Introduction: Hose Clamp Magic

Picture of Hose Clamp Magic

Pocket Wonder

Hose clamps are ubiquitous in plumbing, and clamping a hose to a fitting tightly is critical in any plumbing system. Traditional hose clamps work great, but they can be bulky, and they don't work well around irregular shapes. Using stainless steel lockwire (also called safety wire) and a tool called a Clamp Tite, a custom clamp can be fabricated quickly and easily. 

Using this pocket-sized tool with lockwire, lots of types of connections can be fabricated, not just pipe clamps. This instructable will illustrate a simple example for fabricating an easy pipe clamp for a rain barrel. 

Step 1: Problem?

Picture of Problem?

When collecting parts for a rain barrel, I neglected to test the fit of the outflow hose on the fitting. The hose barb end of the fitting was 1" but the hose was 1-1/4" inch. The fitting is not under pressure, so some sealant could have served to attach the hose to the fitting, but I wanted something more positive. 

Step 2: Solution! Components

Picture of Solution! Components

The Clamp Tite tool uses the properties of lockwire to create a clean, custom-fit fastener. The tool draws wire tight around the fitting, then folds the wire over itself to lock the clamp in place. The clamp is weather-resistant and low-profile. 

Stainless steel lockwire is used in the manufacturing industry and in racing to create fastenings that will not vibrate loose, and to provide quick visual inspection that work has been completed. It is a great resource that has uses in many applications.

Lockwire can be found from lots of sources, and if it is to be used in industry, make sure it meets industry quality and safety specifications. If you're using it outside of regulated areas, look for decent quality and price. This is the niche Harbor Freight owns. A 1-pound spool of 1mm (0.041") stainless steel wire will cost about $7.50, which is far cheaper than almost any other source I've found. The least expensive Clamp Tite tool retails for about $30, but it can be sourced more cheaply from Lee Valley and other tool sources. There are more expensive versions for serious applications, but this model is easily used with bare hands and light-gauge wire. 

For the purpose of a hose clamp, measure and cut wire twice the circumference of the area to be clamped, plus 12 inches to attach the wire to the tool and tighten. 

Step 3: Position the Wire

Picture of Position the Wire

Bend the wire in half, place the wire around the area to be clamped and pass the ends through the loop.

Step 4: Attach the Tool

Picture of Attach the Tool

Start with the wing nut at the end of the threaded rod inside the tool. 

Attach the Clamp Tite tool as shown in the image. Make sure the wire passes over the pins at the tip of the tool, and that the end of the loop is in the notch on the end of the tool.

Loop the wire around the rear pins and twist the wire ends on top of the body of the tool.

Step 5: Tighten the Clamp

Picture of Tighten the Clamp

Twist the wing nut clockwise to draw the threaded rod out of the body of the tool, moving the rear pins away from the tip of the tool.

Continue to tighten until the clamped area has sufficient tension. 

Fold the tool over the clamped region to lock the wire ends over the loop. This locks the joint.

Step 6: Trim the Ends

Picture of Trim the Ends

Loosen the wing nut and slide the body of the tool back from the clamp.

Snip off the wire with wire cutters to create small ends about 1/2" long.

Step 7: Dress the Joint

Picture of Dress the Joint

With the tool removed, use wire cutters to press the wire ends down in between the wires to bury the ends in the joint.

Rotate the hose so the joint is hidden behind the fitting.

The clamp is now complete!

Step 8: Examples of Other Uses

Picture of Examples of Other Uses
This tool has become a go-to for me. Here are some other examples of how I've used the Clamp Tite tool:
  • The truck had a rattle underneath, which turned out to be a loose heat shield on the catalytic converter. A length of wire and several turns of the screw later, no more rattle.
  • The bamboo tiki torches in the garden were showing their age, but the oil canisters were still fine. Some new bamboo and a couple of clamps made for good-as-new torches at whatever height I wanted.
  • One of the cross dowels on the laundry rack broke in a long, diagonal splintered fracture. Instead of having to replace the dowel, I used some wood glue a couple of wire clamps, made sure the joint was facing down and dressed nicely so as not to catch on hanging clothing, and the rack was back in action in less than 10 minutes.
Best pocket-sized tool ever!


sypher (author)2015-12-29

I have that exact tool, and spool of wire. I have used it so many times!

Drake411 made it! (author)2015-05-31

Ok this is just the first rendition of this caulking gun style clamp forming tool. Simple to make with a strong vice and an angle grinder with a cutting disk. cut the end off, crush it, cut it again where you think you want the hooks to go, cut in hooks to wrap the clamp wire your pulling, finally shape the plunger bar with a shallow slot. Strong enough to snap the wire, easy to adjust and clear of waste wire. I need to improve my groove and bend my hooks up and open but it does work. The caulking gun cost me a dollar and I think I will like it more than my last one which also needs some tweaks. Thanks for the help and inspiration.

