If you’re a beginner woodworker, you might not be familiar with C clamps quite yet.
But these handy tools can be extremely helpful when working on wood projects, and many other tasks.
In this guide, I’ll explain exactly what a C clamp is used for, the types of clamps available, and how to use a c clamp for your projects. Let’s dig in!
- C-Clamps can be used for all sorts of woodworking, agriculture, construction, and automotive tasks in which a temporary bond is required. The clamping force can be strong enough to hold many different materials together while you work on them.
- C-clamps are also know as g clamps or carriage clamps and I consider them an essential woodworking tool.
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What are C Clamps Used For?
C-clamps, aptly named for their distinctive “C” shaped frame, are an indispensable tool in the world of woodworking. As an experienced woodworker, I’ve used these clamps for numerous tasks time and time again.
C-clamps, made of heavy-duty cast iron or steel, are used primarily for holding wood or other materials steady while you work on them.
These clamps provide the extra pair of “hands” every woodworker needs. They’re your best friends when you’re cutting, shaping, sanding, gluing, or performing any task that requires steadiness.
One of the most common uses of C-clamps in woodworking is during the gluing process.
When you’re joining two pieces of wood together with adhesive, the bond is only as strong as the pressure applied while the glue sets. C-clamps are excellent for this purpose. They provide consistent, even pressure across the joint, ensuring a strong, secure bond. The adjustable screw mechanism lets you control the amount of force applied, thereby preventing any damage to the wood.
C-clamps are also useful when sawing or cutting wood. By clamping the piece you’re working on to your workbench, you ensure it doesn’t move, which enhances accuracy and safety. Wood that shifts or slips during sawing can lead to inaccurate cuts, or worse, accidents.
In woodworking, you also use C-clamps for tasks like edge gluing. When you’re creating a larger surface from smaller pieces, say, for a table top, you need to glue the edges of boards together. A series of C-clamps along the edge ensures the boards align perfectly while the glue dries, resulting in a smooth, even surface.
Despite their toughness, C-clamps can be gentle on delicate pieces.
By placing a piece of scrap wood or a soft material like leather between the clamp’s jaws and your workpiece, you protect the surface from the clamp’s potentially damaging force. This allows you to work on delicate, detailed pieces with the same assurance of stability as rougher, larger ones.
And lastly, don’t underestimate the use of C-clamps in creating temporary woodworking setups. Whether it’s attaching a temporary shelf to hold your tools or securing a makeshift fence on your table saw, C-clamps prove their worth in these situations as well.
What is a Locking C Clamp Used for?
Locking C-Clamps are typically used when a task requires a secure grip over a prolonged period. The locking mechanism provides a firm, steady hold that is perfect for tasks like gluing, welding, cutting, or drilling. It ensures that the workpiece remains stable and secure, minimizing the risk of error and enhancing safety.
Additionally, Locking C-Clamps often come with swivel pads on their jaws, allowing them to hold objects of irregular shapes or angles securely. They can also be used to grip objects that are hard to reach or require a more delicate touch.
How to Use a C Clamp
Step 1: Selecting the Right C-Clamp
The first step in using a C-clamp is selecting the right one for your job.
You’ll want to consider the size, depth, and shape of your workpiece, and choose a C-clamp that fits these conditions. It’s critical that the clamp has a deep enough throat to reach across your workpiece and wide enough opening to accommodate its thickness.
Step 2: Positioning the Workpiece
Position your workpiece appropriately on your workbench or wherever you plan to work. Ensure it’s in a secure, stable position before you proceed to apply the C-clamp. If you’re working with fragile or delicate surfaces, you may want to put scrap wood or a soft material between the clamp and the workpiece to prevent damage.
Step 3: Setting up the C-Clamp
Open the jaws of the C-clamp wide enough to fit around your workpiece and the surface to which you want to secure it. To do this, turn the handle counterclockwise to move the adjustable jaw away from the fixed one.
Step 4: Clamping the Workpiece
Place the C-clamp over the workpiece so that it sits flush against the surface you’re attaching it to. Make sure the fixed jaw is underneath the workpiece and the adjustable jaw is on top. The workpiece should be nestled in the ‘C’ of the clamp.
Step 5: Securing the Workpiece
Begin to tighten the C-clamp by turning the handle clockwise. As you do, the adjustable jaw will move closer to the fixed one, applying pressure to your workpiece. Continue to tighten until the clamp is secure. However, avoid over-tightening as it can cause damage to your workpiece or even the clamp itself.
Need more help? Check out the video below!
Step 6: Checking the Stability
Once the clamp is tightened, give your workpiece a gentle shake to ensure it’s secure. If it moves, you’ll need to tighten the clamp a little more. If it’s stable, you’re ready to start working on it.
Step 7: Removing the C-Clamp
When you’ve finished your task, or if you need to reposition the clamp, you can release the C-clamp. Turn the handle counterclockwise to loosen the clamp until you can easily lift it from the workpiece.
Types of C Clamps
There are a few different types of c clamps you should be aware of:
- Standard C-Clamps: The most common type of C-clamp you’ll find is the standard C-clamp. These clamps are simple, sturdy, and versatile. They typically range in size from one to eight inches, though larger ones exist for industrial uses. They consist of a fixed jaw at one end of the ‘C’, an adjustable jaw (via a screw mechanism) at the other end, and a handle for turning the screw.
- Quick-Release C-Clamps: These clamps are a recent innovation designed to save time and effort. As the name suggests, they offer a quick-release feature that allows for rapid adjustments, making them ideal for tasks that require frequent repositioning. They are similar to standard C-clamps in structure, but the quick-release mechanism is the differentiating factor.
- Deep-Throat C-Clamps: These clamps are designed for tasks that require reaching deeper into the workpiece. They have a longer ‘throat’ or ‘reach’ (the distance from the edge of the frame to the center of the screw). Deep-throat C-clamps are ideal for clamping workpieces that are wide or have complex shapes.
- Locking C-Clamps: Also known as vise-grip clamps, these are a hybrid of pliers and C-clamps. They have a locking mechanism that holds the clamp in place without the need to maintain pressure on the handle. This is particularly useful in tasks that require prolonged clamping.
- Swivel-Pad C-Clamps: This variant comes with pads that swivel on the jaws of the clamps. The swivel pads allow the clamp to hold irregularly shaped or angled surfaces without damaging them. This makes them a perfect choice when dealing with delicate materials or complex shapes.
- Copper Coated C-Clamps: For woodworkers who also do welding, copper-coated C-clamps are invaluable. The copper coating prevents the clamp from becoming a part of the weld. They work just like the standard C-clamp but are particularly useful in metalworking scenarios.
- Bar Clamp/Spreader: While technically not a C-clamp, bar clamps deserve a mention due to their similar function. These clamps, with a long flat bar as the frame, can reach across larger distances, making them ideal for larger woodworking projects. Some models can even function as spreaders, applying outward pressure for tasks such as disassembling joints.
C Clamp v G Clamp
C-clamps and G-clamps are essentially the same tools, just named differently based on regional preferences.
In North America, they’re often referred to as C-clamps due to their ‘C’ shape. In the UK and other countries, the same tool is called a G-clamp because the shape also resembles a ‘G’ when the screw is included in the picture.
A C clamp is sometimes also called a carriage clamp, but these are the same thing.
So, what are c clamps used for?
In woodworking, a clamp device like a c or g clamp is used to secure two objects together while you work on them.
For example, if you need to glue two flat edges together, a c clamp be be used to create clamping pressure so your workpieces don’t move while being glued.
C clamps are also widely used in the agriculture, construction, and automotive industries because of how versatile they are.