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.
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.
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
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.