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Re: A discussion of panel clamps

Barry Irby
Woodworking has always been a hobby for me. Never profitable, although I have made some money from the work. Most of my long clamps are pipe clamps. Many of them are close to fifty years old, I bought when I was a kid. Not only were they cheaper than the clamps you mention, they were readily available. I could walk into the local hardware store and buy them. I have a few long clamps, some of them like the Besseys. I find them hard to use.

I modified my pipe clamps by adding wooden jaws made of baltic birch plywood scraps. The jaws are about 6" tall and allow the bottom clamps to stand alone and the handles spin without hitting the table and the upper clamps to rest on the jaw extensions without the pipes resting on the panel. A tremendous improvement. The versatility of being able to change the length by changing the pipes can be very useful.

I have made hundreds of joints with these clamps and have never had a failure I could attribute to the clamps. Considering that many of the craftsmen who made the antiques we admire probably had none of these clamps and at least in some cases made rubbed joints I am skeptical tremendous clamping force is necessary.

I am still keeping an eye peeled for clamps being sold by the widow of a clamp hoarder.

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