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If you’ve ever taken on a DIY project, you know just how expensive it can get, and how important it is to have the right tools and materials– and one of those essentials is woodworking clamps, which is why here, we are focused on letting you know how to find the best woodworking clamps.
Woodworking clamps may not be the first thing that comes to mind when starting on your project. But they’re essential enough that they were acknowledged on a Northern Colorado Dream DIY Giveaway that was announced to help those who had to put aside their improvement projects due to the pandemic-induced economic downturn.
The giveaway, which is offering $10k in cash, mentions ways you might want to spend that prize money to shore up on essential power tools and equipment. From high-end table and miter saws to dust collectors, band saw, drill kits, and jigs, it’s a pretty impressive list.
A more modest suggestion? Woodworking clamps. In fact, the giveaway posts mention how important having woodworking clamps are for any project. And while it’s important to look at all equipment, you aren’t going up very far without a safe way to secure the wood you’re working with.
Consider this your guide to woodworking clamps. I’ll tell you why you need woodworking clamps, how to use them effectively, and, of course, how to find the best ones for your next project.
What are woodworking clamps used for?
Woodworking clamps are used for securing wooden blanks, typically when you’re using a saw, but also for related projects, such as drilling. These clamps are essential for safety reasons, especially if you don’t have a table that already has clamps.
Clamps are critical for a variety of reasons, including:
Making Precise Cuts
If your wood isn’t properly secured, it’s far more likely that you may make inaccurate cuts, even with the best power saws. A clamp ensures that you can cut in an even pattern, avoiding movement that can be costly in a number of ways. If you’re cutting for something especially particular, like trying to install the best wooden flooring, it’s all that much more important to make sure your materials are held securely.
Of course, one of the most important reasons you need to invest in the best woodworking clamps comes down to safety. In a given year, there are an estimated just under 40,000 table saw accidents alone.
Even the ‘safest’ saw a radial arm saw, clocks in a few hundred accidents per year. And while some of these accidents are minor, and there are many reasons for these accidents, one of the most common causes of accidents is not properly using equipment, but also not properly securing materials while using that equipment.
Wood that isn’t properly secured can cause you to lose control of your saw, pieces of materials hitting you or others, and other related incidents. A proper clamp helps you to work steadily and be in full control of your emotions, which can likewise reduce the risk of cutting yourself with a saw or even harming yourself with a power drill.
How do you use woodworking clamps?
There are countless types of clamps, and each type of clamp is used a little differently– from Bora parallel clamps to F Clamps and more. There are certain steps you must take, no matter what kind of clamps you’re using.
Step One: Select a Location
Whether you’re sawing or drilling, you want to make sure there aren’t any potential hazards in your environment. Make sure you have ample space. You should not have anything, aside from a workbench and your tools, within arm’s reach.
Clear aside any clutter and also ensure you have proper ventilation. For garages, you’ll want to open your door. For basements, have windows open. Ensure you have ample lighting. If you have family, make sure everyone is aware you’re working.
Step Two: Clean Your WorkSpace
Use a slightly damp rag or cloth and clean off any surface you’ll use. You want to make sure that even dust is cleared away. Make sure you wait until everything is dry and clean before beginning.
Step Three: Secure the Clamp
While how you secure the clamp depends on your clamp, make sure that the clamp is firmly clutching the material, so that it does not move when shaken. Many clamps require you to twist to secure. And of course, make sure you’re using the best and proper clamp for the job.
How do I choose a clamp?
Choosing a woodworking clamp comes down to what project you’re working on, and what you want out of a clamp. You’ll need to consider the type of clamp, as well as other factors, such as material, who makes the clamp, and additional features.
When choosing a clamp, you don’t have to spend a fortune– but you do need to make wise decisions with some key features in mind.
Best Materials for Woodworking Clamps
No matter what type of clamp you decide is the best fit for your next woodworking project, you also need to make sure they’ve been made out of quality construction, from proper materials, and from a reputable company.
For materials, look for study steel, rust-resistant iron, or high-quality aluminum. However, what is best for you depends on your project.
