Introduction: C-Clamps? 25 Other Clamps They Don't Want You to Know About...

Picture of C-Clamps? 25 Other Clamps They Don't Want You to Know About...

This set of Alphaclamps is an exploration of tools and their form. From the I-beam to the C-clamp, the latin letterforms seem to have a chicken-egg relationship with the letter-shaped tools that bear their name. Is the C the basis for design, or simply a descriptor of the form? Curious about how the other letters would work as tools, I set out to explore the mechanical utility of the forsaken letters of our alphabet.

Step 1: Design Your Clamps

Picture of Design Your Clamps

Decisions, decisions.

I chose DIN, an official German font often used in technical applications. I find it clean and simple, with some good clamp-like letterforms.

I then measured my C-clamps to ensure my letters would be suitable for the threaded rods. I took a photo of the C-Clamps with a ruler in the shot. I scaled the photo so it was 1:1 scale and did some loose sketches in Adobe Illustrator. When satisfied, I converted to a DXF file for cutting on a Waterjet cutter.

Step 2: Cut Your Clamps

Picture of Cut Your Clamps

As an Artist in Residence at Autodesk's Pier 9 shop, I have access to an incredible waterjet cutter. it is a machine that can cut precise profiles in any material that is less than 6" thick and smaller than 5' x 10' feet. It does this with an intensely focused jet of ultra-high pressure water. It took the machine 4 hours to cut all 26 letters out of 1/2" thick steel plate. I listened to several podcasts.

Step 3: Drill Your Clamps

Picture of Drill Your Clamps

This ended up being harder than I had expected. Despite the easy-looking video, for the holes that had to pierce angled surfaces(such as the C) I had to first mill out a flat region for the drill bit to engage on. I did this with a flat end mill bit on our manual milling machine. The drill bit should be sized for the tap you will be using. My rods were a metric M10 thread, so my drill bit was ~9mm (I used 11/32", as I have never even seen a metric drill bit :)

Step 4: Tap Your Clamps

Picture of Tap Your Clamps

Get your audio book ready, as this is the longest step. A tap is an incredible tool for putting threads inside of holes. It is a physically demanding process. When hand tapping, one typically turns the lubricated tap until it becomes difficult, at which point it is backed off about a quarter turn. Each clamp took me about 15 minutes to tap, as the metal is quite thick.

Step 5: Sand, Oil, and Finish Your Clamps

Picture of Sand, Oil, and Finish Your Clamps

I took some 320 grit sandpaper to the edges and finished them off with some anti-rust oil and a Scotchbrite pad.

I am fond of the semi-industrial patina.

Hopefully, they will not rust.

Step 6: Acquire and Dismantle C-Clamps

Picture of Acquire and Dismantle C-Clamps

You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.

You have to break 26 C-clamps to make Alpha-Clamps.

I was able to source 2" c-clamps for less than the cost of the swivel-pad set screws alone.

36 Pc 2" C-Clamps on Amazon.

If you loosen the clamps all the way out, then continue to loosen them, the rivet holding the swivel pad should unset so it can be dismantled.

Step 7: Assemble Your Clamps

Picture of Assemble Your Clamps

After drilling and tapping and finishing, your clamp is at last ready to be assembled. The threaded roc should thread in easily enough. I was able to loosely set the swivel pad by hand, and rivet it back to the tip with a tool in the next step.

Step 8: Re-Riveting the Swivel Pad

Picture of Re-Riveting the Swivel Pad

The end of the rod has a flared end that is expanded outward at the factory so the swivel pad does not fall off. After I un-flared the end by forcing the rod out earlier, I had to make a small custom anvil to re-rivet the cap. I turned the tool on a manual lathe out of a steel rod. After assembling the clamp, the clamp is tightened on the little anvil until the flared end expands to lock on the cap.

Step 9: Storing and Using Your Clamps

Picture of Storing and Using Your Clamps

Every clamp will solve some problem at some point. Be sure to keep them safe and in order.

