Some of us go to the woodshop to get away from pressure and stress, but as soon as we reach for a clamp, well…
Applying pressure accurately can take experience, training, planning and, of course, the right clamps. There are lots to choose from including pipe, bar, F, beam, parallel, trigger (pistol grip), spring, C, bench, toggle, pinch dogs and hand-screws, to name a few. There are general purpose and specialty clamps, plus a truckload of accessories and jigs to go with them. There are clamps that work best for dry fits, or glue-ups, or panel making.
In fact, there are so many options that the only way to see what’s new or unusual is perhaps to run through the brands alphabetically.
Dogs and gears
Armor Tool in San Diego (armor-tool.com) has created a family of dog clamps that work with the standard 3/4” round bench dog holes in a woodworking bench. These are very sturdy devices that either push down (toggle) or sideways (inline) to hold parts in place while they are being worked. In addition to the clamps, Armor has developed several short fences that anchor parts so the clamps can exert pressure.
Bessey Tools North America raised a lot of eyebrows lately with the introduction of its new GearKlamp. This unique tool offers a more compact solution than the classic bar clamp. Broad movements are done with a quick-adjust button (just push it with your thumb), and fine action is completed by turning the handle. A geared mechanism on the sliding bar transforms each rotation of the handle into more pressure on the jaws. That lets the clamp work in tight spaces. It’s also tough, with a profiled rail made of tempered, burnished steel. The soft pad can be removed to clamp oddly shaped objects. The GearKlamp comes in four lengths (6”, 12”, 18” and 24”) with a throat depth of 2-3/8” and an everyday clamping force of 450 lbs.
Bessey has also recently updated its popular K Body parallel clamp. The new Revo version is designed to clamp at 90 degrees to the rail, with very large clamping surfaces. The handle includes a steel socket that lets a woodworker apply clamping force using a hex key, which is particularly helpful for those with wrist strength issues.
Bora Tool in Troy, Mich. is part of Affinity Tools, and the company offers a number of spring, pistol and parallel clamps. Bora also makes three lever clamps (6”, 12” and 24”) that are light duty (330 lbs. of pressure) and very responsive, so they’re ideal for dry assembling projects to take measurements or mark parts for joinery. The large lever is also easier for sore hands to handle.
Woodshops that are edge-gluing panels might want to take a look at the family of flat panel clamps from Damstom (damstom.com). Made in Canada and sold through Rockler, they deliver perfectly flat panels by using two straight, parallel rails to firmly sandwich the boards.
DeWalt (dewalt.com) offers a pretty decent catalog of clamps that includes bar, angle, pipe, band and trigger versions. There’s an interesting 90-degree angle clamp (DWHT83853) that is ideal for face frames, picture frames, drawers and other glued-up assemblies. It can mount to the workbench and handle different thicknesses of materials.
California-based De-StaCo (destacoclampstore.com) offers a complete selection of manually and pneumatically operated toggle-style clamps that are ideal for building jigs and fixtures. The company sells directly through its online store.
A little-known clamp manufacturer, Dubuque Clamp Works in Iowa doesn’t even have a website but woodworkers have been praising its quality hand-screws for more than 40 years. They’re available through Infinity Cutting Tools (infinitytools.com) and retailers such as Amazon. Look for the name Miro-Moose.
Some specialty clamps
Festool fans will be pleased to know that the company (festoolusa.com) makes a couple of different clamps, primarily for holding work on the bench while it is being machined. The Festool Quick Clamp (FS-HZ 160) has a ratcheting mechanism and was initially designed to complement the company’s saw guide system. It works with holes and channels on the Festool MFT Multifunction Table and can also fit the bottom T-slot of the FS Guide Rails. Festool also makes the VAC SYS, a pneumatic clamp that holds non-porous material for machining and finishing, while protecting delicate surfaces from clamp damage. Each clamping module is equipped with a suction base that adheres to nonporous surfaces with a quick release valve, and it can adapt to many surface sizes based on interchangeable vacuum cups.
General Tools makes a handy pocket screw clamping kit for small woodshops that occasionally make five-part doors and face frames. Called the Face Frame Jig System X2, it lets a woodworker clamp, drill and assemble frames and doors using just one simple setup. It handles stock up to 2” wide and 1” thick.
Groz Engineering in Haryana, India (groz-tools.com) is primarily known for metalworking tools and vises. The company recently introduced a line of woodworking clamps called Kwik Clamps that are easy and fast to adjust. They have an I-beam rail that minimizes flexing and has serrations that engage with a hardened steel insert in the moving jaw to eliminate slippage. Four hardened rollers in the moving head maintain a constant 90-degree angle under load, so the clamp heads remain parallel to each other. The jaws are encased in non-marring, glue resistant polypropylene. Groz makes a matching little stand that holds the clamps on edge so four of them can be used to glue up a square or rectangular assembly.
