Introduction: DIY Woodworking Cam Clamps & Plans!

This is a project I originally posted on my blog woodshopmike.com Stop by sometime and check out my other projects & tool reviews. Now, on to the tutorial!

Before you get to far into the project, grab the Cam Clamp Plans from my site! Once you've downloaded these, the whole tutorial will make a bit more sense!

Wanna make some legitimate woodworking clamps on the cheap? Why wouldn't you! I was able to build 20 for about $30!

So first, a moment of confession. I disassembled a broken cam clamp I'd purchased many years ago to use as a template for my clamps. Whew, I feel better with that off my chest! This is a great project to make a dent in that pile of scrap material you've been holding on to for longer than you care to admit. Which reminds me... I need to weed out my scrap pile... again :(

Step 1: Size Up Lumber

Using flat sawn stock will end up yielding the strongest clamps, but I wouldn't get too hung up on this. So, for the clamp bodies, you'll need 1" thick stock cut into strips that are 1 1/2" wide & 6 1/2" long. When you turn these flat sawn pieces up on end, you get quarter sawn material in the direction of clamping force! Cut yourself a few extras for setup pieces...or don't if you're daring ;) I used cherry, walnut, and pecan to make these clamps, but you can get away with most hardwoods. Maple is probably best suited for the project, though.

Step 2: Profiling & Dados

I added the dado to the top pieces next (refer to the drawings for all the particulars on this). With the dado finished, I moved on to cutting and shaping the inside of the clamps. I used the bandsaw to remove the majority of this material and then touched up the profile with the oscillating spindle sander.

I added the dado to the top pieces next (refer to the drawings for all the particulars on this). With the dado finished, I moved on to cutting and shaping the inside of the clamps. I used the bandsaw to remove the majority of this material and then touched up the profile with the oscillating spindle sander.

Step 3:

Now it's time to make a relief cut for the cam to press against and drill all of the split pin holes in the top pieces. Refer to the drawings for specifics and use stop blocks and fences to make the process go quicker. Here's how I setup for the relief cut on my Rikon 10-325!

Step 4: Counter Sunk Pilot Hole for Reinforcing Screw

The last step for the tops is to drill a counter sunk hole on the underside just in front of where the bar slides in the piece. I'm using an 1/8" pilot and countersink bit. Of course with a fence and stop blocks set up :) I ran a 1" screw into each of the clamps here. This helps to add a bit of rigidity right behind where the relief cut ends.

Step 5: Making Cams

The next thing I did was make the cams for these clamps. These come out to a finished thickness of about 11/32". The exact thickness isn't super critical, just make sure it fits nicely in the dado previously cut in the tops. The process I used for making these cams was to machine the material to final thickness first. I then cut out one cam on the bandsaw and sanded it to it's final shape. After this I transferred the pattern onto the remaining material that I'd previously machined and repeated the cutting and sanding operations.

Step 6: Drill Cams for Split Pin

With all of the cams shaped, it's time to drill some 9/64" holes! This will allow a split pin to pass through it and be the pivot point for the cam. Setting up a fence and stop block on the drill press makes this a very quick and repeatable process.

Step 7: Installing Pins Part 1

With this done, you can install all three pins in the tops, as demonstrated by my lovely wife.

Be sure to put the cams in, too, and make sure they are installed in the proper orientation.

Step 8: A Fun Surprise!

Little did we know our first daughter Annabelle was going to start her arrival at 2 a.m. that morning! We finished up in the shop about 12… Here we are with Annabelle's first tool set!

Step 9: Drilling Bar Stock & Installing Pins

Now, grab all of the bars and bottom pieces and head back to the drill press. Position a bar into a bottom piece and drill the two pieces simultaneously. You'll probably want a little cutting fluid handy since you'll be drilling into steel. A little WD-40 or a drop of motor oil will do the trick. After the first hole has been drilled, go ahead and drive a pin through the first hole. This locks the pieces together so that you can move on to drilling the second hole.

With that one done, drive a pin through and the two pieces should be nice and snug.

Step 10: Zip Tie & Done!

With this done, slide the tops onto the bars and run a zip tie or rivet into the 1/8" hole at the top of the bar. This will keep the top from falling off the bar when the clamp isn't...clamping.The last step is optional.

Cut some sticky backed cork to fit on the jaws of each clamp. This will keep the clamps from maring your project.

If all goes well, you should have a nice little army of cam clamps ready to go to work!

Comments

author
Starsword7 made it!(author)2017-06-24

Amazing instructable.

