A clamp is a must-have tool for any workshop. Designed to both hold glued pieces of timber together, or secure a working piece in place as you plane, weld, or saw it into shape, they are an invaluable aid that helps you accomplish your job with efficiency and ease. But it is also important to use clamps correctly to avoid spoiling the job you are working on. This is particularly pertinent when working on delicate wood or other fine projects. Available in many types, you can find the exact clamp you need for whatever sort of work you do.
A bar clamp is a versatile clamp with jaws that slide along a bar to fit many sized jobs. Some clamp names reflect their shape, such as the F clamp and G clamp. These are useful for stabilising an item of either wood or metal, with the F clamp being a type of bar clamp. A hand-held welding clamp incorporates a lockable plier action. A sash clamp is a heavy duty clamp for large or bulky jobs. There are many others constructed to handle specific types of work.
Choosing Your Clamp
If you are a wood or sheet metal worker, you should have many clamps and always choose the most appropriate for the job; but if you are an occasional dabbler, you can make do with one or two. In this case, if is often best to choose the most versatile clamps that you can use for the widest ranging jobs. On the other hand, if you tend to work only on small, fiddly balsa wood projects, choose only the smallest and lightest clamps available.
Using a Clamp
Before fastening an object, ensure that your chosen clamp is appropriate for the job. When you have all pieces in place, open the clamp jaws to encompass the piece you are working on, then begin to close the jaws on the piece, securing it in place. Depending on clamp type, this may be with a screw action, a toggle action, or by releasing handles.
Protecting the Job
Some clamps, such as the G clamp, have only a small clamp head surface area. This concentrates pressure into a single spot and risks damaging your work. If working with timber, especially the softer woods, add another piece of scrap timber or soft material between the clamp head and working model to act as a buffer and prevent indenting your piece. Do not over-tighten.
Working with clamps in a busy environment can be hazardous if you are rushing or not concentrating. Whatever scale work you are doing and whichever type of clamp you are using, keep your fingers and clothing free from the working area as you fasten the clamp.