ‘Irwin’ & ‘Wolf’. I like the Wolf version as they have the single-handed operation in the form of the reverse ratchet backward motion instead of just release. Useful but not a G Clamp replacement in my opinion.
G Clamp (sometimes called C Clamp)
Sometimes known as ‘C Clamps’ but we will stick with ‘G Clamps’ and these old design concepts are a pattern which certainly does the job intended. They have high pressure and versatility in the workshop. When buying new G’s I would study the casting for flaws as bad casting can make for failure during use. These have been about for years and I still have many inherited from my Father.
These old Records and beaten up and covered in Resin from his career in boat building. They last because they are crude in design and frankly just functional. Today they are refined a bit with fine threads that benefit from chrome plating which makes them more fluid than the old ones. To Buy 6″ Record Click here
Sash Clamps come in many forms such as ‘Pipe & Bar tools both have a steel bar, girder, box section or pipe for the medium to support the pipe heads unlike the wood and sash head version below: I am particularly fond of these versatile wood and iron head combo. The basic concept is that you add a length of hardwood with holes drill in for the clamping head lock pins which make these wood and iron clamps adjustable.
The thing that I really like is that one set of clamping heads can be many clamp lengths by simply making more wooden bars/beams. So economics dictated that these iron heads are a great efficient cost-effective option. In our business, we sometimes have a situation
where we have to build a door frame
but not too often so we need two 2.4m bar with Record heads for the frame glue up. Our clamp heads are generally tied up with our 1.2m setups but for the occasional long clamp requirement, we have made two wooden bars which we borrow sash bar heads for them.
Should I Buy Record Sash Clamp Heads
You can purchase cost-effective sash clamp heads but the best, in my opinion, is the Record version. The casting is much stronger compared with some of the Chinese imports. There is a cost difference but the Record model will last a lifetime and serve you well in the workshop for many years if not a lifetime. So yes you should consider good brands like Record. To Buy Irwin Record Sash Heads Click Here
If your budget is limited or you just want to save a bit so you can buy an additional head. You may want to consider an imported tool such as the Faithfull set of heads which will still serve you well. You can still get the job done effectively with Faithfull. Faithfull is a good brand that we have used on many occasions and have a collection of their tools. So I am happy to suggest Faithfull heads which you can BUY by Clicking Here.
My Conclusion on these tools
if you are serious about woodworking then starting a useful collection should now be your obsession. I own over 300 hundred and still run out when on a session. This disease is not documented in any medical journal but should be. I find this time served tradition of collecting, the ‘Penny Black’ of woodworking.
The feeling I get when squeezing up a project is the therapy that allows me to subject the workpiece into submission. The alpha male in me that gets satisfaction from inflicting the squeeze! Joking aside if you are to participate in many projects a good selection of good woodworking tools is a must.
A good collection takes time and you should not get too despondent if your budget s prohibitive. Start your collection by buying the bare minimum for your current job in hand offsetting the cost to the client or missus!. Like mentioned above there are cheap Chinese copies of propriety brands such as Record or Bessey and some are very good for the price by the originals are almost always better. The fact is if you need to join timber together you will likely need a way to clamp them.
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