There is something to be said about a tool collection that is full of well-used tools (like clamps) that have been passed down in your family in addition to the new ones that collect with every holiday gift. However, there comes a time when the jumbled mess needs to be sorted.
How many clamps do I need for woodworking? While various clamps can be used for particular projects, you can usually accomplish most woodworking tasks with 4 bar clamps, a strap clamp or corner clamp, and 4 pipe clamps (including 4 sets of jaws to match various sized pipes). Other clamps will likely only be used minimally.
Of course, if your favorite clamp that you use regularly is not included on this list, that is not to say that you have to get rid of it. However, when you think about having an organized toolbox and sorting through the myriad of clamps that have piled up, you can get most of your projects done with a much more minimalistic pile. So, rather than spending half of your time sorting to find the right clamp, you can get to work on your project. Let’s take a closer look.
What Kinds of Clamps Do I Need for Woodworking?
There is a fine line between want and need for most woodworking tools, and clamps are no exception. While you might purchase a particular clamp for one project that you have in mind, this clamp may sit and collect sawdust after doing this one project.
Instead of sorting through your pile, it is ideal to narrow down to what you truly need to keep- the essential clamps for every woodworker.
So, what kinds of clamps do you need for woodworking? The three most basic types of clamps to keep for woodworking include bar clamps, pipe clamps (with jaws and pipes), and a strap clamp. A corner clamp can also be a great addition if you are only clamping one corner instead of multiple (like a strap clamp could do).
Using bar clamps, pipe clamps, and a strap or corner clamp will help you accomplish almost any woodworking task. For example, if you have a trigger-activated bar clamp, this can help you more quickly secure your clamp, but it will have the same structural stability as a bar clamp and less likely to slide as a spring clamp would.
Additionally, pipe clamps can be great for clamping large pieces of wood together as the jaws can easily adjust up and down the pipe to secure a tight clamp as wide as the pipe is long. Plus, with the jaws sliding easily, these are great for an easily-adjusted clamp to meet various clamp ranges that your projects might have.
Next, a strap clamp can be used to clamp together mitered corners, such as on a picture frame or another type of framing project. You can use the plastic corners to keep the strap in place and adjust it tightly for added pressure to the clamp. If you have a project with more than four corners, you can use it without the plastic corners to add more pressure points to the clamp.
Finally, a corner clamp can be a great substitute or small addition to your strap clamp if you plan on clamping mitered corners but only one at a time. Instead of clamping the entire project together with a strap clamp, you could work with one corner with a corner clamp.
What Kinds of Clamps Do I Not Need for Woodworking?
Ok, so now you have your general list of the minimal clamps you should withhold in your woodworking shop. This list of bar clamps, pipe clamps, a strap clamp, and/or corner clamp might seem pretty minimal if you are looking at a large pile of clamps that you need to sort through.
So, which kinds of clamps do you not need for woodworking? Since most woodworking projects can be accomplished with a minimal set of bar clamps, pipe clamps, a strap clamp, and/or a corner clamp, you can probably get rid of your screw clamps, spring clamps, and C-clamps to begin with. Keep them if you use them regularly, but you can likely make do without them.
While screw clamps, spring clamps, and C-clamps all have their place in woodworking, they are not part of what would be considered the “essential clamps” list considering their downfalls. For example, screw clamps can take way too long to secure a tight clamp, and the effort that goes into it can take away from or even accidentally bump the wood you are attempting to clamp down.
In addition to this, spring clamps are nice for their ability to clamp something together quickly, but they are not always secure and are prone to losing their grip or sliding on what they are supposed to be holding together. They are definitely handy since you can use this device with one hand, but they might not hold the secure clamp that you are going for very long
Finally, C-clamps can act as a bar clamp with a wider mouth, but they are not usually needed when you have bar clamps and pipe clamps in the shop. While they might be the only clamp that you can figure out how to attach to a unique piece of furniture, they are probably just sitting and collecting a growing amount of sawdust and do not need to remain in your tool organizer.
How Many Clamps Are There?
If you are new to the woodworking world, you might feel a little daunted at the number of clamps out there and their specific use. However, try to keep in mind that the wide array of clamps can be narrowed down to the basics (for both accomplished and novice woodworkers) they can use for their projects.
So, how many clamps are there? 7 types of common clamps include bar clamps, pipe clamps, strap clamps, corner clamps, screw clamps, spring clamps, and C-clamps, to name a few. However, you can usually get by with just a few of each type of clamp. You will need one clamp placed every 10-12 inches of wood on your project.
If you are planning on working on smaller projects (such as those that are less than 3 feet in length on any side of the project), you will want to use 3-4 clamps evenly spaced. Be sure to flip the side that the pressure is being applied to your project when using multiple clamps so that every other clamp is facing the same direction. This will help to distribute the pressure to keep your wood intact more evenly.
While nobody is likely going through your box of clamps and judging you for the number that you own and do not use (except maybe someone you live with who does not like to look at your clutter), it is understandable that you might not be ready to part ways with your unused clamps quite yet.
However, perhaps you have finally found the motivation (or been given an ultimatum) to whittle down the number of clamps that you own. So, not only do you now know the types of clamps that you should keep (bar clamps, pipe clamps, and a strap clamp and/or corner clamp), but you know that you will only need one clamp for every 10-12 inches of your largest project.
Of course, this is assuming that you are only using clamps for one project at a time, so if you plan to have multiple projects going on at a time, then obviously, you should keep a few more. Generally speaking, though, you should narrow down the types and number of clamps you keep.
There can be many benefits of only keeping the minimal number and type of clamps you actually need for your woodworking projects. Not only will sorting through your pile of clamps help you to find any broken clamps or clamps with missing parts, but it can help you to find your favorite clamps as well.
With this, you will be setting yourself up for success as you navigate your next project using the most ideal type and number of clamps that you own. Plus, this could also mean that you trade in getting rid of 5-10 clamps that you do not need or want for an upgrade on a few of your most basic clamps.