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AW Extra - Wooden Bar Clamps


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.  








Versatile Handle


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. 








Three-Position Jaw


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 stopped hole.






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 flush. 






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 octagonal handle. 






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,  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,  Epoxy adhesive syringe, 1 oz., #SY-QS, $3.20. • Permatex, (877) 376-2839, Red automotive-grade thread locker, 0.2 oz., #24026, $7. 






September 2005, issue #116

Purchase this back issue.






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Boisvert wrote re: Wooden Bar Clamps
on 01-09-2010 10:25 AM

The wooden bar clamps instructions arrived just in time to save me from buying a new set at the hardware store.  I have also saved a good number of projects in email form for later use.  One problem: Would it be possible for you to allow printing of only the instructions and illustrations, and in black and white?  Having to download headers and advertisements in color is a big nuisance.

Joshua.treeformdesign wrote re: Wooden Bar Clamps
on 02-25-2010 8:41 AM

Okay I REALLY like this idea.  I also have looked it over 5 or 6 times in the last 24hrs.  Here is my 2 cents.  I always find oak(or at least hardwood) on the side  of the road.  If they have ever installed the large steel pipe for water,etc the long boards with triangler wedges on the end are usually red oak or another type of hardwood.  A little jointer work and planning and it is pretty good wood for project if you like burls and knots.  This wood would be great for this project.  And to save a little more money I'm thinking you could take some of those old C clamps and cut the threaded end off leaving a little clamp to pin into your head stock of this clamp. Or buy new cheap C clamps from HF. Just a thought.