How to Make Wooden Clamps From Scraps

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Introduction: How to Make Wooden Clamps From Scraps

About: I like to design, make and experiment.

When I am working on projects I notice two things regularly. First, it is very hard for me to throw away scrap wood. I tend to keep thinking that there will be some future use even for small bits of material and store them roughly sorted by type and size in different containers. I have to confess I sometimes even "rescue" scraps of material out of the trash bins from the shared makerspace where I use the laser cutter.

Second, while I am in the middle of some glue-up I often wish for an extra pair of hands. I have a collection of bar clamps in different sizes but I often find even the smaller ones to be too big and bulky. I have also used painters tape to hold parts in place but this does not work well for situations where a bit more force is needed.

So with this project, I am going to tackle both issues in one go! I will make small wooden spring clamps out of scraps.

Step 1: Material and Tools

Material:

  • Wood scraps
  • Old bike tube or rubber bands
  • Sandpaper
  • Wood Glue

Tools:

Step 2: Designing the Spring Clamps

I used this Thingiverse Project as a basis for the clamps but basically re-designed everything from scratch. There were two main reasons for this:

When I tried to open the DXF file from Thingiverse in Inkscape or Illustrator some of the curves turned into straight line segments and some just looked weird.I wanted to make my clamps with rotating jaw pads instead of fixed ones to distribute the grip force over a larger area.

By the way - I was not sure if "Spring Clamp" is actually the right term to describe this style of clamp but as technically a rubber band is a tension spring where energy is stored by stretching the material (I was not sure about this - but I looked it up on Wikipedia...) this should be correct.

Below you can download my final cut files:

Wooden Spring Clamps.PDF

Wooden Spring Clamps.SVG

Step 3: Cutting and Assembling

I cut all the parts on a laser cutter at my local maker space. Each clamp is made out of twelve parts: three parts each for the left and right main body of the clamp and three parts each for the jaw pads.

After sorting the parts, the first thing I did was to lightly sand the top of the two middle parts for the main body on both sides. There is not much sanding required. The idea behind this is to just remove a little bit of material so that the jaw pads can rotate freely.

Next, I glued the main body parts together. While the glue was drying I turned to the jaw pads. For each side, I glued the bottom part and the middle part together. As the middle jaw part is quite small it is a bit fiddly to align it correctly with the bottom part.

With this done, the jaw pad part can now be joined with the clamp base. I found that it makes a difference from which side you insert the jaw pad. So try both and use the one that rotates easier.

When gluing the final piece of the jaw pad, be extra careful to avoid excessive glue and make sure that the jaw pad can turn freely in both directions.

Now that both clamp halves are ready, the only thing left to do is to join the two and add the rubber bands. For the rubber bands, I used an old inner tube from a bike tire which I cut in strips about 3 mm ( 1/8 in) wide.

The resulting rubber bands are pretty strong and more durable than regular rubber bands in my experience. In addition, it's a nice way to upcycle the tube instead of just throwing it into the trash bin. You can control the clamping power by the number of rubber bands used.

Step 4: Using Clamps to Make Even More Clamps

Once the first clamp is assembled it can be used to make even more wooden clamps!

The clamps work great for light-duty clamping and for small parts. I now use them regularly when gluing multiple layers together.

I am not 100 percent happy with the rotating jaw pads. They work okay but the tolerances are quite tight and they sometimes can get a bit stuck. I might redesign them for a future version. If anyone has ideas for a design improvement please let me know in the comments!

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    8 Comments

    0
    JohnW51
    JohnW51

    1 year ago on Step 4

    What a great idea! And your design is totally awesome! This got me to thinking about checking around my area to see if there is a maker space where I can get use of a laser cutter and perhaps a 3D printer (for other projects). And, BTW, using bike tubes for rubber bands is one of the best parts of your design. Regular rubber bands loose their elasticity very quickly compared to bike tubes. For those of you who may not have old bike tubes laying around, check your local bike shops. They will almost certainly have some in their discard bin and some even save them for recycling. Or, perhaps you have a neighbor or friend who is a cyclist. Nearly anyone who bicycles on a regular basis is going to have some old tubes if they haven't already tossed them in the trash.

    0
    Maker Design Lab
    Maker Design Lab

    Reply 1 year ago

    Wow, thank you very much for your kind words!

    0
    dhaykus0418
    dhaykus0418

    1 year ago

    The problem you encountered could be due to the face that lasers don't cut at perfect 90 degrees. They always leave a slight angle on the edges regardless of how perfect they appear. Good project though.

    0
    Maker Design Lab
    Maker Design Lab

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thanks! It definitely makes a difference which way you flip the middle jaw pad part. When inserting in one direction the difference to the perfect 90 degree angle adds up but if you turn the piece over the angles cancle each other out. But overall the part is just tiny and hard to align correctly.

    0
    gcai_fwb
    gcai_fwb

    1 year ago

    nice project! re the "stickiness" in the joints perhaps a quick rub with a bit of wax (candle) will smooth out the action? same for the jaw pads - may not even need the sanding

    0
    Maker Design Lab
    Maker Design Lab

    Reply 1 year ago

    The wax is a good tipp! The joints between the two halves work smooth but for the jaw pads this might help. Although I think the main problem is that because the part is so tiny it's difficult to align correctly... Maybe a bit larger tolerances would be good.

    0
    jeanniel1
    jeanniel1

    1 year ago

    Ingenius! I wondered about the tiny triangular parts, and then saw the idea behind it. Well thought out.

    0
    Maker Design Lab
    Maker Design Lab

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thanks! Actually the idea did now work 100 % perfect because the tolerances are very tight... but mistakes are always an opportunity to learn ;-)