Woodworking Clamps




Introduction: Woodworking Clamps

About: Like all 83 of my current projects... I'm a work in progress.

Okay, I finally got a camera, I finally got the time, and now I can finally post my first instructable. This may be a little difficult for newest of woodworkers, but for those that passed high-school shop class with a B average this shouldn't be to hard. This is a great project for anyone who wants to upgrade their shop on a budget, or just wants to enlarge their clamp collection without making another trip to Home Depot.
All of the hardware is standard size and can be scaled up for larger clamps, so make an entire set! I'll post the measurements for the larger clamps at the end of this instructable.

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Step 1: A Note From the Maker

I know that I might have more specialized equipment than some people out there, but don't let that discourage you! There is always more than one way to solve any problem out there and just because I say that you need something does not automatically make it true. There is a lot of room for improvement here.  I went through 3 prototypes before I finally got this far and it is by no means perfect. Feel free to experiment and make it your own, and above all else don't be afraid to fail.

Step 2: Materials

For this project I'm making a set of four, but I'll list the materials as if I were making one. Just multiply by the number you're making to get what you'll need.

Tight grained hardwood planed 3/4 inch thick at least 1inch wide (I used hickory)
1/2 inch steel rod
1/4 inch 20 all-thread
1/2 inch nuts x2
3/32 spring pins 3/4 inch long x2

You will also need a 1/4 inch 20 tap for the barrel nuts, and a 13/64 tap drill

Step 3: Rip It.

The best way I've found to make something is to make all of the parts you need all at once in one operation. So to start, rip the material you need for the jaws and the handles at the same time. The handles will start out 3/4 by 3/4 square, and the jaws will be 1 by 3/4.

Step 4: Cutting the Handles

Set what ever machine you got to 33 degrees to cut the handle stock to shape. You can use the 1/2 inch nut as a spacer to get the thickness right.
I used my nifty little bandsaw to do the work and it came out nicely. Just run it through on one side, flip end for end and make second cut. This will give you one side of the hex shape you are cutting. Then cut the other side the same way. It'll make more sense when you're doing it than it does in print. Trust me.
Once thats done go ahead and set your machine back to 90 degrees and cut the handle stock into 2 1/2 inch lengths.

Step 5: Jaw Blanks

Now cut the angle on the jaws. You can cut them any way you like. I cut mine a little long then used this jig to cut a 15 degree angle on one side. The rise and run are 2 inches by 2 3/4 for those of you that like to use a framing square, and is set up 1/2 inch or dead center in the 1inch stock. I recommend cutting  the angle first then cutting the jaws to 4 inches just you have a little room for error.
Once all this is done label half of the jaws that you made A and the other half B.

Step 6: Drilling Jaw A

Starting with Jaw A you will need to drill two 1/2 inch holes through one side and two 1/4 inch holes through the top.
The first 1/2 inch hole is 3/4 of an inch from the back and is dead center in the jaw blank. The second one is 1 3/4 inches from the back of Jaw A. The two 1/4 inch holes are set in the center of the top of the jaw 3/8 of an inch from each side and intersect the centers of the 1/2 inch holes.

Step 7: Jaw B

Jaw B is quite a bit different than Jaw A. It has no 1/2 inch holes drilled in it and the 1/4 inch hole in the rear is only 1/2 an inch deep.
Set up like you did for Jaw A, drill 1/4 inch holes 3/4 and 1 3/4 from the back. Be careful not to drill all the way through on the rear hole like I did. Thats why I started labeling them A and B. Its a real pain to have to go back and redo something just because you weren't paying attention.

Step 8: Allthread

Get a good hack saw and cut the 1/4 inch all-thread to length. You will need a 4 1/2 inch piece and a 5 inch piece for each clamp you are making. Just set them aside for now and we'll come back to them latter when we finish up the handles.

Step 9: Barrel Nuts

Barrel nuts are a round piece of steel drilled and  tapped at a 90 degrees through it.
I made mine by cutting the 1/2 inch round stock into 3/4 inch blanks then drilling and tapping with a 1/4 inch 20 tap.

Step 10: The Handles Chamfering the Ends.

All of my handles have a chamfer cut on one end. It makes them look nice, removes the sharp edges, makes them easier to hold.
If you have a steady hand, the fastest way to get the job done is with a sharp chisel. Just clamp up the handles as shown and carve the faces down 1/8th of an inch.

Step 11: Handles Continued

For the handles to accept the 1/2 inch nut ferrel, it needs to be cut down to a diameter just a little larger than the hole itself so the threads will dig into the wood and help hold it in place. This is where a wood turning lathe would come in handy, but since I don't have one I'll have to make do without.
Clamp a stop block to the band saw fence and use a 1/2 inch nut to set up the depth of cut and the distance from the fence. Take a piece of scrap wood and run it through this step, then take it through the next one to make sure you have the saw blade set to the right distance from the fence so forth.
Now you're ready to cut the handles for real. Cut all the ends to depth making a nice little Jewish symbol on the end. Now reset the fence and stop block. Then saw off the little tabs.

Step 12: Handles, Knocking Off the Corners.

The 1/2 inch nuts won't fit on the handles without taking the corners off of them. Hopefully you tested this step with a piece of scrap wood before you got to your actual handles.
Set up your handles in a vise of some sort, then file the corners off of the top until its perfectly round.
Thats it, thats all you need to do. Now just twist the nut onto the handle. If its a little tight file a little more, but be careful. Its easy to remove material, but its real tricky to put it back on.

Step 13: Finishing Up the Handles.