Drake411 (author)2015-04-28

This instructable and the comments here have been very helpful to me. I've wanted something like this for a long time since I make stuff in my garden with sticks and bailing wire. I saw a variation of this clamp forming tool called the stronghold klamper at a convention but was too cheap to buy it. When I saw this one I was really impressed. I also searched the patents for "wire forming tool". I think everyone will appreciate J.J. Moock's patent "implement for applying bands" which is nicer than anything on the market today. Similarly nice is Whitlock's 1916 patent which has hold down clamps too but pushes a bar with a groove out.

Heathbar64's make is really great because it keeps the hook and the pushing groove close together and therefore wastes less wire. I think if I use an old door hinge cut down with an angle grinder and a bolt with slots cut in it I will be able to avoid welding the tube to the side of hold-down groove.

The other great idea on instructables by technomancer07 is using a turnbuckle for the sleeve. I was going to try that at first but use an open turnbuckle and a "draw bolt" or tee shaped s-strap bolt notched to grab the wire. I would also like to try and ditch the forward cross pin and sharpen and notch the turnbuckle itself.

Finally one might try adapting a bicycle brake with a pin placed where the lead bead fits. I have one but I'm stuck on where the best place to put the notch is.

GeeDeeKay (author)Drake4112015-04-28

Hah! I like the way you think... I also look for ways I can recreate something myself as you're doing here. This is just such a nice tool and so cleanly designed that I'm happy to give them a few bucks to support their efforts. I have built many a trellis using bamboo bound with safety wire using this tool. I used it at a friend's lake house to keep a tree house log from continuing to split. I always bring it and a small coil of wire along on tech jobs, because when you need a clamp, there's no time to hunt around for materials...

This interest in DIY also applies to gardening for me, among other myriad pursuits. I love to grow almost anything, but it turns out cabbage is a heck of a lot cheaper to buy at the market than it is to grow yourself, and you don't have to store the produce you grow, you can get it on-demand. That doesn't mean I still don't grow cabbage, garlic, beets, and other crops that are usually far cheaper in the store. 

There's a lot to be said for taking an idea and putting your own spin on it, so to speak. If you do build one, let me know. I'd love to see it. 

Drake411 (author)GeeDeeKay2015-04-29

I've got it put together but still need to test it. I shared it first with Tecnomancer07 here:
It's a bit different in that it doesn't get longer but has a bolt ride up the middle. The turnbuckle guides the build in a different direction though if it works it may turn out to be easier for some to build. The tricky part being the groove for the snap ring. Also my handle still needs a lock screw but it's late and I couldn't use any power tools on it so far. I'll keep you posted about how well it works.

Drake411 (author)Drake4112015-04-29

Works fine even without the lock screw on the old shut off valve handle. When folding over the grooved tip is a bit rough and could use some cleaning up so it doesn't tear up what I am clamping. A 5/16 flat head bolt with the groove widened might work better as the nut pictured will require a lot of filing. Also filing four nicks in the turnbuckle to help press the folding over might help replace the forward pin. Got a beehive to finish for now.

ajoyraman made it! (author)2014-06-03

Thanks for this great idea. I made a version of this tool and used it for wire-clamping a coconut-broom-stick. This avoids the individual sticks from falling out even under rough usage.

GeeDeeKay (author)ajoyraman2014-06-03

You made the tool in the picture? Impressive! I've found this tool and SS wire to be one of my most common go-to fixes. Longer lasting than plastic zip ties, especially in outdoor use. It works great in the veggie garden for bamboo trellis construction.

I would love to know more about that coconut broom. Do you have an Instructable for it? Could I use split bamboo instead? That's a much more common resource in the northeast US than coconut.

Thanks for the comment!

ajoyraman (author)GeeDeeKay2014-06-03

Thanks for your instructable which put me on the right track in building this versatile tool! Yes, split bamboo should be fine but you need to work on it. You need approx 100-120 split-bamboo pieces varying 1 meter - 0.75 meter long, 3mm one end tapering to 0.5 mm at the other end.

heathbar64 (author)2012-07-19

I didn't know they were selling this tool. I made one very similar many years ago based on a suggestion in an old popular science magazine for a homemade toole exactly like this. I guess I'll have to dig it out and use it again.