Comparing steel and iron vs aluminum, steel will almost always be more expensive, but also is stronger. One reason many love aluminum is a downside for clamps: it is malleable, meaning it can deform over time. However, one advantage of aluminum over steel, aside from cost and being lightweight, is that it doesn’t corrode. Iron and zinc plating are also common.
For heavy-duty projects, look for protected steel. For lighter projects, aluminum may work– especially if you’re looking at a low-cost spring clamp.
Best Types of Clamps for Woodworking
Note that there are many types of clamps for woodworking– but these are my top recommendations for the best clamps for overall use and versatility.
Bench Clamps are among the simplest of clamps used in woodworking: their use, as indicated by the name, is merely to clamp woodworking to a working bench. They work by attaching to the bench with a simple clamp and are popularly used for projects like sawing, drilling, and related projects. They aren’t very specialized, but they get the job done if your main concern is just holding materials down. They are also the most affordable of woodworking clamps.
My Recommendation: Yost Vises ADI-5, 5 Inch 130,000 PSI Austempered Ductile Iron Bench Vise with 360-Degree Swivel Base
This bench clamp is an excellent option– highly recommended by consumers, with a clamping force of up to 300 lbs and a torque rating of 290 Ft/ Lb. It’s strong, fast, and easy to use, with a jaw width of 5” and a jaw opening of 6”. The 360-degree base interlocks and swivels and is easy to adjust. Plus, both the rope and pipe jaws are zinc plated. Buy Here.
C- Clamps (Locking)
Locking clamps are popular options for woodworking projects and are characterized by a jaw that forms a C formation. Noted for their durability, locking clamps typically feature a flexible jaw alongside an external level for operating.
They’re also quite versatile: locking clamps are used not only for woodworking but also for pipes, and useful for welding projects. I recommend this if you’re used to working with clamps and want more versatility: a key feature is the ability to adjust the grip.
My Recommendation: HNBun 4Piece 6inch C-Clamp, Malleable Iron Heavy Duty C-Clamp with Sliding Bar
This highly affordable C-clamp for woodworking, priced under $50, is made out of rust and corrosion-resistant heavy-duty iron and features a jaw opening of 6”, with a throat depth of 2 ⅝ inches. It also has an impressive clamping force of 1350 lbs and offers easy use with a swivel jaw with low resistance. Buy Here.
F-Style clamps are one of the most popular clamp types for woodworking, partially because they’re among the most comfortable to use. Considered to be ergonomic, F-Style clamps are sometimes also called bar clamps and are adjustable and relatively easy to use.
In many ways, you can consider F Clamps a “cousin” to C Clamps in that it has a similar feel, but with a more generous opening. Two horizontal bars form with a vertical bar, with an adjustable screw. These clamps are used for drilling projects, anything dealing with welding, bolting, and related projects. It’s my favorite pick for many projects, though not as strong as parallel jaw clamps.
My Recommendation: Sure-Foot® F-Style Clamps
These F Style clamps cost less than twenty dollars and pack in some great features for everyday use. They’re sturdy, with a quick-release clutch for easy use and positioning and an ergonomic handle. The throat depth is 2 ½” and they work alongside a workbench. Buy Here.
Mitre clamps, or miter clamps, are used for one specific purpose: conjoining miter joints. Miter joints are created by joining two pieces of materials together at a 45-degree angle to form a 90-degree angle and are commonly seen for picture frames, piping, and even molding projects.
Naturally, then, mitre clamps are the clamps you need if you’re putting together picture frames, or, outside of woodworking, piping. While limited in use, they are especially helpful in these situations. Mitre clamps work with a central spring and form a C-shape to hold right-angled pieces.
My Recommendation: Collins Tool Spring Loaded Pliers and 4 Miter Clamp Kit
This helpful kit comes equipped with no just miter clamps, but also pliers, for a great overall value. Featuring a simple design, these are easy to use for quick clamping and fuss-free for anyone who hasn’t worked with clamps much before. Buy Here.
