Some woodworking joinery requires for the wood to be properly clamped together, and improperly clamped wood can lead to weak joints and pieces of wood not fitting together properly. In this article, you will learn about common woodworking clamps, how to clamp wood of varying shapes and sizes, and clamping tricks.
Types of woodworking clamps
- Bar Clamps
- Pipe Clamps
- Corner Clamps
- Hand-screw Clamps
- Spring Clamps
- Band clamps
- Face Clamps
Below are the types of woodworking clamps and their common uses
1. Bar Clamps
Bar clamps are one of the most common types of clamps. These clamps include parallel bar clamps, f-style clamps, and quick action clamps.
Parallel Bar Clamps
Parallel bar clamps are made to stand up on their own. Parallel bar clamps are designed to be clamped under the wood, holding the wood up. These clamps are commonly used in joining parallel pieces of wood together, or edge joining. These clamps also tend to be more heavy duty and slightly more expensive than other types of bar clamps.
F-Style clamps are bar clamps with a lever to macro adjust the opening of the clamp and a hand swivel to micro adjust the opening to tighten the clamping force. These clamps take a little longer to adjust than the quick action clamps, but they allow for more clamping force. For F-style and quick action clamps, the top of the clamp that bites the wood protrudes out, thus gripping the wood differently.
Parallel bar clamps are flat at the top so when you clamp down all of that force is evenly distributed on the wood. However, you may want to clamp a more center piece in the wood, this is where F-Style clamps are useful.
Quick Action Clamps
Quick action clamps are just like bar clamps, however, they have a lever to quickly tighten the clamp instead of using a hand screw. This type of clamp is useful to cut down the time with clamping only if you do not need a lot for clamping force for the project.
In the section on how to clamp two pieces of wood together I will explain how much clamping force you will need.
2. Pipe Clamps
Pipe clamps are very similar to parallel bar clamps in the sense that they are commonly used for parallel wood joinery. However, parallel bar clamps are commonly stronger than pipe clamps.
One of the benefits with pipe clamps are that many of them are customizable. You can take off the bottom adjuster to the pipe clamp, add another pipe of the same length, and make a larger pipe clamp.
3. Corner Clamps
Corner clamps are great for right angle, 90 degrees, corners. Using a right-angle corner takes the guessing and measurements out of creating right angle corners. You can find specialty clamps for creating angles that are not 90 degrees, but I will explain that later in the section “How to clamp corners”.
4. Hand-screw Clamps
Rockler has specialty hand screw clamps that allow for clamping to a wood piece and clamping the clamp to the work bench. This is very beneficial because depending on the size and weight of the piece and the workbench dimensions, it can be very hard to keep the wood stationary and clamped to the work bench.
5. Spring clamps
Spring clamps are clamps that you squeeze together to open up the clamp and release to clamp. These clamps are very quick and easy to operate, however they tend to be smaller making them only useful for smaller clamping areas.
Spring clamps do not have adjustable force so the clamp may be too tight or not tight enough for your project.
6. Band clamps
Band clamps are perfect for closed shapes like a square, triangle, and octagon for example. You have a band that you wrap around the object and tighten to get a good clamp.
The reason why band clamps are preferred with closed objects, especially those with angles that are not 90 degrees, is because the angle matters greatly in closed objects. An angle that is off by just a couple of degrees will not align perfectly.
However, when you clamp using band clamps, you are certain that the object will align perfectly.
7. Face clamps
Face clamps clamp wood perfectly parallel to each other. These clamps are most commonly seen when using pocket hole joinery and most face clamps are made by Kreg, the company who makes the majority of pocket hole jigs.
Face clamps are not useful with joining perpendicular pieces of wood together, because the “face” of the face clamp is not big enough and designed for that type of clamping.
Purchase Kreg Face Clamp: Amazon link
A vice is a clamp that tightly holds the wood in one position. This clamp isn’t used to join piece of wood together but to hold the wood steady during chiseling and sawing.
9. Workbench clamps
Workbench clamps are clamps that are attached directly to your workbench. These clamps can be bar clamps, pipe clamps, or vices. The main job of a workbench clamp is to secure the wood to the work bench.
We learned about the 9 most common types of clamps in woodworking. Below, I will discuss how to clamp right angle, perpendicular, and irregular wood pieces. After that, I discuss alternative clamping methods.