Screw on two 1/4 inch nuts and tighten them into each other to keep the all-thread from moving in the vise.  Then round the end with a metal file so that the handle will go in smoothly. Make sure there is at least one inch of material sticking out of the vise then screw the wood handle on by hand as far as possible. Use a wrench to tighten down to the base and line up with the handle. Don't over tighten, get the nut down as far as it will go then line it up with the handle. You shouldn't have a problem with stripping the threads, the wood is pretty forgiving.
The last thing you need to do is put the pin in the handle. Drill a 3/32 hole through the center of the nut, through the all-thread and everything, and drive in the pin with a hammer.

Step 14: Prologue

Well thats it. You have all the pieces made. Now just fit them together to make sure they all get along together, and you're finished. The only thing left to do now is sand them down, knock off the sharp corners, and add a coat of finish. Thats probably the easiest and most enjoyable step for me.
Put on a pair of rubber gloves and rub in a little linseed oil and finish up with a little beeswax and enjoy!
I hope you like this instructable. Its my first so constructive criticism is welcome. The clamps themselves are doing fine but could use a little tweaking. If anyone wants to know, yes the original pins were 1/8th of an inch thick. Ideally that would have left a 1/16th of an inch on either side of the all-thread, but after taking into account for the depth of thread it left almost no material there at all. So now I use 3/32 inch pins.
The holes in the jaws could be routed a little longer to make the clamps more flexible, but for the sake of simplicity I just drilled a 1/4 inch hole for them.
Tell me what you think, and I'll keep tweaking them as needed.
"Take care, and good luck."

Step 15: Make It BIGGER!

I already did the math for you, so if you're wondering "how do I make bigger clamps than this?" here you go.
                           4inch          6inch           8inch           10inch          12inch
Steel rod           1/2"             3/4"               1"                1 1/4"            1 1/2"
All-thread          1/4"-20       3/8-16          1/2-13         5/8-?             3/4-?
Max Opening    2"                3"                  4"                 5"                   6"
Jaw Length       4"                6"                  8"                 10"                12"
Jaw Width         3/4"             1 1/8"           1 1/2"           1 7/8"            2 1/4"
Jaw Height       1"                1 1/2"            2"                 2 1/2"            3"
Distance between hole centers:
                            1"                1 1/2"            2"                  2 1/2"            3"
All-thread lengths
                           5"                  7"                  9"                  11"                  13"
                           4 1/2"           6 1/4"            8"                  9 3/4"              11 1/2"
Ferrel                For the ferrels I used nuts that have a width from side to side that is the same as the thickness of the clamp jaws. For the 4inch clamps that happens to be the 1/2-13 nut.

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    20 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    At what point do you use the steel rod? I see you using the threaded rod but I don't see where you use a steel rod.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    In step 13, you're screwing the all-thread into the handles.

    Into what hole? There is no hole, in the instructions or the pictures, in the handles at the end of step 12.

    Did you drill a hole into the handles, down the axis, through the end, between these steps?


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    No, just deep enough for the all-thread to stick. Just be sure you leave the whole handle the proper length. The hole should be just slightly bigger than the minor diameter of the all-thread. (The all-thread's size - the external threads.)


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I like it, simple & clear. The clamps should be very useful.



    6 years ago on Introduction

    Love your hex handles. I use hose nuts from damaged shower hoses.
    Thanks for sharing this instructable.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I would think if you live in a place called KisS, it would be anything but desolate...


    9 years ago on Step 15

    Thanks for he maths !…

    Now all I have to do is translate them into metric !!!…

    Joking apart, you instructable is of great value to me as I find these clamps not only very useful and versatile in woodworking and also very good with wood projects : it won't mark the material unless you're Hulk in its maddest fit of superhuman force !…

    Unfortunately they are rare to find (except maybe in England ?…) and outrageously expensive here (as most of the tools in France : which is a rip off, 3 to 5 times the price you pay in the US).
    So I expect to make my own and you lesson comes in very handy.

    thank you again.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome ible, my friend. And the red bench vise is very cool. If you're going to let that go, please let me know first! Oh I bet it could tell a lot of stories..
    Well done.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Step 9 needs details-like how to drill a 90 degree hole in a round object and how to start a tap when the hole isn't flat. Without that step, you can't make these :( Or some alternatives that might be available (maybe a nut buried inside a piece of dowel?).


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks, I'll look into that. I did look into just burying a nut inside the jaws, but to keep them from spinning you need to have square nuts (which are just about impossible to find these days). Then cut the hole really tight to match. It was just a lot simpler to just drill a hole then slide in the barrel nut. I have seen people epoxy hex nuts in place or on a dowel rod like you were saying, this just worked best for me.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Any particular reason to chamfer the jaws? Make them lighter? Just for looks? Doesn't seem like it would affect performance any to leave them rectangular.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Yes thats mainly for looks. It may help you get the ends in tight corners but I really haven't had a problem with that. Besides, every other clamp I've seen has had this feature. Why mess with 1000+ years of perfection?

    Thanks everyone. I'm not going to say that their perfect by any means. Maybe I should post some of my failed attempts latter on. The first set I made used wing nuts to tighten them up. It painful to use them though. Next I used T-nuts, also a flop. These ones I posted were actually inspired by some 100+ wood clamps I've seen here and there. They have a similar design but you can't just pull wooden threads off the shelf at the local hardware store. The barrel nuts do the same work but are easier to install, and I think you can order them from somewhere but I'm not sure. It was just as easy to make them here as it was to fill out an order form.


    Very nice. I have an old set of these clamps in my tool closet that have survived 30+ years of hard use. Sure would be nice to have a few more around. Nicely detailed work here.