CaseyCase (author)heathbar642012-07-21

If you can dig out the article, (an perhaps a picture of the tool you made) I'd tell everyone that you are awesome--deal?

heathbar64 (author)CaseyCase2012-08-16

AHA!! I found it. April 1956 Popular Science page 238.

notingkool (author)heathbar642013-08-12

Here is the same page but scanned.

heathbar64 (author)CaseyCase2012-07-22

Aw jeez, I've got at least a hundred vintage popular sciences, and I have no idea which one it's in. But I do know where my version of the tool is. perhaps I'll take a picture later today.

heathbar64 (author)heathbar642012-07-22

Ok, here is the tool that I made. looks a bit different but works the same. As I recall, the one shown in the old magazine all those years ago looked exactly like the one shown in this ible.

antioch (author)heathbar642012-08-11

Dear awesome64,
I think I just crashed my brain trying to figure out how to use this.
(Don't even wanna go near figuring out how to build this without buying a welder)

If you ever find the time, could you post a short ible or a usage manual?

heathbar64 (author)antioch2012-08-12

pretty simple to use, just put the notch into the loop of wire and twist the loose ends around the hook and crank it down.

CaseyCase (author)heathbar642012-07-22

heathbar64 is all sorts of awesomeness!

Topcat2021 (author)heathbar642012-07-22

I thought that this was going to be a homemade tool also. I have a similar tool sitting out in my shop that I made by looking at pictures of a clamp tite tool, mine doesn't look as nice but will do the job very well.
This is a nice instructable all the same though.
Good work

GeeDeeKay (author)Topcat20212012-07-22

Thanks. Since I've discovered this tool, I have been finding all sorts of new uses for stainless steel wire. It's relatively rust resistant and holds together really well in these clamp configurations. It's also really easy to remove a clamp by snipping the wires with diagonal cutters. I had no idea about the concept of lock wire until I started looking for new sources for wire. Cool idea, and one I could have put to use in the past and will remember for the future. -- Geoff

spiderham (author)2012-08-07

I made this one after seeing it in the Garrett Wade catalog.

r-philp (author)spiderham2012-08-07

Is there any chance you could write an instructible on the build of your tensioning tool?

spiderham (author)r-philp2012-08-22

greatpanda (author)spiderham2012-08-09

Yours looks better than mine, I made one from a piece of pipe.

GeeDeeKay (author)spiderham2012-08-07

Sure wish I had such fabrication skills! Looks great.
I decided to just pay the nice folks to build one for me.

grt57 (author)2012-08-12

Nice Job... Well Done!

Mr Rancher (author)2012-08-11

I still use my safety wire pliers I used in the Navy when I worked on helos back in '91. Here is a page you can get the pliers I'm talking about and directly under them is this clamptite tool as well.
But don't buy them on this site, you can find them MUCH cheaper elsewhere.

erothman2 (author)2012-08-10

So elegant and functional: the perfect combination! Thank you SO much for introducing me to this technology. I love it and think it will help me turn bicycle wheels into wind-art whirlagigs with a little more style, and many other uses come to mind already!

dpiercy (author)2012-08-09

Another one quite like this - smaller and cheaper: Just google Haywire Klamper Tool - seems to use less wire, shows how you could make a double loop with the wire.

robertlfulton4 (author)2012-08-09

I bought a set of these some years ago at a farm show for about $18 The larger one can work clothesline wire .

Naugas (author)2012-08-09

How does it work on a hard, metal surface? It looks like the main wire loop (the one in middle when you start) would slip under stress and be squeezed together so the clamp loosens.

GeeDeeKay (author)Naugas2012-08-09

One of the fixes I have used it for is to re-secure the smooth metal but slowly rusting heat shields on the catalytic converters on my truck. The wire has enough stiffness that the corners formed on either side of the tip of the tool remain after removing the tool. The wire is bent over at that junction, and it seems to hold up quite well. Temperature changes don't seem to affect performance, either.

Your mileage may vary, but I've had great success with these clamps on all sorts of surfaces (plastic, rubber, metal, bamboo, etc.). I have not experienced loosening on any clamp I've created with this tool. Please let me know if you have any experiences different from mine!

Naugas (author)GeeDeeKay2012-08-09

I will definitely try this, I've never seen something similar. I've used clamps made of a thin stainless strip that you tighten with a special pair of pliers and a tiny buckle, but I like the simplicity of this method. Thanks!

farna (author)2012-08-09

The main reason I use one of these is that the "clamp" is nice and flat. I've used regular steel wire but you've got to be real careful not to get regular steel wire too tight or it snaps when you try to bend it over. The flat repairs are great for things like garden water hose repairs. I buy the brass repair ends and use these wire clamps -- real flat, wind up on my hose reel a lot nicer than the hose clamp that comes with the ends.

ezagent (author)2012-08-09

Nice instructable but I found Safety Wire Twisting Pliers at Harbor Freight for $12 to go with an $8 lifetime supply of locking wire. A quick hop over to youtube to see how wire twisting pliers work and I feel like I owe you a thank you for moving me forward. On the piece that you illustrate in your instructable, I wonder why you didn't just use a hose clamp. I presume the answer is aesthetic.

ezagent (author)ezagent2012-08-09

Apparently the clamp tite tensions way beyond the capability of the safety wire twisting pliers. Thanks again for bringing it to my attention.

