By Jon Eakes
Clamps are the mainstay
of any woodworking shop but we get good use out of clamps on construction sites
as well. I thought I would touch on some of the lesser known but quite useful
construction clamps that you may want to add to your truck. A couple of these
I have talked about in the past, but I wanted to bring them all together in
Bar clamps are the standard clamps that we all own. There is a wide range of prices and quality. What is the difference between a cheap clamp and a quality clamp? Swivel pads don't fall off of good clamps, the slider part doesn't slip and the handles are solid. All of that means that you can put a lot of pressure on a good clamp and it will stay there. Look for anti-slip ridges on the bar. Bessey, one of the best in the business, brags about the set screw in the back of its Tradesmen bar clamps, which automatically locks the slider when you start to clamp.
From the standard bar clamps and C clamps we now have lots of innovations. The Bessey PowerGrip bar clamp has a ratchet action for snugging up the clamp, then the standard twist handle for putting on the pressure. It ratchets from either side.
Irwin has come out with
a heavy duty version of the ratchet in its Quick-Grip XP One Handed
Bar Clamps / Spreaders. The reversible head allows for both clamping and spreading
action. As a woodworker, the non-parallel fixed faces on this clamp bothered
me when I first tested it, but Irwin did that on purpose to give it an aggressive
grab with more strength than you can get with swivel faces; more for use on
construction sites than in a wood shop.
Vise-Grip did such a good
job of putting clamping power into pliers that we tend to use it as a generic
name for locking pliers. Now a part of Irwin Tools, Vise-Grip has expanded to
specific clamping devices, mostly for the welding trades but also useful in
construction. The Original Vise-Grip Locking C-Clamps with Swivel Pads
give quick and very strong holding power on limited sized material.
Locking pliers were such
a good idea that it couldn't just stay with Vise-Grip. Bessey put them on their
bar clamps and called them SuperGrips, expanding this idea to eight inches
of clamping. For a lighter touch, Bessey combined a ratchet action with a lever
clamp and came up with the KliKlamp. Slide the jaws snug, pull the lever
to the right ratchet level, and it stays. The quick release pops it free.
Traditionally, edge clamps
had a screw drive to clamp them to the panel and then another screw drive to
hold on to the edging. On Bessey's one-hand edge clamp, all three pressure surfaces
are advanced at the same time with the turn of the handle. Just push the trim
in with the clamp and twist.
Bessey's ES Irregular
Angle Clamp uses a ball-and-socket system together with a small C clamp and
a standard bar clamp to allow clamping on nearly any irregular angle from 15º
to 180º. Finally a dream clamp for stair rails.
Anyone working on timber framing will appreciate the ability to snug up the timber in a bird's mouth before nailing with Bessey's Timber Framing Clamp. Hammer the front spike into the beam and pull it tight with the clamp.
I know I am getting carried
away with Bessey clamps. It is just that they have so many hidden gems that
you rarely see in the stores, such as the Professional Seaming Tool for solid
surface installation. Place the surfaces together, flip the vacuum cup levers
to grab both panels, twist the spindle handle to bring them together, flip the
levelling toggles to make a perfectly level seam, and then finish clamping them
together. With two of these clamps, kitchen counter tops will be quickly perfect
How about a clamp with no
moving parts? The Loctite Power Grab Tub Surrounds version of Loctite's grab
adhesives seems to have the highest initial tack of any construction adhesive,
is latex based for no burn-through, has no need for flashing on vinyl tub surrounds,
and you have 15 minutes for repositioning. You need a cartridge of this in the
truck as much as that PL Premium that is already there. If two things fit together,
you can glue them with no clamps. You can actually apply Instant Grab to a wall
and push something as heavy as a full brick into it and it will stay, instantly.
Imagine baseboards or moulding where the nailing is non-existent, or you want
no nail holes.
Years ago I found another gadget with no moving parts that I include in the clamp category because the "insulation cutter" pushes down on fibreglass insulation, clamping it to a floor as you stroke across it with a utility knife. This has always been my most efficient way to cut batt insulation, but it disappeared from the stores. Recently I discovered it in the back of a Stanley catalogue. Because everyone will say they don't know what you are talking about, give them Stanley product number 10-113, knife and shield combined.
Montreal-based TV broadcaster, author, home renovation and tool expert Jon Eakes provides a tool feature in each edition of Home BUILDER.