Whether you are a craftsman, handyman, or casual woodworker you probably use clamps in some fashion. However, the type of clamp you purchase greatly depends on the scope of the project you are working on. Nothing is more frustrating than having to purchase a new tool everytime you start a new project. This causes your workshop to get cluttered and forces many craftsmen to go over budget. Clamps are one of the most versatile tools in woodworking, and often alleviate the need for many other tools. Generally, everyone knows clamps are used to fix an object to a surface so the craftsmen does not need to worry about holding any material steady with his own hands. This almost always improves the quality and safety of any project
Whenever starting a new project it is always important to start with the end in mind. In this article we have broken down the 12 most popular types of woodworking clamps and the projects and budgets they are best suited for. Please read below to find the clamp (or clamps) that best suit your needs.
Bench Clamps (sometimes called bench vises) are primarily used by woodworkers and welders in order to fix wood or metal onto a table. They are a very simple tool that contains two jaws that clamps down on the top and bottom of the the table. This is extremely helpful when using screws to attach to pieces of material together. These clamps are measured by the maximum distance between the two jaws. Typically, most home workshops will not require anything more than 4-5 inches when picking out a bench clamp.
Corner Clamps (sometimes called right angle clamps) are primarily used for holding two pieces of wood together at a 90 degree angle although it can be used when welding metal as well. These clamps are often overlooked, and many people think they are all the same. However, corner clamps vary greatly both in the quality of materials and width of wood or metal they can hold. For many DIYers and home workshops a plastic corner clamp will work just fine. However, if you are working on larger projects that require stronger force, you may need to upgrade to a metal clamp like the one pictured to the right.
Strap Clamps (sometimes called band clamps) can best be thought of as a distant cousin of the corner clamp. While corner clamps can be used for only 90 degree angles strap clamps are much more versatile. Because they are literally a band they can be used to pull joints in at various odd angles. However, when using this you are giving up a lot of control and stability most woodworkers become accustomed to when using normal clamps. Strap Clamps are best used when the angle, size, or scope of your project makes using a standard right angle clamp too awkward.
Parallel Bar Clamps
Parallel Bar Clamps (sometimes called F-Clamps) are primarily used for clamping panels, cases, framework and other long materials in a workshop. They work great for holding all materials including wood, metal, and composite. These clamps are typically the preference for craftsmen who frequently using materials that need to be clamped over a large distribution area. This is why Parallel Bar Clamps are perfect for applying equal pressure across long rectangular projects. When picking out parallel clamps it is very important to looks at the pads. Depending on the type of material you are using you could scratch out stain your materials with cheap parallel clamps. As the name may suggest parallel clamps typically come in sets of two. This allows for equal and opposite pressure to be applied when working on larger framing projects.
Pipe Clamps are very similar to bar clamps with one caveat… You can change the length of the clamp whenever you want given you have the correct materials. When you purchase a bar clamp, there is a set maximum length you can use. This could be 6″, 12″, 24″, 36″, or even 48″ inches. Because of this many hobbyists are forced to buy multiple sizes over time. Pipe Clamps are literally just the “jaws” or head pieces of bar clamp that can be screwed on to a pipe. This definitely requires a little DIY enthusiasm and willingness to purchase and cut pipes to your satisfaction. However, this can save you a lot of money in the long term if you know you will need multiple sizes of clamps. Typically most pipe clamps are sized to fit either pipes with a thickness of 3/4″ or 1/2″. If you are willing to put in a little extra work this can definitely save you hundreds of dollars over a couple of projects.
C-Clamps (sometimes called G-cramps) are typically used to hold small pieces of lumber of metal to a workbench. As the name suggests the C-clamp is typically made in the shape of a C and has a long screw that can be used to secure the top of the clamp to the bottom.These clamps are both extremely cheap and versatile. While C-clamps were originally created to hold lumber to a flat surface they can quickly be used as makeshift handles, or to hold down a picnic blanket on a windy day. When buying a C-clamp it is generally a good idea to invest in one made out of steel if you are actually working with building materials. However, if you are just going to use them for custom tasks like holding down a blanket a plastic one will be slightly cheaper and work just fine. To check out our list of the best c clamps click here.
Spring Clamps (sometimes called pinch clamps) essentially function as a clothes pin for hobbyists and other DIYers. These pins are good for small delicate projects or repairing broken items. Spring clamps do not exert a lot of force, and therefore are ideal for brittle materials. In carpentry spring clamps are used all the time for holding small pieces glued wood together. Typically the padding of all spring clamps are made of rubber in order to maximize potential force and mitigate the chances of scraping or discoloring brittle materials.
Deep Throat Bar Clamps
Deep Throat Bar Clamps are best thought of as a combination between C-clamps and Pipe Clamps. The easiest way to think of them is as a deeper c-clamp. In 99.9% of cases a deep throat bar clamp and c-clamp can be used interchangeably. Deep Throat Clamps have the throat depth (measure of to top edge of the Jaw to the back of the frame) of a c-clamp with the strength and stability of a pipe clamp. These types of clamps are ideal for projects where you are jamming a piece of wood or metal into the back of a c-clamp and would ideally have another inch or two to spare.
A handscrew clamp is essentially a jaw with screws on either end. Traditionally, the jaws of handscrew clamps are made of harwood, not plastic or metal. This type of clamp is ideal for carpenters who do not want to risk having metal scrape their materials, or if they are working with uneven surfaces. The dual screws allow to clamp to apply a more even force when dealing with workbenches or materials that do not have a evenly flat side.
Locking clamps are more commonly used by welders and metal workers than traditional woodworkers. This is because locking clamps are made completely of metal. Typically the Jaws of locking clamps stretch considerably further than a traditional bench or pipe clamps. Locking clamps are especially popular when working with sheet metal. To prevent scratching of metal on metal it is recommended that you purchase rubber pads which can go on the end of the jaws.
Ratchet Action Bar Clamp
Ratchet Action Bar Clamps ideal for holding together two materials that are different shapes and sizes. It is also ideal for woodworkers and craftsmen who prefer to use soft wood because of the spongey padding on the jaws. Because of this Ratchet action bar clamps are not as strong as other more traditional clamps such as the bench clamp. However, it works great for small projects when you are on a limited budget.