How to clamp two pieces of wood together?
Now that we learned about various types of clamps, now we will discuss how to clamp two pieces of wood together.
- Tools Needed
- Wood glue
- Wood glue spreader
- Glue the surface
- Clamp the wood
- Clean up excess glue
1. Glue the surface
The first step to clamping wood together is to add glue to the clamping surface. You want to use enough glue to slightly coat the surface. Using too much glue will lead to more clean-up and waste.
2. Clamp the wood
After gluing the surface, you will then want to clamp the wood together. Clamping the wood will look different based on the type of joint you are clamping. Here are some of the more common clamping types.
Right angle joint
To create a right-angle joint, you will use a corner clamp. You will want to align the wood so that the clamping areas are touching
Joining parallel pieces of wood
To join parallel pieces of wood, it is best if you use a parallel bar clamp or pipe clamp under the wood to hold it up and at least one clamp above the wood to prevent it from bowing. This is because when you clamp one side of the wood, bottom or top, the wood is prone to bowing inward or outwards.
This is why you will want to clamp on both sides and have the pipe or bar of the clamp resting on the wood to prevent bowing.
Clamping irregular shapes
To clamp irregular shapes or curved pieces of wood, you may be able to use a band clamp if the project is a closed shape. If not, then you will have to either use a specialty clamp or an alternative method. Some alternative methods is to use tape, elastic straps, or a diy clamp.
If the project does not require a lot of clamping force, then you can use heavy duty tape to join one piece with the other. You will need to ensure that the tape wraps around both wood pieces to allow for a tight bond
You can use elastic straps for more heavy-duty projects. Adhesive straps may allow for less slippage. You will use the straps the same way as the tape.
Lastly, you can create a DIY clamp. I suggested this last because it requires a little more prep work, but it is essentially fool proof if all else fails.
One of my favorite videos of DIY clamps is by this company Fixing Furniture.
3. Clean up excess glue
Be careful with the amount of clamping force you put on the piece, because you can overtighten wood clamps.
To ensure you do not overtighten, you should tighten the clamps so that pieces are flushed together, and a small amount of glue comes out. More glue would come out if you added too much glue to your piece.
Wipe off the excess glue immediately, and you should not see any gaps or glue in the wood piece. If you do, then tighten it a little more, wipe, and repeat.
Overtightening clamps will lead to you squeezing out too much glue, thus weakening the joint. If you do not see any glue after tightening, then stop.
Now you should wait for the glue to dry. To create a stronger hold, you can add screws or nails to your joint during this period.
After 15 minutes, your work piece should be dry enough to take off the clamps.
Alternative Clamping Methods
If you don’t have, or can’t use conventional clamps, then you do have a few alternatives.
The goal with clamping is to provide enough clamping force to secure the wood while it dries. Honestly, do you not need conventional clamps even though it will make your job much easier.
- Elastic straps
- Weights/Heavy objects
- Ratchet Straps
- DIY clamps
Here are a few alternatives to conventional wood clamps
- In the “Clamping irregular shapes section”, I mentioned how you can use tape and elastic straps to clamp wood together. You can wrap heavy duty tape around both pieces to join the wood together
- Elastic straps
- Elastic straps work essentially the same way as tape. You will use the strap to fully wrap both pieces of wood. Elastic straps can have a stronger hold than tape.
- Elastic straps are prone to slipping, so using some form of adhesion is recommended.
- Weights/Heavy objects
- You can sit heavy objects on top of work pieces to hold the wood together while the glue dries.
- You can use nails to quickly join two pieces of wood together.
- While nails by themself may work, it is still recommended to use wood glue to have a stronger hold.
- Ratchet Straps
- Ratchet straps can be used in the same way as elastic straps. The main difference is that ratchet straps are more adjustable in relation to elastic straps and the fabric is prone to less slippage.
- DIY clamps
- Lastly, you can make DIY clamps. Some DIY clamps can be just as good, or even better than some of the conventional clamping method.
- DIY clamps can be made out of wood, PVC pipes, metal, and almost anything.
In this article, we learned how to clamp wood together and alternative clamping methods and techniques.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this article and I wish you luck on your woodworking journeys!
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