Dumb question about screw clamps

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Forum topic by richgreer posted 05-25-2011 10:02 PM 1751 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4541 posts in 3068 days

05-25-2011 10:02 PM

I’m a fan of those basic wooden screw clamps. Everyone probably knows that you can pick one up with both handles and spin the jaws around to make them compress or expand.

I do not have the ability to look at a clamp and no instinctively which way to spin the jaws to make them expand or contract. I always try it one way, see if the jaws are moving in the desired direction and, if not, reverse the direction of the spin.

Does anyone have the knowledge to instinctively know which way to spin the jaws?

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

13 replies so far

View Bertha's profile


13525 posts in 2687 days

#1 posted 05-25-2011 10:05 PM

I’m proud of you for admitting this! I love them too and yes, I have to check every time! I suppose you could mark one side; that way you’d know that when the marked side is facing you, you spin xxxx direction. :)

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View TJU's profile


72 posts in 2650 days

#2 posted 05-25-2011 10:11 PM

Put a round arrow on the end of the handle. Would that work? I have the screws to make two, I just haven’t gotten around to it.

-- Although the voices aren't real they have some pretty good ideas.

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3068 days

#3 posted 05-25-2011 10:13 PM

That is a very simple, yet incredibly good idea. Why didn’t I think of that?

Thank you.

As an FYI, one of the great things about these clamps is that you can buy the hardware and custom design your own jaws for any special application you happen on to. I’ve done that a couple of times.

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

View cabmaker's profile


1730 posts in 2802 days

#4 posted 05-25-2011 10:38 PM

I instinctivly pick them up with the lower handle in my right,(open jaws facing up) then righty tighty, and lefty lucy. But Ive been using them for a long time, the proper name is handscrew. Good luck with it

View Lumber2Sawdust's profile


139 posts in 2859 days

#5 posted 05-25-2011 10:45 PM

Like Cabmaker said, I always pick them up the same way. If I hold a clamp with the screw closest to the end in my left hand, then spinning the clamp so that my left hand (yes, I’m left handed :) ) goes away from me when it’s at the top of its circle and toward me at the bottom, then the clamp is expanding. I think as long as you pick some trick like that, whatever it is that works for you, you’ll get the hang of it quickly.

I wanted to like these clamps for a long time. They’ve been around forever, so there must be something good about them. After I figured out how to open/close them easily, I really like them, and bought more of them in different sizes.

View cabmaker's profile


1730 posts in 2802 days

#6 posted 05-25-2011 10:50 PM

What I like about them is you are able to focus an incredible amount of force with minimum smite on your work

View Bernie's profile


422 posts in 2830 days

#7 posted 05-26-2011 05:06 AM

Rich – I’m also proud of you for admitting this and also for admitting the fact you listen to NPR in a different post. I also like NPR. But to the question at hand. I have and like hand screws and like lots of you, I also have a hard time orienting my turning direction. I do know that to properly use them, you need to adjust the inside screw to the thickness of the wood you’re trying to squeeze and just snug it tight. Then you raise the back screw open in order ti squeeze the nose of the clamp. As it pivots on the inside screw, you may have to adjust it. To put it into perspective, snug up the jaws level and squeeze it tight with the back screw.

-- Bernie: It never gets hot or cold in New Hampshire, just seasonal!

View rance's profile


4258 posts in 3154 days

#8 posted 05-26-2011 06:17 AM

When teaching my Fundamentals class, I love telling them about clamps. The truth is, I’ve hated handscrews from the time I first saw them in my Jr. High woodshop class until about 2 years ago. All because I never knew which way to consistently turn them to tighten them. Then a fellow instructor told me the trick:

Pick them up with the rear handle in your right hand, then the ole “Righty-Tighty, Lefty Loosey” works like a charm, EVERY TIME. With that, I’ll tell you I’m still not in love with them but I do find uses for them now. HTH.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View BigTiny's profile


1676 posts in 2882 days

#9 posted 05-26-2011 06:30 AM

I just picked up a pair of these in the 10 inch size. Haven’t had a use for them yet, but for $20 for the pair I couldn’t say no. I too have the “which way is in and which way is out” problem, but don’t really care as a couple of turns the wrong way show up pretty fast.

-- The nicer the nice, the higher the price!

View bubinga's profile


861 posts in 2661 days

#10 posted 05-26-2011 06:43 AM

You can clamp things with them ,where no other clamp will. And they can apply a great amount of pressure
You do get use to them a little, but still a little perplexing
I remember when I first started woodworking, THEY WOULD DRIVE ME CRAZY

-- E J ------- Always Keep a Firm Grip on Your Tool

View Radiuswoodguy's profile


33 posts in 2921 days

#11 posted 05-28-2011 03:11 AM

I send a small clamp home with all new guys and tell them to play with it tell instinctive . the arrows are a great idea.Lefty loose, righty tight, keep your tork even, and set your clamps on a glue up to close to what will need in width before gluing.

-- Radiuswoodguy

View MrRon's profile


4758 posts in 3237 days

#12 posted 05-28-2011 05:14 PM

They are my favorite type of clamp. You can buy them at Harbor Freight for very little money.

View Al Killian's profile

Al Killian

85 posts in 2619 days

#13 posted 05-31-2011 05:48 PM

Yes, they are great clamps for clamping small peices or uneven peices. If you use them enough you will not even think about which way to turn them

-- Owner of custom millwork shop

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