Parallel Jaw Clamps
These woodworking clamps, as the name suggests, hold wood parallel and at a right angle (90 degrees) to a bar. Parallel jaw clamps can be a bit tricky to use but are unique and quite helpful for difficult projects, especially ones that involve excessive glue, and also for projects where you’re trying to assemble in a square format.
Look for jaws that are three to four inches deep. These clamps are prized especially for their strength and ability to perform well even under arduous conditions. While not useful in a lot of situations, they’re great to have on hand.
My Recommendation: JORGENSEN 8024 Cabinet Master 24 Inch 90 Degree Parallel Steel Bar Clamp
This powerful jaw clamp can hold up to a 1,000-pound load and is made out of reinforced steel with a protective coating. Other features include a reversible head for flexible clamping, a clamping stand, and handles with an ergonomic design. The jaw opens up to 24.” Buy Here.
Sash clamps are powerful clamps that I advise using only for larger projects. These impressive clamps, used both in woodworking and metalworking, are popular for securing materials when working on something like furniture (such as cabinets, desks, bed frames, and more).
This is because they will hold bulky pieces of wood during a long drying process. They are popular for a variety of large-scale assemblies, even doors, and beams, though they can vary in size. Sash clamps consist of a steel bar with a sliding feature, often made out of iron.
My Recommendation: Irwin 135/6 Heavy-Duty Sash Clamp
This sash clamp is meant to withstand the most difficult projects, made out of heavy-duty, durable steel. It works quickly despite its strength, applying even and smooth pressure, with a clamp stand for additional support, and a 48” jaw capacity. Buy Here.
Spring clamps are a strange type of clamp, in that they are most useful for odd projects, rather than daily use. They can also be handy for smaller-scale gluing projects. Spring clamps are useful for holding down especially fragile pieces of material, or if you’re working with odd shapes and sizes.
In reality, these are the most simple of all woodworking clamps and work more or less like a simple clip, not unlike how a chip bag clip works. Spring clamps consist of dual jaws and two handles and are moved using a central spring pivot. While perhaps the easiest type of clamp to use, they aren’t as durable and aren’t suited for heavier woodworking projects.
My Recommendation: EACHPOLE |10-Pack| Heavy Duty Nylon Spring Clamps 4.5 inch for Home Improvement Projects and Photography Studios
Obviously, these small spring clamps aren’t going to last forever, and they can’t take on heavy-duty projects– but that’s the nature of spring clamps, and these are stronger than many, and a good overall value. Each spring features a tempered steel spring, is quite flexible, and easy to use. Buy Here.
An alternative to mitre clamps, strap clamps are useful for the same situations: that is, conjoining mitre joints, such as working on picture frames, molding, or piping.
While these clamps have some of the same purposes are mitre clamps, they do work a bit differently. Strap clamps are a bit more versatile because they also can be used for odd angles, and thus, have been used for additional projects, such as holding down fixtures, working with flanged or T nuts, and related tasks. They tend to be a bit more awkward to use and bulkier, but more versatile.
Answer: Which woodworking clamp you buy first depends on your needs. If you don’t do a lot of heavy-duty projects and just want a clamp for use for putting together a picture frame, I recommend a miter clamp. For overall use, either a C or F-style clamp will get you far. For bigger projects– like kitchen renovations– you may consider sash clamps. Spring clamps, meanwhile, are useful to have on hand for just about any little project or craft.
Answer: One downside to clamps is that they do risk damaging wood if not used properly. To avoid ruining your latest DIY project, clamp gently and be careful to clamp precisely- that is, fiddle with it as little as possible. For some clamps, you can buy protective felt padding.
Answer: In order to finish a glue job, many times only two main clamps are needed. Two clamps clamped together can secure a corner, so long as they are situated correctly. Make sure to lay your project on an even, flat surface to ensure that the project dries sufficiently.
Woodworking clamps are a must-have for woodworking projects, keeping you safe and your work more precise. By carefully thinking about your next project, you can ensure you’re buying the perfect clamp for your project.