How to Use Wood Clamps

Different woodworking projects require different types of clamps. We'll introduce you to four common clamp types and show you how to safely use them.

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You'd be surprised by how many woodworking projects are within reach of the average homeowner. Though some DIYs require special tools and abilities, most focus on basic skills and quality craftsmanship. 

One such basic skill is how to use a clamp. Clamps come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and their main purpose is to hold wood pieces in place until glue dries. Clamps can also be used to secure wood when sawing. To use a clamp, you first need to understand what type of clamp you're working with. We'll introduce you to four common types: bar clamps, right angle clamps, pipe clamps, and C clamps. Each clamp has a unique approach for getting the job done.

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How to Use Bar Clamps

Step 1: Check for Clean

Before you begin, make sure your clamp is clean. Excess wood glue, cobwebs, or rust could interfere with the clamp's performance and/or damage the wood you're working with. To be safe, wipe clamp down with a damp rag, and replace a clamp that shows signs of excessive wear. 

Step 2: Glue Wood

Attach your wood pieces with a thin layer of wood glue. This step ensures the pieces stay together after the clamps come off. 

Step 3: Attach Clamp

Slide the large handle of the clamp to extend it about three inches longer than the joined wood pieces. Place the fixed head (the side of the clamp that doesn't move) and the tail stop (the side of the clamp that extends) against the edge of the two wood ends.

Step 4: Squeeze Shut

Once both ends of the clamp are in place, squeeze the lever to clamp together with moderate pressure. Don't squeeze too tight or you risk damaging your material. Keep the piece clamped until the wood glue is dry, a minimum of two hours. 

How to Use Right Angle Clamps

Step 1: Open Clamp

Open the clamp by twisting the handle counterclockwise. Keep twisting until the clamp is wider than the wood pieces you're joining together. 

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Step 2: Position and Glue Wood

Position wood in square so the pieces are meeting at a right angle and secure with a thin layer of wood glue. If you apply too much wood glue, you can wipe it up easily with a damp cloth once your clamps are secure.

Step 3: Secure Clamp

Place the clamp on either side of the right angle. Twist the handle to tighten the clamp, twisting until the piece is secure. Keep the piece clamped until the wood glue is dry, a minimum of two hours. 

How to Use Pipe Clamps

Step 1: Glue Wood

Secure wood pieces with a thin layer of wood glue. 

Step 2: Attach Clamp

Press the tail stop and side to extend the clamp about 3 inches longer than the joined wood. Once extended to the needed length, place the fixed head and the tail stop of the clamp against the edge of the two wood ends.

Step 3: Twist Shut

Slide the tail stop toward the wood and turn the opposite head clockwise to tighten. Don't overtighten, or you risk damaging the wood. Keep the piece clamped until the wood glue is dry, a minimum of two hours. 

Editor's Tip: If you are working with soft wood, insert a piece of scrap wood between the jaws of the clamp and the wood to create a buffer. This helps prevent damage.

How to Use C Clamps

Step 1: Check for Clean

Before you begin, make sure that your clamp is clean. Wipe clamp down with a damp rag, and replace a clamp that shows signs of excessive wear. 

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Step 2: Glue Wood

Join wood pieces together with a thin layer of wood glue. 

Step 3: Open Clamp

Twist the screw at the top of the clamp counterclockwise. This loosens the clamp. Once the clamp is open wide enough, place the fixed head and the tail stop against the edge of the two wood ends.

Step 4: Secure Clamp

Twist the screw clockwise to tighten clamp. Keep the piece clamped until the wood glue is dry, a minimum of two hours. 

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