As a Woodworker, you must have basic types of clamps. You will need carpentry clamps for holding your workpiece while cutting or after a glue-up session. Most of the carpenters have these in their workshop & use them regularly.
I’ll go over them really quickly. There are lots of variety when it comes to talking about types of wood clamps, but I’m going to focus on basically four types. These are an f-style clamp, a squeeze clamp, a pipe clamp, and a parallel clamp. You can add one or all of them to your clamp arsenal.
Introducing 4 Types of Woodworking Clamps
Now there are different levels of quality when it comes to f-style clamps. The quality is basically dictated by the metal bar that comes with them. An F-style clamp can provide you with up to 200 PSI clamping pressure range. These are definitely useful.
If you ever used f style calm, you might have an idea of different quality levels of them. The medium-duty f style clamp has a clutch and a much thicker back to it. And then there are the heavy-duty ones which have a much thicker steel bar in them.
One of the biggest problems with f style light-duty 36-inch clamps, you can bend that with just your bare hands. The more you crank on it, you start to lose that clamping pressure. You can only go up so high you’ll never be able to max out that PSI.
And you know, what’s really important on these is the rubber handles. Some of the old f style clamps had wooden handles; in present times, the best quality f style clamps have either wood or rigid plastic handles. A softer rubber handle ones are much easier to grip and crank down on.
Now let’s look at the squeeze clamps. A squeeze clamp and an f-style clamp provide about the same level of clamping pressure. When it comes to squeezing clamps, they tend to pull things out of the square. The way that you should use a squeeze clamp is: take the top of the clamping non-tightening side & hold it flat and then bring the bottom of the clamp up to it.
Squeeze clamps tend to pull things out of square but not to the same degree as f-style clamps; because they’re troublesome to get parallel. This problem is solved quite substantially with parallel and pipe clamps.
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Parallel clamps are really around the same clamping pressure range as f-style clamps. Probably a little bit more but the numbers are about the same. However, there is a much bigger surface area. So that thing power is spread out over a much bigger distance. So you will actually get much more PSI over a bigger distance.
Parallel clamps and pipe clamps are amazing for the simple reason that they support your project at the same distance. They have feet on them. Most of the parallel clamps have much bigger feet on them. It might be a little bit hard to balance but they create a great area for you to set your work on.
Parallel clamps are like the Ferrari of clamps because even if you put up to a thousand pounds, they will stay parallel no matter how much you crank on them. The parallel clamp has such thick steel to it that it’s never going to bend. With a parallel clamp, you’re going to get a perfect 90-degree clamping pressure no matter how hard you crank on it. So that’s why they’re so so incredible.
To protect the clamps, you can usually put tape or a piece of paper down before starting to have glue dripping out on them. The better you treat your clamps, the longer they’re going to last.
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pipe clamps are great when you’re using calls because they exert so much pressure. They’re great to put a piece of wood in between in your project as it spreads out that pressure and less chance of denting your work. Pipe clamps are the strongest of your regular clamps. They can provide you up to a thousand PSI clamping pressure.
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All about the PSI
Clamping is one of those things that many woodworkers view as a mystery, and you hear these different statements like, “oh!”. Just make sure it squeezes out and this and that, but there’s a lot of science behind it for getting a correct glue line.
Clamping is actually just comfortable and not that big a deal as long as you learn about spacing and different types of pressures. What does clamping really do? Well, first and foremost, it creates a strong glue line. The modern PVA glues that we mostly use are more robust than wood, and that’s been tested time and time again, so once you get a good glue line, that is now stronger than the rest of your project.
But clamping creates a thin film. You’ve seen when the drips of glue on your bench are sitting there, and you come back the next day, you can still squash them. And that’s not a good glue joint; you don’t want too much glue because it needs to be thin to dry. But you don’t want to over-thin it.
Clamping also takes care of minor surface imperfections. So, if you have a slight bow on your board very slight, it’s not going to fix a massively warped board, but it can eliminate some minor imperfections.
When you’re clamping, alternate above and below your board. But when you create a lot of clamping pressure, it may cause your boards to bend up. So you want to alternate above and below your boards when you are clamping.
Let’s talk about the numbers, and the different types of woodworking clamps, and what kind of psi, they produce and again, you’ll see on manufacturer’s websites that clamps make 8000 pounds but really what you want to measure is psi.
So when you think about Woods, there are basically two types: softwoods and hardwoods. Now, of course, hardwoods vary pretty significantly in denseness, and the denser the wood, the more psi you need for clamping.
