A wise person once said, “Before you can craft like a champ, you must learn the ways of the clamp.” Okay, we might have made that up. But if you’re new to woodworking, there’s a lot more to the seemingly simple process of clamping than you might expect. For starters, there are dozens of different types of clamps. And even if you’ve identified the best clamps for your job, it’s important to know how to use them properly, keep them protected, and apply the proper amount of pressure.
That’s why we’ve assembled these clamping tips for woodworking beginners. Keep reading and you just might learn something new today.
Tip 1: Get familiar with the clamping caul.
A clamping caul is a fancy name for a piece of wood that acts as a barrier between your clamps and your workpiece. Clamping cauls are especially useful when working with softer woods that are more likely to be damaged by direct clamping pressure. A piece of scrap wood is all it takes to make your first caul. Be sure it’s thick enough to evenly distribute pressure (at least an inch thick in most instances). It’s true that many of our clamps, like our Jorgensen steel bar clamp, come with work‑protecting pads, and we even offer clamp pads for our Pony pipe clamps. But clamping cauls serve a different purpose, allowing for more consistent clamping pressure – and ultimately, better glue‑ups.
Tip 2: Bigger isn’t always better.
Some woodworking beginners think they’re getting a better bang for their buck by buying bigger clamps. And it’s true that larger clamps will allow you to take on larger projects. But don’t underestimate the power of tiny clamps – they can be mighty useful for delicate projects that require less clamping pressure. Smaller spring clamps, such as our 1‑ and 2‑inch Pony spring clamps, can be used to securely hold smaller pieces of wood, like French cleats, without taking up much space. If you’re working on smaller projects, it makes sense to use a smaller clamp.
Tip 3: Know when to alternate your clamps.
The more boards you use and the wider the project you’re gluing up is, the higher the chance of boards bowing inward and deforming your project. To alleviate this, alternate between placing your clamps above and below your project, making sure to keep the clamps spaced evenly apart. You can also use clamping cauls to help keep your glue‑up on the straight and narrow. Just be sure not to apply too much pressure. Read our blog post on techniques for using the right clamping pressure to learn more.
Tip 4: Use wax paper when gluing up.
Few woodworking pickles are worse than prying a clamp off your project while trying not to damage it. It’s normal for glue to ooze out of joints when they’re clamped properly, and you don’t want it meddling with your clamps or cauls. Glue residue can especially interfere if it gets on a pipe clamp, since the sliding head may no longer slide smoothly along the pipe. Luckily, there’s a simple solution. For this clamping tip, place some wax paper between your clamps and your projects, wherever they’re making contact, to avoid a sticky situation when the glue dries.
Tip 5: Create a DIY vise with handscrews.
Our Jorgensen handscrew was the first clamp invented specifically for woodworking, and it’s still an incredibly versatile tool today. As a woodworking beginner, you may not own a vise – but if you have a couple of spare handscrews lying around your shop, you can use them to make your own. Line up the inside of both handscrew jaws with the edge of your workbench. Then, drill a screw through the handscrews and your bench before securing them with metal screws and nuts. The handscrew’s adjustable jaws are great for holding boards and irregularly shaped pieces alike.
Time to get to work.
Now that you know our clamping tips for woodworking beginners, consider making your next project a clamp rack. It’s easy to build, it can help keep your shop organized, and it will give you plenty of room to add some more high‑quality Pony Jorgensen clamps to your burgeoning collection. Browse our site and discover why our clamps have been the uncompromising woodworker’s choice since 1903.