If you are into woodworking, you will know the value of a clamp. They are versatile tools that hold a workpiece in place temporarily. We use clamps in so many places – in woodworking, carpentry, metalworking, construction, and a variety of other areas.
Clamps come in a variety of types and sizes, and the names are endless. Veteran woodworkers usually have a never-ending stock of clamps for their various projects.
But if you are an amateur, you may neither have the budget nor the resources for these items. Or, it may be just that you need to do a quick clamping with what’s available.
Types of Woodworking Clamps
There are three main types of woodworking clamps:
We use a bar clamp for holding together edges when we apply glue. The clamping pressure should be at right angles to the glue line. Any deviation from this can result in slippage.
We use C-clamps in woodworking, cutting, and welding among a host of other activities. The main body of the clamp is in the shape of a “C” after which it is named. Part of the problem with these clamps is they’re easy to apply too much pressure on a small point and damage the wood.
Hand Screw Clamp
A hand screw clamp usually jaws made out of wood (often Maple) so that the surface of the jaws don’t damage the wood. The double spindles help apply even pressure over the length of the jaws.
Practical Alternatives You Can Use Instead of Wood Clamps
Whatever the case may be, in this post we highlight some of the alternatives to traditional wood clamps. Here are a few options that come to mind:
If your joint is well-fitted, it shouldn’t need much extra support when you apply glue. If you need something to hold the components together lightly, non-marking masking tape can serve the purpose quite well. The tape will stay in position until the glue dries or when you remove it. It is also a useful option when the wood is fragile and soft like balsa.
If you have a large, bulky project, you may find difficulty finding a clamp big enough to fit around it. We get bungee cords in different lengths and strengths, which give you a very versatile option. You are bound to find something that holds your project together.
You may have to be a bit innovative in the way you rig up your bungee cord to clamp your project. But innovating and creatively getting ideas is all part of woodworking projects. A bit of trial and error will not go amiss, but the results can be satisfying. Try to avoid gluing your bungee cord to the project!
Use a Windlass
A windlass is a combination of rope and sticks to pull opposite components together. We use this arrangement a lot in boating for the rigging of a yacht. You need to wind a rope around two sticks. Now, when you insert a third stick into the length of the rope and twist it, it causes a tension that you can use to pull in the two components if you set it up properly.
Like tape, rubber bands are easy to procure, cheap and disposable after use. They are particularly useful in gluing small components where a clamp may not fit easily. Once the job is done you can cut the rubber bands off and dispose of them.
This one is a real kicker! Slice PVC pipes into rings perhaps ¼” to ½” in width. Cut each one parallel to the axis of the pipe, to form a “C” shape. Now, you have an improvised “C” clamp. You can now open the cut to press both sides on a joint to hold it in place.
Other Spring-Loaded Items
Essentially, many items that contain springs like clothes clips, binder clips (used in stationery) and even rat traps can serve as clamps. You will need to select the items based on the size of the job, and how efficiently you can set it up.
Here is a great clamping option for you to use if you have only one hand free. The two faces of a caulking gun without the cartridge loaded to serve as a functional clamp, albeit only on the edges of a job. Make sure to use a few sacrificial pieces of wood between the jaws to prevent your job from getting damaged.
With this type of clamping, you will be making use of gravity rather than the force of a spring or elasticity. You can use dumbbells, bricks, cases of full bottles, or containers with water. Practically anything will do provided that it is balanced safely and applies adequate pressure on the job at the appropriate place.
Ratcheting tie-downs are straps that we use in packaging. They provide an efficient clamping system for large projects. It is an inexpensive and quick way of holding together large projects. You will find this type of clamping particularly useful for roofing projects.
Pins and Nails
When you have two flat surfaces to glue together, there’s nothing like pins or thin nails to do the job. Technically, pinning or nailing is not clamping because we don’t remove the nails or pins after the glue dries. But it is a versatile way of jointing which deserves a mention while discussing different types of clamping.
We get vises in a variety of sizes and shapes. If you have small jobs to clamp which are portable, you can put them in a bench vise or pipe vise. On the other hand, if your vise is smaller and portable, you can take it to the job and clamp it on. Bear in mind that a vise is likely to be heavy, so ensure that the weight does not impact your job.
It isn’t only bench vises that we are talking about. There are pipe vises and many other woodworking vises that can serve well as a clamp for your gluing purposes.
We discuss different types of woodworking vises in another of our posts.
One of the most unlikely but effective and powerful forms of clamping comes as a car jack! If you need to apply heavy downward pressure but don’t want to be lugging around heavy weights, a car jack can do the trick.
Make sure that the setup is lined up properly, because you are dealing with literally tons of force, and you can cause some serious damage if you are not careful. You can distribute the force by using a block of wood on the clamping site.
Depending on the projects that they are meant for, you can get extremely long clamps, often several feet in length. A good example is pipe clamps. So, when you need a really long clamp for a long workpiece, you can select a suitable pipe clamp.
Using a long piece of lumber between the block and the workpiece is a good idea. It helps to prevent the long workpiece from buckling under pressure.
Woodworking clamps come in a variety of shapes, types, and sizes. However, you may not always get suitable clamps for your projects. In this post, we have highlighted how you can get creative with clamps and make your own improvisations. We hope that you will be able to use the information provided here in your future woodworking projects.