If there is one universal truth in woodworking; it is that you can never have enough clamps (and you usually haven’t got the ones you need).
Types of Woodworking Clamps
Clamps come in all sorts of shapes and sizes so it can be confusing to know which are the best to use in different situations.
These consist of a flexible nylon strap and a tightening mechanism; you’ll want the ones with a ratcheting mechanism which is very easy to tighten and release. Band clamps are superb for clamping picture frames, round or odd-shaped pieces.
Also called F clamps or G clamps. These consist of two horizontal bars joined together by a flat bar. They can apply large amounts of pressure and will find a home in most woodworking shops.C clamps / G clampsThese are basic clamps and usually the first ones that you’ll own. Four to six of these will do you for most basic projects.
Also known as mitre clamps. These are specialist clamps designed specifically for clamping miter joints or right-angle joints. They are especially useful for picture frames and the like.
These are quite traditional and can be very flexible. The jaws can be adjusted to easily clamp sloping or tapered pieces.
Have the same uses as bar clamps, but can be a lot more flexible as you choose their capacity by changing the length of the pipe.
Very similar to a bar clamp. Suitable for all but the heaviest clamping jobs and extremely versatile.
Spring clamps are useful for small jobs but don’t expect them to exert a large amount of pressure.
I could write another article entirely for all the different types of toggle clamps that are available. In short they have a toggle on/off action and are frequently screwed onto something. This makes them superb for use in home-made jigs. In general, if you can dream up a custom clamping jig, there will be a toggle clamp that will make it work.
Ok, so now we know the different types available and a little bit of what they’re used for. So who makes the best woodworking clamps?
This is a great company that make a wide range of clamps at varying price points (with associated variations in quality). You’ll likely end up owning the highest number of Irwin clamps and using them most of the time but you’ll also need a few higher quality clamps to round out your collection.
Ok, that should really be DE-STA-CO. This is where you’ll want to get your toggle clamps. With the widest range and highest quality, if you’re looking for a manual toggle clamp for a jig then look no further.
Bessey / Jorgensen / Jet Tools
I’ve grouped these three together as they are generally considered to produce the highest quality clamps with little to distinguish between them. These are fantastic tools that will last many years, but you’ll pay a premium for them. Aspire to own Bessey clamps, Jorgensen clamps or Jet clamps, just don’t buy them when you’re starting out! You’ll know you’re committed to woodworking when you fork out for some of these (but you won’t regret it).
Storage for your clamps
Eventually you’re going to end up with (what feels like) hundreds of clamps, all vying for space in your (already packed) workshop. How do you keep them all neat and tidy whilst also having them easily accessibly. There’s nothing worse than gluing up, positioning your join, reaching for your clamp and realising it’s on the floor on the other side of the shop!
There are many off the shelf solutions for this and a quick search on Google will bring up many options. But if you’re interested in woodworking then you’ll most likely want to build your own custom storage. If this is the case then I would suggest taking a look at my post on tool storage for inspiration and then designing your own.
I hope this article has helped you in navigating the murky waters of clamps.