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“You can never have enough clamps.” I’ll bet many of you know from whom that quote came (read below if you haven’t a clue). And I would also bet you think that is a sound woodworking statement.

Well last week was clamp week at Popular Woodworking. A few weeks back, literature came in from Lee Valley about a new German-built Aluminum Assembly Clamp that had me immediately contact the company for a sample to review.

The Aluminum Assembly Clamp is a type of bar clamp, but with this clamp there is no handle to twist to tighten like a K-body clamp. Also, this is not a standard squeeze clamp that requires you to pump the handle to tighten. Clamp action on this clamp is best described as similar to closing a set of locking pliers. And yes, as you can on locking pliers, you can adjust the amount of clamp pressure. While I don’t see the value of adjusting clamp pressure as it pertains to the project, I do see that not all us woodworkers have the same hand strength and this adjustability makes using these clamps as individual as are our projects.

What makes this clamp easy to use is the slide action of the movable jaw. Pull the jaw tight to your work, then squeeze the handle closed and the pressure is added. A simple dial of the thumbscrew on the movable jaw changes the pressure.  I don’t think these clamps would be your “go to” clamp for gluing panels, although they certainly would work if you have a proper fit to your boards and enough hand strength to close the clamps using higher pressure, I do see great use in the shop as quick clamps that hold things in position , think in place of F-style or wooden handscrews.

Aluminum Assembly Clamps are available in 6″, 12″, 18″ and 24″ lengths each with a throat depth of 3-1/4″. These clamps cost from $21.50 – $28.50. Lee Valley has a special offer until October 26, 2008 , a set of four, two 18″ and two 24″ clamps for $108.

New samples from Bessey also arrived. The Bessey clamps include two versions of the VARIOCLIPPIX , a single sliding jaw that opens to 4″ and a two-sliding-jaw design that opens to 6-1/2″. (A 2-3/8″ clamp is also available.)

When you first look at a VARIOCLIPPIX, you wonder how these clamps should be used. They are a step above regular handspring clamps due to the wider opening width, for sure. Regular small spring clamps open to 2″. Larger spring clamps open to 3″, and if you’ve used larger spring clamps, you know how difficult it could be to squeeze the clamp open to its full potential. VARIOCLIPPIX clamps are the size of small handspring clamps, but they open to clutch onto wider assemblies. The product is manufactured of glass-filled nylon for strength and features two component handles for an ergonomic grip.  

Using these clamps is interesting, too. Of course you could slide the jaws out to their fullest extent and use the clamps at that setting. But it makes more sense, and increases clamp strength, if you only open the clamps as wide as necessary. If you need 4″, open the adjustable jaw to accept 4″. If you need the maximum of 6-1/2″, open them up and clamp down.

VARIOCLIPPIX clamps are available from $6.50 – $8.50 at Lee Valley (3″ plastic spring clamps set you back about $3.40 each). Some VARIOCLIPPIX sizes are available at Amazon for slightly less. Where were these clamps when I built the Baltimore Card Table in the June 2005 Popular Woodworking (issue #148)? I could have used a 6-1/2″ version to clamp and hold the top row of apron blocks as my glue dried.

Another Bessey clamp sent in for us to examine is the Step-over clamp (see the pictrue at top). This clamp is best described as an F-style clamp with a semi-circle head bend. The 3/16″-thick x 5/8″-wide plated steel bar is bent in a semi-circle design to form the fixed jaw. The sliding jaw is that of a standard F-style clamp.

The step-over idea is so you could reach over say a lip on a turned-edge tabletop or something along those lines. These clamps open to a maximum of 4″ with a depth of 1-3/8″. That won’t step over much. I’m not big on that application, but I do see how that is supposed to work. For me, I see these clamps being used as one would use F-style clamps , again, a way to quickly grip and hold stock or parts.

By the way, the quote from the beginning of this entry is something heard in many episodes of The New Yankee Workshop, said by Norm Abram.

For more information about Bessey Clamp pricing, click here Q4 Bessey Clamp Flyer.pdf (134.16 KB)

– Glen D. Huey


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  • Glen

    Guys,

    The sliding screws do not come off the step-over clamps, which Bessey calls LMU clamps. However, a bit of simple grinding would make that possible.

    The aluminum assembly clamps do pop somewhat as you release the pressure, Rob, but that is dependent upon the amount of pressure used. The Varioclippix clamps that are new are the two-arm version and I anticipate great use in our shop.

    Glen

  • Rob Porcaro

    Glen,

    Do the aluminum assembly clamps release smoothly or with an annoying abrupt pop like other squeeze clamps?

    I’ve used the Varioclippix spring clamps for a long time now and they are by far the best, most versatile spring clamps I’ve used.

    The Stepover clamps look like they might be handy when clamping a fence to a ribbed cast iron table, such as a bandsaw. It’s handy to have the handle on the top side.

    Thanks for the info.
    Rob

  • Eric Madsen

    Glen, do the sliding screws come all the way off the step over clamps? These seem to be a good size to use with my Festool MFT if they separate to fit through the table’s holes… and the price is right.

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