Step 10: Make a Sculpture From Your Clamps

Picture of Make a Sculpture From Your Clamps

This is the fun part. Clamping together 26 clamps.

Thanks for reading!


LynxSys (author)2014-08-23

It's art, it's a shop joke, it's prop comedy... It's great.

gabrieltaft (author)2014-08-21


Yonatan24 (author)2016-01-16

I think the force of my clamp envy is stronger than the force of all of your clamps together... :)

GenerallyOdd (author)2015-06-30

Dang it!! Now I want a water jet cutter...

toyo88 (author)2014-10-26

adamwatters (author)2014-08-22

Great Instructables, great project! How'd you get those YouTube videos to autoplay? I thought they were really high quality GIFS until I have hovered my mouse over them.

Robb (author)adamwatters2014-08-22

With Flags!

Add this garbage to the end of the URL in the embed code:

&autoplay=1&loop=1&controls=0&rel=0&autohide=0&showinfo=0&modestbranding=1&playlist=XXXXXXXXX" where XXXXXXXXX is the unique ID of the video in question. The tricky part is muting them, which I did by removing the audio from the clip before uploading it.

Robb (author)Robb2014-10-03

Hey Adam,

I wrote an Instructable on the subject of the youtube trick.

Satin pun intentended (author)2014-09-28

Totally Etsy-worthy.

Eh Lie Us! (author)2014-09-02

This blows my mind - in a strange way. I find it such a waste of material to make a simple clamp but still the design and idea are outstanding! What is it about this? I keep thinking of that episode of Seinfield where a couple describe the painting of Kramer:

"I sense great vulnerability. A man-child crying out for love. An innocent orphan in the post-modern world.

I see a parasite. A sexually depraved miscreant who is seeking only to gratify his basest and most immediate urges.

His struggle is man's struggle. He lifts my spirit.

He is a loathsome, offensive brute, Yet I can't look away."

He transcends time and space.

He sickens me.

I love it.

Me too!"

Robb (author)Eh Lie Us!2014-09-03

Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

Also, what?

RangerJ (author)2014-09-02

Cool, but you left out gamma, delta, theta... Then, theres tiet, cheit, zayin, and the rest of those. Plus, there's the cyrillic ones. And, not to be ignored, are yuzz, wum, spazz, floob, and the rest of the letters beyond zebra. (Thanks, Dr. Seuss)

You have your work cut out for you.

domenic3 (author)2014-09-01

very smart design and extremely good step by step.

ser_pez (author)2014-08-29

I love this idea. Great job and great -ible!

makendo (author)2014-08-25

that waterjet... amazing

Weren't tempted to make a double clamp out of the H? (or H-shaped I, for that matter)

Ninzerbean (author)2014-08-25


58cadi (author)2014-08-24

Other than having the alphabet, I don't see the need to put all the time, labor, and money into this project. The C-clamp was the only one I saw in action, and I already know how to use them. Your opening statement declared you were interested in finding out if the other letters would work as tools, yet the question was not answered.

Mex5150 (author)58cadi2014-08-25

Admittedly with a little modification, ie adding clamp components to both ends, but the 'H' clamp could be quite useful.

dancmarsh (author)58cadi2014-08-25

Is there "need" for the statue of liberty? Why should you need a need? This is art, mechanical sculpture pure and simple. Like most sculpture it was done because the artist had an idea and wanted to see if it was possible. I think it is engineering artistry at its best. Some people just don't get it!

sorry, rant over. Anyway, congratulations on an incredible idea and build.

agulesin (author)2014-08-25

Nice project!

Don't know why but we always called them "G clamps" here, maybe because the screw looks like the tail of the G.

parrster (author)2014-08-24

I want your workshop ...just the water cutter then ...please

Fantastic instructable.

bodger-bill (author)2014-08-24

Actually some of the shapes are very useful, take the "P" for instance, this could be very useful for holding odd shaped items in a milling vice, and the "A" should generate tremendous pressure !, all in all an interesting project, but was it really worth the time, effort and cost. nice effort though

GrfxGawd (author)2014-08-24

If you thought the other 25 letters were a forbidden secret, tell me this: When did you last see a 3 clamp? Yes, even more mysterious are the 10 lost numerical clamps, long kept secret and hidden by the engineering illuminati! And let no fool tell you a 0 clamp is equal to an O clamp, for they are not!

