Learn How to Clamp
Improve your woodworking skills and glue joints with these 18 tips to show you how to clamp like a veteran woodworker. Our pro shows you shortcuts that eliminate the need for a stack of expensive or special clamps.
Meet the pro
In 30 years as a professional woodworker, Dave Munkittrick has tried just about every clamping technique imaginable. Some of them are his own inventions; some are borrowed from other woodworkers. As for the rest, he’s been doing them for so long that he can’t remember where they came from.
Dave says, ‘Over the decades, I have amassed a huge collection of clamps—every size and type. But the arsenal of clamps in my shop is no more valuable than the arsenal of clamping tricks I carry around in my head. So even if you’re a beginning woodworker with a modest clamp collection, these tips are for you. I’ll show you how to clamp to get the most from the clamps you have and even a few ways to clamp without clamps.’
Cauls Keep Glue-Ups Flat and Flush
My favorite cauls are made from 2x4s. I carefully select ones that have a slight bend or ‘crown’ along the 1-1/2-in. edge, but no twist or warp. The crown is an advantage because it creates extra pressure in the middle of the caul. I label all my cauls with an arrow marking the direction of the crown and the length of the caul.
What’s a caul?
If it’s designed to spread clamping pressure over a wide area, you can call it a caul.
Apply pressure with water
Shift clamps to square your work
Use one caul instead of many clamps
Iron out veneer-clamping problems
Hold it square
Long-jaw hand screw
Magnetic clamp pads
How to clamp with tape
Convertible pipe clamps
A dry run is a must-do
Put the pinch on miter joints
Essential Clamps for Beginning Woodworkers (and Everyone Else)
Pipe clamps: Pipe clamps are the everyday, high-pressure workhorses of woodworking. Because you can quickly screw the clamps onto different lengths of pipe, one set of pipe clamps does the same work as several lengths of bar clamps. Buy pipes in 2-, 3- and 4-ft. lengths and you’re ready for most situations.
Bar clamps: Quicker and easier to use than pipe clamps, light-duty bar clamps are perfect when you need a long reach and moderate pressure.
Spring clamps: These are the fastest helpers for holding your work in place or doing light-pressure clamping.