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Like most woodworkers, I seem to have collected an assortment of clamps over the years and have generally bought them when required or when particularly good deals were available. For longer clamps, I prefer the sash variety and acquired many of my original Record clamps in the 70s; these have then been supplemented with second-hand additions bought from a local tool shop in Salisbury, which has since closed.

The story is the same with G clamps; many of them were original Record’s to which a few old large heavy-duty Woden’s were added some years later. It pays dividends to have as much variety as possible so that you’ve always got a good selection of different types and sizes to choose from, but it doesn’t really matter how many of the things you accumulate. There’s an old and very true woodworking saying that ‘you can never have enough clamps’.

But let’s pre-suppose for a moment that you were starting out on your woodworking career and were attempting to assemble a half-respectable collection of cramps…what would you choose and how many? The obvious answer is that it depends on the type of woodwork you want to do. A small wooden boat builder will have a very different requirement from a maker of fine furniture and that will be reflected in the type and quantity of his clamps.

Assuming then, that as a prospective journeyman woodworker, you intended to collect, for argument’s sake, a middle-of-the-road set of clamps, my recommendations for a decent starter set would be these:
• 4 x 100mm G clamps, 4 X 200mm G clamps
• 4 x 175mm capacity, 400mm throat F clamps
• 6 x 1065mm sash clamps
• 2 x single handed bar/spreader clamps

There’s now a vast number of different types of clamp on the market, most or all of which are stocked by Axminster so it’s worth doing a little research or trying a few out to see which is preferred before you decide to buy.

Like all good tools, this sort of gear doesn’t come cheap, but as with most things in life, it’s a false economy to buy less than the best. The good news is that a range of top quality, affordable, own brand Axminster Trade clamps is available. Having carried out a close examination of the range over the last few weeks, I can vouch that they’re straight out the top drawer!

Whichever clamps you do buy, here’s a ‘Top Tip’ attributed to my good friend Chris Tribe from ‘oop narth’ near Ilkley Moor.

Leather clamping pads
Leather clamping pads

Clamping blocks are a given and must be inserted between the hard clamp face and the job, but they are irritatingly disposed to slip and fall at a critical moment, which is not good under any circumstances but most of all during a crucial gluing session.

Pad reversed to show rare earth magnet
Pad reversed to show rare earth magnet

The little rectangles are nothing more than 6mm birch ply with some thick leather glued to one face, but turn them over and, voilà, a rare earth magnet has been cunningly inserted flush into the back, so that the block will now stick like a leech to any ferrous surface.

Pad will stick to any ferrous surface
Pad will stick to any ferrous surface

Happy clamping, clampers!

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