Shop-made clamps that deliver versatility and performance.
by Dave Olson
End your clamp shortage once and for all. These wooden clamps are easy to make, a joy to use and they exert plenty of clamping pressure. If you build them with scrap lumber, they cost less than half the cost of a comparable aluminum bar or steel I-beam clamp. So why not turn what would be an ordinary purchase into a fun shop project?
You can make these clamps in any length; the ones shown here have a
49-in. capacity. I made my clamps out of hickory, a dense, stiff
hardwood that’s often used for tool handles. Hard maple, white oak or
ash would also be a good choice. I recommend making these clamps in multiples—then building them is
efficient, and you’ll have plenty to use.
Durable Acme Threads
Designed for use in vises and machine tools, Acme threads are wide-bodied for strength and steeply inclined to efficiently transfer clamping pressure. They’re faster to adjust than standard V-threads, because they have fewer threads per inch. They’re also less likely to clog with debris.
It’s easy to grip by hand and long enough for two-handed tightening. Locked nuts on the end accommodate a drill for speed or a wrench for extra torque.
The offset post creates different clamping points for fast setup and maximum adjustability. For storage, simply plant this jaw in the hole nearest the headstock and secure it with the headstock jaw.
No Black Stains
These wooden clamps won’t mar your workpiece or leave unsightly stains, the way steel or iron bar clamps can. An easy-to-apply shellac and wax finish keeps glue from sticking.
Stable On Any Surface
Thanks to their flat-bottom design, these clamps won’t tip over, even when they extend well beyond the edge of your bench. They also work great on sawhorses.
Add Some Comfort
For Comfort and increased gripping power, wrap the handle like a tennis racket, using rubber cut from an inner tube. Simply stretch the rubber around the handle and tuck or tape the ends.
The first step is to plane
your stock flat and square. I started with 1-in.-thick (4/4) lumber, so
I had to plane and glue boards together to create the 1-1/2-in.-thick
stock this project requires. If you start with 2-in.-thick (8/4)
lumber, you’ll avoid this first gluing step.
Photo 1: Cut dadoes in the bar (A, Fig. A, below) for the
headstock. Establish one shoulder with the fence and the other with a
spacer block. Then clear out the waste. Complete the bar by drilling
holes for the bar jaw. Assemble the bar jaws (B, Fig. B, below) by
drilling offset holes and inserting the steel rods.
Photo 2: Cut headstock pieces (C) from a large blank. First, cut
the dado. Then saw the individual pieces. If your saw has less than 2
hp, use a regular blade to cut the long, deep dado. Install a tall
fence and saw both cheeks. Adjust the fence and make additional cuts to
remove the waste.
Photo 3: Spread five-minute epoxy around the base of the stopped
hole to seat the headstock nut. Keep the epoxy away from the through
hole. Insert a 12-in. length of rod with a nut threaded on the end. The
rod centers the nut. Press the nut firmly against the bottom of the
Photo 4: Anchor the nut. Before the epoxy underneath hardens,
dribble more epoxy around the outside. Let it seep in so it fills this
area completely. Remove air bubbles by tamping with a small stick.
After the epoxy has cured, remove the threaded rod and sand the surface
Photo 5: Chamfer a long blank for the handles. Then cut it into
4-1/2-in. lengths to create half-handles (D). Two half-handles form one
Photo 6: Drill out the handle’s center without gluing the halves
together. Later, you’ll glue them around the rod. Use a bracket to make
sure the halves are perpendicular to the table and parallel to the bit.
To keep the bit from wandering, drill halfway from each end.
Photo 7: Glue the half-handles with epoxy. First, thoroughly clean
a 12-in. length of threaded rod. Then tighten two nuts on one end with
their faces aligned. Use enough epoxy to fill between the threads and
onto the mating wood surfaces. Keep both half-handles butted against
the nuts when you clamp.
Photo 8: Pin the handle to the rod. Drill a 3/16-in.-dia. hole
through the handle assembly. Then install the steel pin and peen both
ends to secure it.
Photo 9: Mount the headstock jaw (E). Thread the handle assembly
through the headstock nut. Then slip on the jaw. The jaw accommodates a
nut that’s fixed on the end of the rod with thread locker (see Sources,
below). After the jaw pad (F) is glued on, the nut and rod are free to
spin inside while the jaw assembly moves forward and backward as the
handle is turned.
Photo 10: Apply finish before gluing the headstock assembly to the
bar. Tape the exposed glue-joint surfaces and metal parts before you
spray. I sealed my clamps with shellac and then applied paste wax. A
polyurethane finish would also keep glue from sticking, but it takes
longer to dry.
Photo 11: Glue on the headstock assembly. Seat the joint first,
with clamping pressure between the top of the headstock and the bottom
of the bar. Then clamp the cheeks together. Your bar clamp shortage
will be over as soon as the glue dries
This story originally appeared in American Woodworker September 2005, issue #116.
Source information may have changed since the original publication date.
Enco, (800) 873-3626, www.use-enco.com 5/8-in.-dia. x 6-ft.-long 8-tpi Acme threaded rod, #FA408-0222, $16. 5/8-in.-dia., 8-tpi Acme threaded nuts, #FA407-2202, $1.75 ea. 1/2-in.-dia. x 3-ft.-long drill rod, #FA409-0029, $4. 3/16-in.-dia. x 3-ft.-long drill rod, #409-0009, $1. • Super Glue Corp., (800) 538-3091, www.pacertech.com Epoxy adhesive syringe, 1 oz., #SY-QS, $3.20. • Permatex, (877) 376-2839, www.permatex.com Red automotive-grade thread locker, 0.2 oz., #24026, $7.
September 2005, issue #116
Purchase this back issue.