When you are building baby furniture or undertaking any woodworking project, the importance of having woodworking clamps on hand cannot be overstressed. Woodworking clamps give you an extra pair of hands. You can hold materials steady while you make finishing touches or you can hold materials together for gluing. As Norm Abram mentioned in This Old House Magazine, there are several types of woodworking clamps, and each has its own benefits. Take a look below so you can avoid common mistakes.
Woodworking Clamps: C-Clamp
One of the more common clamps is a C-clamp. It is not a popular woodworking clamp because the clamping force is concentrated on two small points and so it can easily damage your wood. On a C-clamp, one end of the C has a flat end that is pressed against one side of the wood. The other end (on the screw side of the C) has a turn-screw that flattens against the opposite side of the wood. Because C-clamps are generally made of steel or cast iron, they provide a more heavy-duty woodworking solution. Just keep in mind that the flat edges of the frame can indent or mar the woodworking surface, especially on delicate woods. You must maintain a balance between tight enough to hold the materials together and not so tight that the wood is damaged. When you do need to use C-clamps, many woodworkers will add scrap pieces of wood so that the scraps sandwich the wood being glued/held together. The clamp holds the scraps, the scraps hold the wood, and nothing important is damaged.
Woodworking Clamps: Hand-Screw Clamp
Another routine choice for woodworking clamps is hand-screw clamps. Unlike C-clamps, hand-screw clamps are less likely to damage the wood being clamped. Their design distributes pressure along a wider area. They are a good choice when working with woods, plastics, and fabrics, and they come in a variety of lengths and reaches. Always be sure to select the hand-screw clamp (and any woodworking clamp) that can open wide enough for your project and has a jaw depth that can accommodate your project.
Woodworking Clamps: Pistol-Grip Bar Clamp (aka Quick Release Clamps)
The third type of woodworking clamp that we will cover today is the pistol-grip bar clamp or quick release clamp. Bar clamps usually have a fixed end and a screw-down end. A variation is the quick grip clamp or quick release clamp that uses a pistol-style grip for rapid adjustment and clamping. Because they often have plastic or rubber jaws, they are great for delicate projects in which the wood could be easily damaged. Keep in mind that the rubberized clamps provide greater padding when it comes to working with soft woods, but they also tend to have more slack than you may want in your clamping. I generally use the rubberized quick release clamps when alignment or force does not need to be perfect. If you are in need of additional pressure, go with the hand-screw clamps.
Additional Tips for Woodworking Clamps
- Select the correct type of woodworking clamp and the correct size of clamp for your project. Applying too much pressure with a small clamp will cause the clamp to break, and applying too much pressure with a large clamp on delicate wood will leave a nasty gouge in your materials.
- Lightly lubricate the screws on your woodworking clamps occasionally to prevent rust.
- If you will be clamping directly over a glue joint, put wax paper or plastic wrap between the woodworking clamp and the joint to avoid permanently gluing the clamp to the project.
- Build hanging racks to keep your woodworking clamps organized, accessible, and in top condition.