Clamps – Woodworking Tip of The Week

There is an old saying among woodworkers that you can never have too many clamps. While this is a true statement, there is more to the story. If you have several dozen clamps, and you never run out, then technically you have enough clamps. The meaning of the expression is more about having enough clamps to evenly distribute the clamping forces.

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clampsClamping is about pressure, and the distribution of pressure. If it were about pressure alone, you would only need one clamp. Place it in the middle, crank up the pressure, and that’s it.

A clamp is designed to produce a lot of force. If you were to really tighten your clamps, you could damage the pieces. You could also squeeze out so much glue that your joint is weak.

The thing to remember about clamps is that you need to spread them out and distribute the pressure well. It’s not about having a lot of pressure. It’s about having the right amount. For this, you need to have them placed evenly, and with a medium amount of force.

Clamps, and How Glue Actually Works:

The reason pieces are clamped together is to give the glue time to bond. Glue seeps into the surface of each piece, and then hardens. The liquid glue becomes a solid, and since some of the glue is under the surfaces of the wood, it holds them together.

clampsFollowing this logic, you really only need to keep the pieces together until the glue dries, which could be done by hand. If you had the time and the patience, you could hold two pieces together and they would bond. The bond may not be as strong as if clamped, but it would work.

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A better way is to apply a medium strength clamp to your pieces, and add several clamps to ensure that the pressure is evenly distributed across the entire piece. The more you use the better. If you can get them every couple inches, great. If you can get them even closer, that’s even better. When two pieces are held together with good pressure and several clamps, it makes a powerful joint that is hard to break.

The Best Way to Use Clamps:

The next time you are gluing something up in the shop, use more clamps, and don’t over tighten them. You should see some glue squeeze out. This is normal. It also shows you that you have even coverage between the mating faces. If you see a ton of glue come out, you may be over tightening.

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Space the clamps evenly, and work them up to pressure in waves.  This means you get them all placed first with light pressure. Then, tighten each one a little more until they have all been made tighter. Repeat this a couple times as you evenly bring up the pressure, and your clamps will perform the best for you. Your joints will be better too.

If you have any questions about Clamps, please leave a comment and I will be glad to answer them. Also, please share my work with your friends on Pinterest! Happy building.


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