In my ongoing quest for finding adequate substitutions for the vanishing North American clamp manufacturers, I recently discovered an exceptionally strong forged steel C-clamp that will surely give us decades of dependable use.
Woodworkers rarely use large capacity C-Clamps. Instead, we prefer the more rapid to open and close F-clamps, or the Parallel jaws clamps. However, C-clamps are better for repeated clamping of materials of similar thicknesses. Think about a carver who routinely work with 1” stock that is clamped to a 2” workbench. With one turn of the screw, the clamp is loosened and can be repositioned without worrying that the moving jaw will drop or get loosened. C-clamps don’t have moving parts but for the screw, which is their biggest advantage. No doubt you can find an F-clamp with a positive clutch grip mechanism to prevent the moving jaw from unintentional dislocating, but a feature like this may become loose over time – especially if the jaws are always engaged at the same configurations.
In addition, over a long period of time when an F-clamp is subjected to over-tightening, structural deformation such as a permanent bend in the clamp’s beam, or loosing of the fixed jaw is likely to happen. In contrast, a good quality C-clamps will retain its structural integrity almost indefinitely.
In our classes, we use C-clamps for securing our workpieces to the workbenches and Bench-Bulls – and because some of our young students tend to over tighten the clamps, we use C-clamps. Over the years, our program procured C-clamps of many shapes and sizes – all American made. Form Jorgenson to Sargent, and even from forgotten companies such as P.S.& W.
Recently, I was introduced to a new system for carving utensils. This system requires two clamps for holding the spoon or fork blank down, I knew that it was time to buy a few more C-clamps.
Cast Iron C-clamps are all over the web and can be bought very cheaply on Amazon and in hardware stores. But for our needs, I wanted to get the best. And the best C-clamps are made entirely out of forged steel… and they are not cheap.
To make them manufacturers need to invest more energy and money, and since they are made in lesser quantities than the Cast iron one, they cost more. After a long internet search, I decided to give the Yost brand a chance. Two or three years ago we got our first Yost clapping tool – a 7” bench vise, which I really like, plus I read a few very good reviews on their C-clamps which convinced me to go ahead and buy two. The first the we got were the 406 models, which has a 6” clamping capacity. After receiving them and trying them ou,t I went ahead and ordered the 4” model (404). Yost’s forged steel clamps are impressive. They have a wide and accurately milled Acme screw, an impressive pad, and a thick handle rod. All these features, plus the robust C shaped body are a testimony for a well engineered clamp that is manufactured to high standards.
Since all C-clamps manufacturing has moved out of North America (at least as far as I know) the made in China Yost and a few comparable products of the sort, are the only ones to be considered top tier for demanding clamping operations. Amazon prices for the 4” and 6” fluctuate daily and behave as if the clamps are traded in Wall Street, which is quite annoying. You can also buy them on the Home depot site or straight from Yost.
I truly look forward to having our students make good use of them, and I look forward to reporting back to you after a few months of intensive use.
– Yoav Liberman