Woodworking: Beginner’s Guide to Clamps

If you have been spending some of your time in a woodshop while watching a woodworker do his project, or if you have been reading magazines about woodworking, you’ve probably seen a collection of clamps. These woodworking tools come in various shapes and sizes, but the function remains the same.

It may look simple, but clamps are essential for every woodworker. To get the best result and sturdiest support, you have to invest in a high-quality set of clamps. From gluing wood to drilling holes, this fastening device will hold or secure objects tightly and safely to prevent any movements of the material through the use of inward pressure.

The question is, what are the kinds of clamps that you need? How many is enough? Let us give you the answers that you have in mind regarding woodworking clamps and the type that you need to avoid purchasing an expensive set that ends up sitting in the corner or hanging on the wall. 

What Are The Importance Clamps In Woodworking?

When it comes to woodworking, every woodworker needs to execute high-level accuracy. To achieve this success, tools, and types of machinery play a crucial role. Aside from creativity, you also need stability and reliability from your woodworking devices to distinguish your works from others. Even the most straightforward tools like clamps will increase the chances to cut an accurate straight line, drill correctly, or glue the wood seamlessly. 

Some woodworkers say that they would instead use other alternatives than buying a set of expensive clamps. Well, fortunately, you can now buy it per piece, depending on what you need more often. The essential role of clamps is to secure the workpiece so that you can free both of your hands and focus on the current task that you want to do on the wood. Hence, it leads to better control resulting in more accurate results.

Aside from accuracy, clamps will also make safer working conditions. Some power tools, such as routers and circular saws, require two hands to operate effectively. It means that you need to secure your workpieces to prevent your router or circular saw from turning into a wood rocket. You can only do it by using clamps or vices to secure the workpiece to your bench or any object that is heavy enough to withstand the forces exerted by the tool.

How To Use Clamps As A Guide?

Whenever you use clamps as a guide, it ensures that you will have a fixed reference point whether for a curve or straight cuts. Clamping down the straight edge of the material will act as a fence and guiding a circular saw will produce a cut that is almost similar to table saw quality cuts. 

You can use the same method to guide a router or even a jigsaw. Moreover, it can be a beneficial practice when it comes to imitating an exact execution. For example, if you have to cut ten squares of the same size, you can create one template. Then, clamp it on your other materials to draw the correct lines, or cut it immediately. 

How To Use Clamps When Gluing Wood?

Wood gluing is a skill that every woodworker must learn because 90% of wooden projects require it. The only drawback is that it can take a couple of hours to dry the glue properly. It means that whatever it is that you are gluing, you have to clamp it correctly and exert enough pressure to allow the glue to cure, without overflowing or moving the pieces. 

Clamps are also very beneficial when fixing different parts together with bolts and screws. You simply clamp it in place to have better support. Then, you can correct any issues while ensuring that the wood does not migrate to different positions.

5 Different Types of Clamps

Clamps for woodworking comes in different types, and every kind has various sizes. So, let us discuss some of the common types of clamps and their purposes. Find out what is the right kind for your projects. 

1.Trigger Clamps

It is the most common type of clamps that you will find in most home improvement stores. These are popular to the point that it comes in different brands. It may be lightweight, but it offers sturdy support in most small to medium-size wooden projects.

Moreover, it is easy to handle or trigger by simply pressing it. Then, you will be able to tighten or loosen the grip on your workpiece quickly. Trigger Clamps come from 4 to 12 inches, usually with plastic pads on the jaws. This design reduces the risks of damaging the item that you are clamping.

You can buy these trigger clamps for about $5 to $10 per piece, depending on its size. For starters, you can start with four pieces of trigger clamps. However, take note that the clamping power is small when you use it individually. So, more often, you have to use two or more clamps to secure the workpiece. 

2.C Clamps

These clamps have always been in most woodworking shops for a long time. As its name suggests, C clamps look like the “C” letter and are almost always from metal. Just like the first type, C Clamps come in a wide range of sizes, depending on the manufacturer. You can choose sizes from 1 inch up to 12 inches. Moreover, this type is so versatile that woodworkers can use it both for home use and even for larger industry-specific projects.

C Clamps will give you more fastening and grip than the trigger clamps, but the setup time is relatively longer. With the trigger clamps, you will just press the handle, alter the clamp whenever needed, and you’re good to go. On the other hand, C clamps require you to adjust the tightness by turning the handle. This setup is not ideal if you have to tighten a workpiece immediately because your other hand Is busy holding other tools.

Moreover, there’s a possibility of over-tightening. Most C Clamps also don’t have pads on the jaws, which can ruin the quality of softwoods through dents and unwanted marks. If you’re just starting to build your projects, it’s great to have a set of C clamps with about 2 to 3 assorted sizes. However, take note that it is a priority clamp. If you’re a beginner, stick to the most basic – trigger clamps unless you start earning with your projects.

3.Pipe Clamps

Pipe bar clamps are probably the most heavy-duty clamps, and they’re not as expensive as what you may think unless you buy a set. When you look at it, it seems rather unimpressive and small. However, its mechanism is more than what you can see. The nice thing about these clamps is that they’re interchangeable and can still offer sturdy support. If you are gluing some cutting boards, a set of pipe bar clamps is the safest option possible. The resilience, clamping power, and ease of use are unbeatable.

One bad thing about these clamps is that the throat or where you hold your piece in place can be short for some projects. Another common criticism is that it can leave a residue on a person’s project due to grease and solvents on the pipes. If this is a serious concern for you, you can put some old rags between your workpiece and the pipes so that they don’t rub each other while adding an extra layer of protection.

