From small hand-held clamps to large vacuum presses for veneering applications, there are countless products available for securing workpieces. What the products all have in common is they take the burden off the woodworker so the individual has more time to enhance the quality and production of their work.
Company representatives shared their latest and most popular clamping and hold-down solutions for woodworkers with Woodshop News. Clamping products that secure items while they're being worked on consist mainly of two categories: manual and vacuum-style solutions. A third category is the veneering and laminating category, which encompasses vacuum press and bag products for setting finished work.
Bessey Tools has upgraded its K Body Revo parallel clamp, which offers 30 percent more clamping surface than the previous K Body Revo model, 1,500 lbs. of clamping force, a larger comfort grip handle, precise parallel clamping and the ability to quickly convert to a spreader, according to the company. The clamps are available in a variety of lengths; a 50" clamp sells for about $55.
"The key benefit of parallel clamps in general is that you don't just have a spot where a pad hits the work surface. It spreads the weight over a much broader area so you don't end up with depressions in the wood," says Andrew Fera, Bessey's marketing manager.
Bessey also offers an H-Series Pipe Clamp, which has cast jaws for durability and a rugged foot design that stabilizes the clamp in two dimensions giving dual-axis stability to the workpiece. The other improvement on this patent-pending clamp is the height of the fixture - a taller design lifts the work higher above the work surface. This ensures better clearance and less chance of those annoying knuckle scrapes as you work.
Bessey's new EZS one-hand clamp offers high-end clamping force in an easy-to-use construction at standard clamp prices, according to Fera. It provides 445 lbs. of clamp force and transitions smoothly from clamping to spreading.
Lee Valley Tools offers several new efficient clamps for assembly work.
The new Aluminum Assembly Clamp features a sliding jaw with a locking handle mechanism to instantly apply or release pressure. The integral thumb wheel adjusts clamping pressure up to 700 lbs. to suit the application. The pressure set is maintained for repetitive use, regardless of the jaw opening, speeding assembly work. The moveable jaw has a slight inward cant that becomes parallel with the fixed jaw under clamping pressure, ensuring consistent pressure over the jaw face. It has durable cast-aluminum jaws, a substantial 9/32" x 7/8" steel bar and a cast-steel clutch. Throat depth is 3-1/4", with a 1-1/2" face width. Sizes range from 6" to 24". A single 12" clamp sells for $23.50.
Lee Valley's new Aluminum Squeezer/Spreader clamp is notable for its robust construction and unique design. Capable of applying up to 700 lbs. of force, it has cast-aluminum jaws, a 1/4" x 3/4" steel bar and a heavy-duty mechanism. The moving jaw advances with one hand and has a spring-loaded face that is canted slightly so its top touches first as the jaw closes. As pressure is applied, the spring compresses to make this face parallel to the fixed face for even pressure distribution. The fixed jaw has a wing knob for quick conversion into a spreader. Both jaw faces have non-marring, glue-resistant pads. The clutch operates with a simple lever release. A single 12" clamp sells for $26.50.
• Bessey Tools North America,
• JLT Clamps, 2949 Lee’s
• Lee Valley Tools LTD,
• Leigh Industries,
• Magswitch Technology Inc.,
• Quality Vakuum Products,
• Rockler Woodworking & Hardware,
• Schmalz Inc.,
• Strong Hand Tools,
• Wynmatic Inc.,
• Vac-U-Clamp, 4040 Calle Platino,
The new Veritas Surface Vise clamp can be positioned at any angle - vertical and horizontal - and, since the work is held between the jaw and any fixed work stop, clamping capacity is limited only by the size of the mounting surface. The double posts mount in 3/4" holes. The forward post has a clearance hole to guide the clamping rod, and a wedging mechanism that anchors it firmly in through-holes in material as thin as 1". The rear post seats in blind holes at least 2" deep and has a quick-release mechanism for adjusting the projection of the rod. The vice sells for $75.
Strong Hand Tools, primarily a manufacturer of welding clamps, offers the JointMaster series of angle joining tools to set up corners and T-Joints at standard right angles with two variable-angle models.
They feature a pivoting clamping head that can easily be adjusted to accept materials of different thickness. The plier-body of the tool features an L-handle that quickly adjusts the opening and the torque of the clamping head. A vinyl-coated release lever can be operated with one finger, and quickly unlocks the fixture when the job is finished.
The company's PL Series JointMaster is a one-handed tool that holds materials at right angles. It includes two pliers with a fixed 90-degree bracket for holding two workpieces of different thicknesses and a retractable plate for edge alignment. The tool can be set for 30- to 275-degree angles.
Vacuum systems and presses
JLT Clamps offers a new Mini Pod Press, a pneumatic vertical press in a space-saving design. It enables woodworkers to face-glue a variety of solid wood components up to 12" wide and 10' long, and is ideal for producing stiles and rails, butcher blocks, posts and long beams.
Schmalz Inc. has introduced several new vacuum and mechanical clamping products, including the Multi-Clamp VC-M that can be used on nearly any surface in the shop or on the job site. It consists of a Multi-Clamp vacuum plate and the Multi-Base turn/swivel accessory. The vacuum plates can also be used as a cost-effective alternative without the turn and swivel function. Using the Multi-Base, the workpiece can be worked on from all sides. A workpiece can be rotated on its axis through 360 degrees, swiveled left and right through 90 degrees, or fixed in any position with the use of a clamping lever.
