Clamp Maintenance 101.
At Pony Jorgensen, we know that your first pair of woodworking clamps could very well be the ones you use for the rest of your life – and then pass on to the next generation. But are you going to use clamps that are covered in glue, thus making the parts less effective? What about dirty clamps that leave marks on your nearly perfect, almost-finished job? Of course you’re not. (At least not after today!)
Routine maintenance keeps your clamps in top condition so they can live their best – and longest – lives. From new clamp prep to daily clamp care and clamp storage, this blog is a 101 on the basics of clamp maintenance. So let’s get started.
No matter what type of woodworking clamps you’re using (but you are using Pony Jorgensen, right?), the maintenance process begins the moment you unwrap your shiny new friends. If your clamp has a bar, it’s important to properly prep it before use. If you’re using spring or band clamps, skip this step! Begin by removing any labels on your bar. Next, use a clean cloth that’s been lightly dipped into mineral spirits and wipe the bar down. Do this until all adhesive is gone and the bar is dry, with no resin coming off of it. To keep glue from sticking during future glue-ups, apply a coat of paste wax to the bar and buff clean. Now you are ready to put those fresh orange clamps to use!
During clamp use.
Keeping your clamps clean will extend their life span and ensure your workspace (and final product) stays free of marks or residue. The easiest way to prevent glue from adhering to your clamps is to use a protective layer – like painter’s tape, packing tape, or parchment paper – between your project and your clamp.
After clamp use.
A determining factor in maintaining your clamps is how you treat them in the first moments after use. Once a clamp’s job is finished, remove it from the workpiece immediately. After every use, wipe each part of the clamp with a dry cloth. Clearing any dust or debris will ensure there’s no buildup, and keeping clamps clean will help to avoid slippage when working on your next project. Any dirt, dust, or debris has the potential to damage your clamp’s working ability and can even leave marks or stains on the surface of your workpiece. You can also regularly buff your bar with paste wax, keeping all the moving parts of your clamp in top condition and preventing rust development.
Removing dried wood glue is difficult, and a buildup of wood glue can interfere with your clamp’s jaw movement and can even dent workpieces. That’s why it’s important to clean the jaws, pads, and bars after glue-ups. If you do find yourself with glue buildup, remove any dried glue by first softening it with a hot rag or heat gun (a power tool that blows hot air) and then scraping it off with a putty knife.
Is rust a problem?
Rust can appear over time and may affect the sliding action of your clamp, or worse, make your clamp produce an uncomfortable (read: annoying) hinging noise during use. We suggest using a spray-on rust-remover product. Simply spray, wait a few minutes, and then remove rust with an abrasive pad. You can also use a rust-removal tool like steel wool, followed by a coat of paste wax to prevent further rust and corrosion.
Even with regular maintenance, clamps may need the occasional deep clean. A vinegar rinse will help break down glue and any other debris left on your clamps. To do this, fill a large container with all-purpose vinegar (it can be the cleaning variety). Carefully place your clamps inside, in an upright position, then top off the container with the vinegar solution to cover the clamps and let them soak for an hour. The clamps should be entirely submerged. After an hour, use a Scotch-Brite™ Pad to clean away any leftover debris. Then rinse each clamp and dry it thoroughly using a soft cloth.
Clamps can be stored in a variety of ways, but it’s good to follow these general guidelines:
- Always store clamps away from heat in a secure, safe, dry place.
- When possible, separate clamp heads to prevent them from sticking together.
- Consider investing in clamp racks or carts to keep clamps stored properly.
Three orange rules.
When in doubt, just remember the three orange rules of clamp maintenance:
- Clean clamps = clean projects
- Well-maintained clamps = easier to use
- Properly stored clamps = better quality clamps over time
Ready for your next set of finely crafted clamps? Check out our collection and discover why, when it comes to high-quality, strong, reliable clamps, there’s only one choice – Pony Jorgensen.