Now when you think about pine. You’re gonna think about 150 to 300 psi and hardwood 250 up to 1200, and the psi matters by the grain. So grain, when you think about quarter sawn wood, in quarter sawn wood, the grain direction runs sort of up and down or diagonal. Where if it’s a flat sawn then the grain runs sideways the growth rings,
So when you ask why quarter sawn versus flat sawn. The growth rings of flat sawn are more rigid than the center part. So, if you were gluing up the edge and you looked at the side of the board, and you saw it was quarter sawn. It is much easier to compress this because you’re compressing the squishy bits.
But let’s say it was flats sawn where the growth rings were running sideways, and you were gluing up the edge. You will surely see the difference there.
So if you’re doing flats sawn, it’s much harder to compress these growth-rings lengthwise than it is when they’re quartersawn, and you’re squishing the squishy bits, so that’s why the psi is needed for quarter sawn it is half.
When you think about it, you know, for example, an F style clamps do about 370 psi, Max, but that varies greatly depending on the user. Things like parallel clamps and squeeze clamps are roughly in that same realm, around 400 psi. But when you think about a parallel clamp, it is a big flat surface, so that’s going to spread that clamping pressure out a little bit more.
When you think about woods, these are the numbers of psi needed for different woods
- Pine quarter sawn grain running up and down or diagonal, that is going to be about 150 psi, when it’s flats on the growth rings or running horizontally that’s gonna be about 300 psi
- cherry 250 quartersawn & 504 flats swan, it’s nearly half from flats swan to quartersawn
- oak 450 to 900 psi
- Maple 600 to 1200 psi,
- Walnut is 250 to 500 psi
so you know basically goes cherry walnut oak, maple as far as the increasing amount of psi.
Which Carpentry Clamps You Should Buy
Now as far as buying, it’s better to sort of mix it up as far as a light-duty, medium-duty, heavy-duty clamp. Sometimes, you will just need to clamp a little piece of wood to something like a bit of stop block. Throw a little super glue on it and put a light-duty clamp. It’s easy to grab & just slap it on. It’s great for small projects.
When you will get into clamping things where you need more reliability. A heavier-duty f-style clamp will be perfect; they are stronger & they don’t move as much.
If you need to exert a lot of pressure with one of these light-duty ones, it starts to bend and move around. Anybody who owns the cheap ones knows that the chances of those things staying straight Are pretty low.
When you get in a pipe clamp, you’re not going to bend a 3/4 inch piece of Steel. And what’s incredible about pipe clamps as you can build any size clamp you want. You can go to online marketplaces to get the size you want and get couplers for them. By the way, if you get black clamps when they get wet with glue, they will stain your wood. So spend a little bit more and get the steel ones.
So if you have some massive glue-up, you need to do it, and you don’t know how you’re going to get it done. You can get a couple of 4-foot long pipe clamps; get a coupler for them. Now you have an eight-foot-long pipe clamp.
Pipe clamps are pretty versatile & pretty cheap. They have some limitations to them, of course. The most notable downside to these clamps would be; they have such a small clamp area & they’re cumbersome. So, when you pick these up, it is gonna be quite tricky; they carry a lot of weight.
Whereas parallel clamps are more expensive than pipe clamps, but they just make your life so easy. You can get massive clamping areas. They stay 90 degrees, and It just works great.
Now here’s the thing to consider about parallel Clamps. They are notorious for being really hard to adjust, like to open and close. It will take a considerable amount of time for you to get consistently good at using these ones. Sometimes it may feel impossible to open.
When you are doing glue-up, and you only have five minutes of open time, The last thing you need is to be fighting with your clamps. Try to find a parallel clamp that you can just pop up slides back and forth easily.
Let’s go with just more clamps, and you don’t have to worry about really crank down on them. I just need to get that good squeeze out of them. You need to get them snug, but you don’t want to be really struggling with them and squeezing too much glue out of the joint. And of course, it helps the cleaner and straighter your edges are, the less you have to fight with clamping pressure.
Also Read: Top 5 Picture Frame Clamps for Woodworking.
I hope you have got the proper gist about the types of wood clamps.
Use your suitable clamps when it matters. If you just need to clamp something real quick, grab a light-duty one. All in all, you can’t have enough clamps for sure when it comes to clamping pressure.
However, if you’re worried about it, just add a few more clamps. You don’t need to sit there and calculate the amount of clamps.