AJMansfield (author)2014-08-24

Also, one type of clamp that I would really like to see, which would fit perfectly into the 'I' letterform, is just an expanding bar. You have a rod with a nut in the center, and one end threaded left-handed, the other right-handed. These would fit into some metal bars with matching threads. To use, place inside something, and turn the nut, with a wrench or something, to expand the ends out and apply internal clamping force.

AJMansfield (author)2014-08-24

If I were making an 'A' clamp, the clamping feet would be at the base of the letter. The top point would be a hinge, and the center would be the threaded rod for drawing the clamping feet together. Similar things might apply to other clamps.

These are still cool art though, even if they are not exactly useful clamps.

PopsicleGhoul (author)2014-08-24

Wow! That is an absolutely amazing idea! I like your use of a waterjet.

mrsjetjr (author)2014-08-24

Clamptazmic! This was the absolute most fun Instructable I have ever watched. When will we see a lower case version? The script was hilarious. The delivery was great. There's a future for these Instructable geniuses on SNL. Hey, let's call Jimmy Fallon right now! Great stuff. I will take 2 sets, one for me to play with secretly and one set for my grandson and his parents to play with. As an artist I see a whole new application for a sculpture installation using gigantic letters spelling out PASEO ARTS DISTRICT. Great job, still smiling.

hogey74 (author)2014-08-24

High tech precision cutter plus a dose of whimsy = awesome!

nickivan (author)2014-08-24

Amazing. I also like the way you use the orange part of the discarded C-clamp as a tightening tool when re-riveting the end piece.... looks a little unprofessional but much more human:-)

kenyer (author)2014-08-23

finally a use for this picture :)

mrandle (author)2014-08-22

I thought for sure the first photo was a stock photo but was mistaken. This looks that amazing!

ZaneEricB (author)2014-08-21

Awesome! Super jealous this is your job....

...soooooooooooo do you want those orange pieces?

Robb (author)ZaneEricB2014-08-22

I gave them out as useless gifts!

KookyKreations (author)2014-08-22

I think I am a little bit in love with you for even thinking up this idea. These are possibly the most wonderful thing I have seen this year. Alas, I am missing 90% of what it would take to make a set for myself (mostly all the skills), so I will just sit here patiently until you decide the best way to lifelong financial security is to make and sell these to the public.

johnstat000 (author)2014-08-22


bricobart (author)2014-08-21

Refreshing I'ble! But tell me, how did you make the 'I'?! ;)

Robb (author)bricobart2014-08-21

I actually made the 'I' with a bandsaw. The waterjet cut 'I' fell into the deep water bath, and I couldn't recover it. The screw was mounted perpendicular to the I, and it can be clamped inside the O-clamp with a little effort. :)

bricobart (author)Robb2014-08-21

I didn't look at the video, in fact, and missed the obligate & quite unique combination concept of these clamps ;) But I continue being speechless of the amazing results of that water jet. I want one!

SayntCigol (author)2014-08-21

This is a great instructable on a creative project! thanks

buck2217 (author)2014-08-21

Very clever, did you know that there is actually someting called an EMMS clamp, it is used for damage control on warships and is named for its inventor (LtCdr Emms)

Kiteman (author)2014-08-21

That is an awesome concept - when do they go into full production?

sodasonic (author)2014-08-21

real good!

Paige Russell (author)2014-08-21

Such a super clear instructable for such a super rad idea. Nice work RobbGodshaw!!

About This Instructable




Bio: Robb was once an Artist-in-Residence at Autodesk's Pier 9. He went to Carnegie Mellon to study Art. He mostly does tangible artifacts that are ... More »
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