Get an Idea of the Different Types of Clamps for Woodworking

Although carpentry clamps don’t get the recognition that chisels, gouges, and other woodworking tools typically do, it’s not difficult to see just how integral they are to wood crafting.

Clamps are the all-purpose gripping tools behind the joining, aligning, pressing, and just about every other time-honed technique that’s practised in woodworking. And the truth is, you’re not likely to find even the simplest shoebox, birdhouse, or cutting board that was crafted without the aid of clamps.

They’re as essential as they are versatile; and because they’re used with such regularity and have been adapted for so many different types of woodworking tasks, carpenters know that no matter how many clamps they have, they can always use more. They understand that having a few extra pairs of clamps handy is more than just a good idea: it’s a great investment.

Clamps Made for Woodworking

Wood Clamps

From the standard C- and G-clamps used to hold edge cauls, to meticulously-crafted miter clamps that border on the verge of being works of art themselves, there’s no shortage of clamp types or styles. And regardless of whether you’re a novice who enjoys woodworking in your spare time, or a craftsman who’s been doing bespoke wooden works for decades, having access to a wide selection of high-quality wood clamps and clamping tools is an indispensable advantage for every project. There’s one designed to meet every unique need in woodworking, so it’s no surprise that one clamp – or even just one type of clamp – isn’t able to do it all. It’s part of the reason though that clamps are so frequently used in multiples, and also why some clamps inevitably see more use than others.

The Ideal Clamps for Woodworking

There are a lot of specialized wood clamps available to choose from. And while attributes like size, shape, and even the types of joints used on a project can determine which clamps are best for a particular task, there’s still a small handful of multi-use woodwork clamps that are ideal for practically every job. Their dimensions and gripping reaches may vary, but whenever you’re in the market to buy wood clamps, these are the ones you always want to have a few extra laying around.

F-clamps/Bar Clamps

These clamps resemble the letter “F” and consist of two horizontal jaws and a flat vertical bar. Along with U-clamps and long-reaching K-clamps, these are all variations of wood bar clamps that can be adjusted, and even extended, to widths above 2500mm. They’re the cornerstones of woodworking, and are optimal for holding and equalizing pressure on all kinds of projects.

Pipe Clamps

Pipe clamps are traditional, heavy-duty ½” or ¾” carpenter clamps that use a round pipe on their horizontal plane instead of a flat bar and a pair of pipe heads for jaws. These old-school versions of bar clamps have been used in woodworking for hundreds of years, and can be fitted with any length of pipe, making them ideal for extra large woodworking projects like cabinets and tabletops.

Bench/Base Plate Clamps

Squeeze-handle or toggle lever-type bench clamps are anchored either horizontally or vertically to workbenches or tables and provide a fixed clamping surface where wood stock can be held. A woodworking bench clamp allows for quick, stationary setups on all sizes of projects, and comes in either standard jaw or recessed jaw variations.

One-Handed Clamps

One Handed Wood Clamp

One-handed, woodworking quick clamps allow you to work single-handedly with a piece of wood stock and to be able to release it quickly in a single movement. Pocket, face and corner clamps function very similarly in also allowing one-handed operation. With adjustable jaw widths up to an amazing 900mm, these clamps feature either handles or triggers that make gripping large or heavy objects with your free hand easier.

Spring Clamps

Spring clamps are similar to one-handed clamps for woodwork, except they only pinch the wood stock instead of grasping it. Spring clamps allow you to maintain a grasp on thinner objects than would be possible with other types of clamps; and with their adjustable jaw settings, they’re convenient for use where there isn’t a lot of space available to maneuver.

Watch Your Grip When Clamping

Depending on the type of woodworking you do, you may be completely aware of which clamps are best for you. Regardless of the type of clamps you use though, you always want to keep in mind that unlike in other craftworks, woodworking clamps aren’t intended to be used as maximum pressure devices. They only need to be able to apply the amount of pressure that’s necessary to hold a piece of stock in place while it’s being worked on, or to ensure that there’s adequate surface contact between stock objects while you’re waiting for glue to dry.

All things being equal, a premium carpentry clamp never needs more than:

  • · 100-150psi clamping pressure for softwoods like pine, cedar, or birch; or,
  • · 200-250psi clamping pressure for hardwoods like walnut, cherry, or oak.

A clamp’s grip only needs to be snug, not inescapable. In fact, avoiding the impulse to expect too much from a limited number of clamps is the main reason that having extra woodcraft clamps available is so important.

Regardless of the type of clamps you’re using, for the best results, you always want to:

  • · Work on flat surfaces. Flat, level surfaces minimize the chances of warpage and the potential for misalignment.
  • · Keep clamps clean. Change clamp pads when necessary and make sure that they’re always free from glue or other debris.
  • · Tighten clamps incrementally. Applying uniformed clamping pressure prevents irreparable damage from occurring.
  • · Avoid overtighten clamps. Anything more aggressive than a snug grip risks damaging the wood or ruining the glue joint.
  • · Ensure that you have extra clamps. With extra clamps on hand, you’ll have them if you need them.

Ultimately, the technique you use for setting up a woodworking clamp is just as important as any that you’ve learned for handling any other tool. It makes a difference, and you’ll see it immediately in the way that your project turns out.

The Final Word

Suffice it to say, there’s no disputing just how important clamps are for woodworking. And especially when you’re in the process of a big job, it doesn’t take long to realize just how vital they are when things have to line up perfectly.

A wide selection of high-quality wood clamps is what every craftsman needs to undertake any project they have in mind. You may not need every kind there is, but ensuring that you have a sufficient number of the most essential ones is an investment that you can’t go wrong with.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.