I'm going to make a couple of these, except Ill have to use a hand drill, jig saw, and table saw.

author
wolfie47 made it!(author)2015-09-01

Hi Mike The best priced clamps ever and easy to replace when you break some.Also

thanks for the plans from your website.Really nice to get something for free.

Appreciated.

author
WoodShopMike made it!(author)2015-09-01

Hi wolfie47,

Glad you liked the project!

author
indet made it!(author)2015-07-05

These are cool I'm going to make a few for my camper project. Small side note, keep your little one with you as much as you can in the shop. It is cool your wife helped. Girls love makin' stuff but lately Dads are keeping them out of the shop/garage. All my friend's kids male and female love time in my shop. I have had my best times with my kids and grandkids out in the garage. They think they are just making stuff. Be blessed by having them learn stuff with you.

author
Hallofo made it!(author)2015-07-01

A most excellent project/ 'Ible! I find myself in frequent need of clamps for projects large and small. Congratulations on the baby as well!

author
barben made it!(author)2015-06-28

I'm sorry I just thought of another question I should have asked in the first comment. The screw you placed just beyond the relief cut on the sliding bottom piece is just to the left, right beside the bar. I was wondering why it was placed there so far toward the outside if it is to provide extra pressure to the clamp? Why not put it in front of the bar more in the middle of the base instead of toward the outside? Thank you for posting this instructable.

author
WoodShopMike made it!(author)2015-06-29

Hi barben,

I've not tested my clamps, but the ones you can buy of this same style spec about 300 pounds of clamping force. I use this style clamp almost exclusively when building guitars and recently used them to glue up stock for table legs.

Regarding the screw. That is to help prevent the clamp from splitting. It does nothing to provide extra pressure. I've used clamps with and without this screws and have never had one split. That being said, I'd sure hate to skip this step and end up with a broken clamp. Does that answer your question?

author
barben made it!(author)2015-06-29

Thank you for your response and yes it answered the questions.

author
barben made it!(author)2015-06-28

Also congratulations on the arrival of your first child. I have 5 children and they are an incredible blessing. How tight can these clamps be expected to hold things? They are beautifully made but look like they would only just hold things in place.

author
meswanson made it!(author)2015-06-26

Very well designed and constructed. Nothing like mass assembly to save time. Certainly scalable for smaller clamps I would think. Well done!

author
Wood+Chuck made it!(author)2015-06-26

Congrats on the new addition!

The clamps are ingenious so simple yet effective

author
john.latorre.10 made it!(author)2015-06-26

I've made many of these (but I skipped step 8!). I do recommend that you make a prototype to ensure that the cam curve and the cam pin placement is accurate ... that's really the only critical step.

author
WoodShopMike made it!(author)2015-06-26

John,

That's a great suggestion & hahaha, I'm sure most people will be skipping step 8 :)

author
Al_B made it!(author)2015-06-26

Nice Job on the clamps and thanks for sharing the plans, Keep her around if she is willing to help you out in the shop in between feedings! LOL Thanks for sharing

author
WoodShopMike made it!(author)2015-06-26

hahaha! She's a keeper and a big help for sure!

author
seamster made it!(author)2015-06-23

Very cool! I might have to make a few of these sometime. Awesome stuff.

And congrats on new baby! :)

author
WoodShopMike made it!(author)2015-06-23

Glad you like the project. These are great clamps. I use them almost exclusively for guitar building because they're light and offer plenty of clamping force.

Thanks! We're thrilled with the little one. Now if I can just get her to sweep the shop :)

author
Al_B made it!(author)2015-06-26

Mike Where can you get plans to make a Guitar, I've always thought that would be a fun project to try and make.

author
WoodShopMike made it!(author)2015-06-26

You can buy plans from lmii.com or stewmac.com Whenever you get around to building a guitar feel free to send questions my way, I'd be more than happy to help.

author
buck2217 made it!(author)2015-06-24

Cool, and glad to see that you keep your wife working right up to labour, makes me feel better about making my wife mix concrete post doublle hip replacement!! ;-)

author
WoodShopMike made it!(author)2015-06-24

that made me laugh out loud! Hopefully you didn't put her to work too soon after surgery :)

Glad you like the project!

author
buck2217 made it!(author)2015-06-24

Yes have downloaded and once I've finished the list that "she who must be obeyed" has set me I will be making some!

author
Kafukai made it!(author)2015-06-23

Cool! Why to buy, if you can make. And the best part you can customize the size for specific type of work.

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Bio: Husband to a great wife, father to my baby girl, and child of the one true king. 9-5er during the day and woodworker the rest ... More »
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