Chris Schwarz's Blog

Clamping a Chair is Like Hugging an Eel

clamping a chair

One of the challenges when building a chair is clamping the dang thing down so you can work on it. I’ve seen lots of solutions that use band clamps. But I dislike band clamps (perhaps I had a bad experience at band camp). So here’s what I do.

Most workholding problems can be solved with handscrew clamps and holdfasts, including this one.

First you squeeze the legs with the handscrew clamps. Note that if your legs have any rake or splay there are going to be only two angles on each leg where the handscrew will be able to get a good grip. If you’re a chairmaker, you know that this angle is called the sightline.

The sightline is the place where the leg appears to be vertical to your eye. To find the sightline with your handscrew, rotate its jaws around the leg until you find the spot where the clamp will grab the leg without the clamp body’s twisting.

clamping a chair

(Note: I have some grippy stuff on the jaws of my handscrews – it’s adhesive stair-tread tape and it prevents things from slipping.)

Then hold the handscrew down with a holdfast (or use an F-style clamp if you don’t own a holdfast).

Oftentimes I’ll clamp on the handscrews, put the chair on the floor, sit in front of it and put my feet on the handscrews to hold the chair down. This is great when touching up the saddle of the seat.

— Christopher Schwarz

There are lots of great chairmaking videos at ShopWoodworking.com. My favorite: “Build a Welsh Stick Chair” with Don Weber.

3 thoughts on “Clamping a Chair is Like Hugging an Eel

  1. chunkyboy

    That looks pretty tight
    If you had a pair of those hinged feet on the workbench to lower it you could access the chair better otherwise maybe stand on a block or something either way…blocks are needed here I reckon

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