4.Bar Clamps Or F Clamps

It is the most versatile of all clamps. Some people call it F Clamps because it looks like the letter ‘F’ in the alphabet whenever you view it from its sides. The best part about bar clamps is that they have padding on the jaws that adds protection to your wood piece from getting dents, marks, and scratches. It’s a very neat idea when you attach a large project without putting any rug in between the clamp jaw and the material.

These clamps are available in a wide range of sizes. You can start picking up some F Clamps that are as small as 6 to 48 inches, which are usually from aluminum. It works like a pipe clamp that lets you move the lower jaw up or down quickly to get it close to your project. Then, you have to turn a button that moves the lower jaw closer to your project to tighten it by applying pressure.

5.Parallel Clamps

These clamps are similar to the bar clamps but larger. The best thing about these clamps is that they are versatile for different projects while allowing the user to use them in a variety of different ways. However, this is the most expensive clamp, at least on our list. Still, there are a couple of things to like about these clamps. 

First off, it’s heavy-duty, so it’s an excellent clamping power. Once you start tightening it down to your project, you don’t need to worry about whether or not it will be able to hold your boards in place. In short, it’s excellent to do its job very well. The throat of parallel clamps will allow you to secure materials that are 3 to 4 inches thick.

Moreover, it forms a 90-degree angle around both of jaws which are great when gluing wood boxes, some cabinets, and other square objects. Parallel clamps are also easy to attach and disconnect to make the process a lot easier.

How Many Clamps Do You Need?

The number clamps that you must have depends on the workpieces that you’re working on. So, you can buy as many as you can for as long as your budget allows. Woodworkers are buying clamps like fashion models are buying shoes. When it comes to clamps for gluing, always make sure of the consistency.

Make sure that you apply the glue across the material evenly and without any weak spots. Moreover, you have to be consistent in placing clamps on the right spaces to ensure equal pressure. For new beginner woodworkers, you can buy a couple of clamps. As you expand your skills, you can also buy more.

Over time, you will be able to build your collection of woodworking clamps, depending on the size of your projects. Failing to apply a consistent number of clamps across your project could cause your pieces to be warped or bent. On the other hand, it will cause parts not to line up as you had planned.

What Is The Right Size Of Clamps That You Need?

The clamps that you need depends on your project. If you are working on projects involving gluing of wood, you will need a couple of clamps like C or F clamps to guarantee that you will be able to apply a consistent amount of pressure throughout your work. If you are working on smaller projects, on the other hand, you can pick up four pieces of 6 to 36 inches pipe clamps for general woodworking projects.

You don’t have to go out and buy a dozen clamps of a particular style all at once. Instead, pick up a few kinds, and test them out to see what you like and don’t like about each type before investing too much in them. You may find that some classes that you think would work better with your projects. On the other hand, if you’re just looking for a starting point for what to buy, see the short guide below.  

  • A set of 4 Trigger Clamps
  • At least two sets of Bar Clamps. The link will depend on the project that you will do but make sure to pick something about 24 inches.
  • For C Clamps, you can start with a couple of 4 to 8 inches.
  • When it comes to F Clamps, you can choose from 12, 24, and 36 inches.
  • Finally, you can buy 1 set of Parallel Clamps that is suitable for all your projects.

Frequently Asked Questions

When it comes to accuracy, and consistency on your wooden pieces, clamps will definitely help you. However, you have to make sure that you pick the right kind. To know more about using and purchasing clamps for woodworking, let us answer some of the most frequently asked questions about it.

Which clamps should I buy first?

You can buy the very basic clamps first, which are the trigger clamps. It is not that expensive, and you can buy it per piece, which will save you a few hundred dollars. Moreover, you can easily find it in your local home center or hardware store. For starters, trigger clamps are the best option since you will most likely work on small wooden objects. 

Then, you can get other kinds of clamps soon as you improve your skills and work on other complex projects. You can pick pipe clamps that are about 24 to 48 inches. Then, get yourself at least four 12 inches bar clamps which are excellent for any quick clamping tasks with full support.

What clamps do I need for woodworking?

The clamps that you need for woodworking are trigger clamps, pipe, and bar clamps. Trigger Clamps are the most common type of clamps you’ll find in most home improvement stores. It provides robust support for most small to medium-sized wood projects. In addition, it’s easy to handle or trigger by simply pressing it. Trigger Clamps come from 4 to 12 inches, usually with plastic pads on the jaws. 

Second, Pipe Clamps are of the most heavy-duty quality. Its mechanism is so efficient and effective for clamping materials. Resilience, clamping and ease of use are unbeatable. Finally, Bar Clamps are the most common to advanced woodworkers. It is useful in various tasks and different sizes of wood. You can buy three different sizes of about 6, 12, and 24 inches. 

What can I use instead of wood clamps?

If you really don’t have the budget to buy clamps, there are some alternatives that you can use as a pair of pliers. Just make sure that it has a firm grip and support. Since pliers have no rubbers on its jaws, you can install some rugs to protect your workpiece against dents, marks, and scratches. However, take note that it may only be suitable for gluing purposes. Moreover, it is not as secure as what wood clamps can do. Finally, you can only use it on small woodworking projects.


Clamps come in different shapes and sizes, but the function remains the same. The number of clamps that you need depends on the projects that you’re going to want to do. As a beginner, you can always start with the cheapest and most convenient to use. 

Always make sure to invest in a high-quality set of clamps to get the best result and the most robust support, regardless of its price. It might look simple, but clamps are essential for every woodworker. This device holds and secures objects tightly and securely to prevent any movement of the material through the use of inward pressure.

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