Works for me #9: Fence Clamps

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Blog entry by Dave Owen posted 03-25-2010 09:47 PM 5215 reads 17 times favorited 22 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 8: Poorly connecting vacuum fittings Part 9 of Works for me series Part 10: Fence Clamps - Addendum »

One of the most versatile (and inexpensive) shop accessories I have is fence clamps. I use one or more of them almost daily for a variety of purposes.

The most common use for fence clamps is to hold a sacrificial fence to another fence – usually a table saw fence. In the photo shown below, the sacrificial MDF fence is being used in conjunction with a set of dado blades – allowing the set to be partially buried in the fence to obtain the rabbet desired. – - – but this is only the beginning of uses.

Dado Setup

In the photo above, notice the shallow rabbet at the top of the sacrificial fence. In the photo that follows, the fence has been flipped upside down to keep thin material like plastic laminate held down while cutting. Also notice that the ‘anchor’ holes are drilled all the way through the MDF fence. That allows all four edges of a low fence like this to be used for various purposes.

Laminate Cutting Setup

I enjoyed using these clamps so much that I began to look for other uses. The following several photos show how I made a very versatile high fence. First I drill a pair of 2” holes, located so that when the fence is in a vertical position, the bottoms of the holes are in line with the top of my table saw fence. The photos below show the front and back views of a 9-3/4” high fence mounted to the table saw fence.

Front View

Rear View

The 9-3/4” height of the fence shown was determined by setting the distance from the top edge to the top of the hole (as shown in the photo above) to equal the height of my jointer fence. By doing this – and by taking care in the horizontal placement of the holes, I’m not only can use this high fence on the table saw – but also on the jointer, bandsaw, and drill press, as well – all as shown below. Incidentally, I’ve found 3/4” MDF to be sufficiently stiff as a high fence on all of these tools, but if I ever need a higher or stiffer fence, I will simply make it from two layers rather than one.

High Fence on Jointer

High Fence on Bandsaw

High Fence on Drill Press

To make it easier to clamp the tall fence to the jointer, I glued blocks into the appropriate cavities on the back of the jointer fence. An initial problem I had while making the high fence was the depth of the anchor holes. I didn’t have a twist drill bit long, but a sharp 3/8” spade bit worked fine.

Another handy use for the clamps is for stop blocks for any tools needing same. The following photo shows a pair mounted to a shop-made router fence. Like the low fence, I drill these blocks all the way through. The second photo below shows one of these blocks in use as a cutoff spacer I use when making repetitive cuts with the fence as a gauge. This helps prevent a cut piece from pinching between the fence and the blade.

Stops on Router Fence

Cutoff Spacer

I discovered a rather unusual use for these clamps when I needed to cut 8/4 and 10/4 hard maple, rough lumber into strips for my workbench top. Because I was working alone, and the rough lumber had the usual cups, warps, and twists, I was afraid to try ripping the seven foot boards on my table saw. My solution was to cut them on the bandsaw using a sled and a good ripping blade. While trying to decide how to hold the boards in place on the sled, I realized fence clamps could be used for that purpose. I made the sled the same length as the maple lumber (7’-0”), and drilled a horizontal anchor hole in each end of the sled for the clamps – using wedges where needed to hold the board in the correct position throughout the cut. Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of the fairly complex sled and in-feed and out-feed set-up, but the ‘mock-up’ picture below should clear up how I used the clamps. It worked like a charm on all five of the wide maple boards, and I was able to quickly rip the fourteen, arrow-straight strips I needed.

Clamping to a Sled

I hope some of you find this post useful, while at the same time I’m also sure some of you have already come up with additional uses for these clamps. I’d like to hear about them.

-- Dave O.

22 comments so far

View ClayandNancy's profile


519 posts in 2982 days

#1 posted 03-25-2010 09:50 PM

Great ideas! I just put those on my to buy list.

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3042 days

#2 posted 03-25-2010 09:54 PM

Thank you for the post. I own a couple of these but I have never fully appreciated how many ways they can be used.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Cher's profile


954 posts in 3061 days

#3 posted 03-25-2010 10:34 PM

Thanks for sharing, the photos help too.

-- When you know better you do better.

View Jason Tetterton's profile

Jason Tetterton

54 posts in 2989 days

#4 posted 03-25-2010 10:45 PM

Thanks for the excellent ideas!

-- Jason, Central Virginia

View Cory's profile


760 posts in 3387 days

#5 posted 03-25-2010 10:49 PM

Fantastic ideas! I’ve got a couple of these clamps but I’ve been woefully under utilizing them! thanks for the tips.

-- The secret to getting ahead is getting started.

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3082 days

#6 posted 03-25-2010 11:22 PM

thankĀ“s for sharing I will remmember this if I have
some powertools one day

View ND2ELK's profile


13495 posts in 3741 days

#7 posted 03-25-2010 11:38 PM

Hi Dave

Some other great ideas as always. You should send these ideas to Rockler. Thanks for sharing.God Bless

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4170 posts in 3132 days

#8 posted 03-25-2010 11:38 PM

Great suggestions. I will throw some of those into my next order from Rockler.

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View bigike's profile


4050 posts in 3256 days

#9 posted 03-25-2010 11:42 PM

nice ideas, i have those clamps and only thoght they were for the TS

-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop,

View charlie48's profile


248 posts in 3137 days

#10 posted 03-26-2010 12:00 AM

Thanks Dave, I never imagined so many uses, I put them on my list of tools to get.

-- Charlie............Only time will tell if it was time well spent.

View Edziu's profile


151 posts in 3018 days

#11 posted 03-26-2010 01:23 AM

HOLY SMOKES! Nice job. I’ve done the sacrificial fence, and done the stop blocks, but that tall fence on the table saw and jointer- Genius!! Awesome review- thanks.

View jpwatson's profile


28 posts in 3002 days

#12 posted 03-26-2010 02:21 AM

Thanks, Dave! You’ve made a half dozen routine set-up chores easier for me. Great pics, they really made everything clear.

-- Ones' greatest strength is most often their greatest weakness.

View poroskywood's profile


618 posts in 3331 days

#13 posted 03-26-2010 02:43 AM

Thanks Dave! I use mine every once in a while. Now I’ll be using them a lot more. The best part is I already own a pair and don’t have go buy something.

-- There's many a slip betwixt a cup and a lip.--Scott

View RZH's profile


73 posts in 3077 days

#14 posted 03-26-2010 02:43 AM

Very nice…Thanks!

-- Ron

View swoper's profile


59 posts in 3192 days

#15 posted 03-26-2010 02:45 AM

Guys give me a break I’m new to woodworking and the pockets are empty, but every time I see something new here that I gotta have it like the fence clamps, how can I keep my sanity?

-- Harry, Jackson Mi

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