GeeDeeKay (author)ezagent2012-08-09

In addition to fabricating clamps like this, lock wire is also used to secure components to keep them from loosening due to vibration, and to provide a quick visual check that a component is in place and has been fastened properly. In safety applications such as aerospace or auto racing, a glance at a fastener that has been lock wired will tell you it's been properly fastened. That's where twisting pliers work really well. The twist isn't under any significant stress, it's merely a way to keep the wire ends secure.

The right tool for the job, I always say. The trick is figuring out what that tool should be sometimes!

mightywombat (author)2012-08-09

That is an amazingly useful tool, but I wish it wasn't $70!

GeeDeeKay (author)mightywombat2012-08-09

The model I used in the 'able was less than $30...

DieCastoms (author)2012-08-09

Your Ible is well written and your pictures illustrate your instruction well. Thank you for posting it!

My only negative comment to this Ible has more to do with the use of the tool and less to do with the Ible itself, and could simply be a misunderstanding: According to your instruction, you are using nearly 20 inches of wire to clamp your 1.25 inch hose, and only about 8 inches of it is used for the clamp. The other 12 is wasted?

Mike, at "DC"

GeeDeeKay (author)DieCastoms2012-08-09

Mike, I agree that there is some waste with every clamp, but at 2 grams per foot of wire and about $8 per pound of wire, my calculations work out to about 1.5 cents worth of wire left over after the clamp is complete. That's a cost I can live with. Those short 6-inch wire ends could be useful for some other purpose, I just haven't found it yet... ;^)

Whether it's a small clamp or a very large one, it's still just 2 6-inch pieces cut off, enough to hold fast the ends of the wire to the tool while tightening.

Greg Pless (author)2012-08-09

I had to have one of these when I saw it demonstrated at a boat show in Oakland, CA. It was $25 for the aluminum barreled version and more for the full stainless model. I bought the cheaper one and a spool of 316 SS wire, then went home to the shop and made a full stainless version to keep on my boat. It does waste a lot of wire, as mentioned by the previous commenter, but you can be sparing if you wrap it tightly around the tensioner pin. It's a bit of an art to use it and you need a good 120 degrees of movement room so you can't use it in a tight space for an emergency hose fix. Frankly, a standard hose clamp is much better and more economical if you need it for a small job, but... it's fun to find uses for it. My favorite use so far is binding a loop of larger sized rope without having to make a knot. For scenarios where you DON'T need a strong/life critical connection it's fine and a great compliment to any tool collection.

vegasrandall (author)2012-08-09

This is a great tool,I carry one on my motorbike and camper.

bluemoon6 (author)2012-08-06

Love to hear about new tools....

QSDR (author)2012-07-20

great product thanks for the info, another uncommon off the shelf item i recently discovered is a fastener, sometimes referred to as a 'threaded insert'.

GeeDeeKay (author)QSDR2012-08-03

Are you referring to the wood-threaded outside, machine-threaded inside fastener that is screwed into a hole drilled in wood, allowing a machine screw to be used for fastening? These are great for wood projects designed to disassemble and reassemble, because there is no wear & tear on the wood fastener holes. The metal insert stays in place in the wood hole leaving the machine threads to handle the repeated use. These inserts can be glued in place for even more holding power, too.

Or, are you referring to threaded rivets? These are also way cool because it permits a threaded fastener to be inserted in a thin surface that simply doesn't have enough surface area to provide much purchase for screw threads. Threaded rivets can be put into a surface "blind," meaning there is no need to have access the back side of the surface. This is great for attachments in sheet metal or other thin material already installed.

Both are frequent solutions of mine when the situation calls for it.

Thanks for the comment!

QSDR (author)GeeDeeKay2012-08-03

i have not used threaded rivets.., and yes, the inserts can be used in wood and also the hammer-in metal variety

chobbs1957 (author)2012-07-31

I"m favoriting this one! THANKS, it will be handy.

Bill WW (author)2012-07-19

The fix even looks good when you are finished.

rimar2000 (author)2012-07-19

That tool is clever, but you can get ALMOST the same result doing two turns of wire and then twisting the ends tightly.

TWO turns. No more, no less.

When I say ALMOST refers to the aesthetic, no to the effectiveness.

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