Irwin (irwin.com) recently added half a dozen new vise grip pliers to its clamp line, and one in particular may be of special interest to woodworkers. The new Fast Release Locking Clamp with Swivel Pads is an update on a shop-tested original. This model has a 20 percent reduction in required hand span, so it fits more hand sizes and delivers more control and less strain. Its swivel pads hold tapered work and delicate materials while reducing damage to the work surface, and a hex key adjusting screw tightens the jaws to adjust pressure, providing a more controlled release.
Jet (jettools.com) has a good selection of parallel clamps and has recently added a kit (70411) that is ideal for drawer assembly. It includes two 24” and two 40” clamps, a framing block kit and a bench dog set.
Jorgensen’s Pony brand (ponyjorgensen.com) began with a hand-screw back in 1903. Among the company’s newer offerings are Gear Clamps, which are ideal for projects that require constant use of clamping and unclamping. A distinctive power bar design delivers rapid action, and a handy quick-release button allows for the instant release of clamping pressure. Jorgensen also makes the Pony Cabinet Claw, which is indispensable for one-man shops where an extra hand is needed during cabinet assembly.
Keter (keter.com) makes an interesting line of clamping, folding jobsite workbenches.
And Kreg Tool (kregtool.com) offers everything from clamp tables to bar and toggle clamps. One of that company’s recent additions is the In-Line Clamp, a low-profile bench dog with a dial that applies pressure from the side, rather than from overhead. That keeps the clamp out of the way as you work. It pops into any 3/4” hole in a benchtop and delivers up to 250 lbs. of pressure.
MLCS Woodworking (mlcswoodworking.com) has a number of specialized clamps including the Merle Band Clamp that has quick release corners and pivoting, self-adjusting jaws that align to any angle, even circles and ovals. The basic package includes a 23’ steel banding reel, four quick release corners and four pivoting jaw inserts.
In addition to carrying a huge catalog of everyone else’s products, Rockler Woodworking and Hardware (rockler.com) also makes about 150 proprietary clamps. These include the Sure-Foot Plus, which comes in both round pipe and rectangular bar versions with feet that won’t roll around the workbench. Another interesting device is the Drawer Front Installation Clamp that have dual clamp heads and micro-adjustable stops. Their thin frame profile lets a woodworker close the drawer while the clamp is still on, making it easy to check the alignment with adjoining drawer faces. Once the micro-adjusters are set, a cabinetmaker can work through a stack of drawers in no time flat.
Anyone looking at work-holding options should stop by the Sjöbergs website (sjobergs.se/en). This Swedish company makes some of the world’s best production workbenches, and also makes a few interesting accessories.
Another really clever product, designed for finish carpenters who are installing crown, is the Crown Molding Hanger from Smithline Products (crownhanger.com). You tap in a couple of roofing nails in an area where the molding will eventually hide the holes, hang the clamps on the nails, and then lay the molding in the clamps. Then you can adjust the angle and snug the molding against the wall and ceiling.
Speedjaw clamps are available through retailers such as Lowes and Walmart. They are adjustable locking hand clamps with a quick release mechanism, and they’re great for holding parts together for marking and measuring.
Stanley Tools (stanleytools.com) offers the 2x4 clamp (STHT83166) that can use any jobsite 2x4 to create an instant 400 lb. clamp. They even have feet, so they stand upright. They can be used to assemble banks of cabinets, windows and other architectural elements, and even hold some stick-built walls in place while they’re being secured.
Tekton (tekton.com) makes a number of basic, affordable clamps including a family of ratcheting pistol grips in lengths from 6” to 42”. They are widely distributed and available online.
Ohio-based Woodpeckers (woodpeck.com) has developed a number of specialty solutions for clamping boxes, drawers and miters. The BC4-M2 Box Clamp will set parts at exactly 90 degrees, and it’s ideal for assembling bookcases and other complex projects. Just position the clamp in a corner, give the knob or bolt a twist and equal pressure is applied to both parts while instantly squaring the joint. It’s that simple. There’s also a new easy setup feature that has stock thickness dimensions called out on the clamp body, so a woodworker can quickly adjust the Box Clamps to fit specific stock dimensions in seconds.
Woodcraft (woodcraft.com) carries a whole catalog of WoodRiver brand clamps and work-holding devices, many of which are clever responses to various woodshop challenges. Among them are the corner band clamp, the Quick Gear and the curiously shaped Q-Lever. The device locks with a ratchet arm that has a quick release, a type of mechanism that allows use of the whole force of the lever when gripping a blank, without slipping.
And Yost Vises of Holland, Mich. (yostvises.com), founded in 1908, makes bar, parallel, angle, drill press, F and C clamps.
This article originally appeared in the August 2019 issue.