Gluing and clamping angled assemblies – like most chairs – can be a hassle. There are some great strategies for approaching glue-ups, angled and otherwise, in various books including “Glue and Clamps,” but sometimes it just comes down to having the right tool for the job at hand. For years I fought with K-Body or parallel-jaw clamps trying to get them to do what I wanted. If the jaws of the clamp are deep enough to span the side of the chair without angling the clamp heads, sometimes you can get away with using them without using angled clamp pads. But they seldom have the reach you need, and even when they do it’s too easy to put too much pressure on one side of the assembly and pull everything out of alignment.
If the clamp heads don’t have the necessary reach, you have to tape angled clamp pads in place to compensate for the angles of the chair (or whatever angled piece you’re building). If you don’t, you’ll both mar the workpiece and tweak the chair out of alignment. But no matter how carefully you cut the angled wedges and then try to place and tighten opposing clamps exactly the same amount, too often the clamps pull one side of the assembly more than the other. What you’re left with are joints that open up on one side and a slightly asymmetrical piece of furniture.
One day, when I couldn’t get a few chair joints to close up, and the taped-on wedge fell out of position for the third or fourth time, and the glue was quickly setting, and my blood pressure was quickly rising, I pulled the clamp off and reached for an Irwin Quick-Grip XP600 clamp. I set it in place gave it a squeeze. The clamping head was padded and allowed just enough swing to accommodate the angle, and the joint closed up. I removed the mess on the opposite side of the chair and replaced it with another of the squeeze clamps. That side closed up, too. I checked the diagonal measurements across the seat and at the feet and everything matched up.
It sometimes takes a while to find exactly the right tool for the job at hand. But when I do I tend to stick with it. That afternoon I bought two more of the clamps. It’s now a few years later, and I have 20 or so of them (I make a lot of chairs). If I’m working on a large set of chairs and I run out of them, I can either wait until the glue dries or start cutting wedges and trying to finagle the old parallel-jaw clamps into place. I wait until the next day.
A final word of warning: Irwin sells two different strengths of squeeze clamps. One type is the old-style standby Quick-Grip Clamps, which are great for light work but simply don’t have enough clamping pressure for most assembly jobs. Instead look for their Quick-Grip XP line, which are advertised on the packaging as having “600 lbs Sustained Clamping Force.” They’re not cheap, but they’re now easily the clamps I reach for most often.
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