"Our Multi-Clamp product allows [woodworkers] to take small pieces and hold them comfortably using a vacuum. The advantage of doing this is both of their hands are free to sand or do edge routing," says Ed Gramaglia, sales manager for Schmalz.
The Multi-Clamp works with compressed air systems, but the company also offers electric vacuum pumps.
Gramaglia adds that the company's lifting devices are also helpful in the shop for grasping and handling sheet goods. Schwarz also offers a variety of vacuum lifting tables and tubes for unique applications.
"Many of these shops use MDF or plywood panels which they put onto a CNC machine or a vertical or table saw. Using our lifting devices, we can lift the products off the pallet onto the CNC machine or saw. What they accomplish for a smaller shop is that it allows one person to move the panel rather than two," says Gramaglia.
Quality Vakuum Products offers a range of vacuum equipment for pressing and veneer applications. Clients are offered the chance to first select their style of pump - pneumatic or electrical - followed by clamping units, frame presses and vacuum bags.
Product manager Neil Ferri says the company's newest product is the Nu-matic air pump for veneering and laminating applications. Six models provide 1.6 to 20 cfm of vacuum flow.
The company also offers an All-in-One air-powered vacuum pressing and clamping system that can be used for both vacuum pressing and hold-down. The pressing component helps with veneering and bent lamination work, while the clamping component reduces assembly time, improves safety and makes projects go faster, according to Ferri.
He discussed how vacuum systems have many advantages over manual clamps.
"Safety has an important role in the use of vacuum products because the worker has no metal clamps for blades or bits to cut into and can keep their fingers away from cutting tools. Vacuum products are also gentle on the workpiece. The vacuum tape used to create the vacuum seal is soft and will not scratch or mar your workpiece."
Vac-U-Clamp has a variety of veneering presses and components as well. The products are especially beneficial to fine woodworking industries such as yacht and airplane work, says company CEO Barney Rigby.
The new FP/C Series hot presses are designed to provide fast curing of adhesives that can cure with heat. They use the convection principal, which is a movement of hot air in an enclosed area with internal fans creating a faster heat buildup and even heat distribution. Curing time can be reduced by as much as 90 percent, depending on several factors such as the size, thickness and shape of the workpiece, according to the company. A 5' x 10' press sells for $19,995.
Vac-U-Clamp's standard frame presses, the F Series, are designed for constant production of curved and flat lamination and forming. For those shops with limited space, the press can be folded up and rolled away when not in use and stand only 36" away from the wall. This is a cold press and the curing time of adhesives is unaffected in the vacuum. A 5' x 10' press sells for $13,950.
The Pro 20, a fully automatic 10-cfm vacuum bagging, laminating and pressing system, is especially handy for on-site work because of its portability, adds Rigby.
Jigs and components
Leigh Industries is offering two new hold-down clamps for general woodworking and custom jigs and fixtures.
The new Bench Hold-Down clamps were designed to be used in the 3/4" bench dog holes found in most workbenches. The long 3/8" threaded rod and speed nut allow the clamp to be used in benches up to 4-1/4" thick. The Surface Hold-Down clamps mount to any flat surface and at any angle. They are ideal for shop-made jigs and fixtures such as table-saw sleds or router-table jigs.
Magswitch Technology offers the Mag-Jig for securing jigs and fixtures. The Mag-Jig is essentially a super strong magnet or "Magswitch" that the company describes as a device that allows a magnetic field to be turned on and off mechanically like an electromagnet, but with no need for ongoing power to sustain a strong magnetic field.
The Mag-Jig is available in 20mm and 30mm sizes. They insert into predrilled holes and using at least two per fixture is recommended by the manufacturer. They can be used on any cast-iron or steel table and retail for $25 to $35.
Wynmatic Inc. has developed a smaller version of its Cope-Avator, which clamps a workpiece to produce coped rails for door construction. The new product, the Mini-Coper, has the capability of handling workpieces up to 7" wide and 1-1/4" thick.
"The Mini-Coper has a bit more of a broad appeal because it is less expensive than the Cope-Avator and it will do most of the work people do as far as accommodating widths," says Wayne Gregoire, spokesman for Wynmatic. "Most of the work that is done on coping is done on wood that is about 2-1/2" wide. It's made so it can be used on a good router table as well as a shaper because the base is only 1/2" thick instead of well over 3/4" thick on the bigger unit we make."
The Mini-Coper uses two De-Sta-Co clamps, one for the workpiece and a smaller clamp to hold down a backer board. The Mini-Coper sells for $395.
Finally, a shop full of diverse clamping solutions will need some help remaining organized.
Rockler Woodworking and Hardware offers an innovative Pack Rack tool storage system that gives woodworkers a full-service mobile workstation, letting users keep tools and equipment organized and on hand anywhere in the workshop.
The system is ideal for holding clamps, glue, fasteners and assembly tools together in one mobile unit. It sells for $149.99.
This article originally appeared in the December 2009 issue.