Why buy short clamps?

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Forum topic by ToddJB posted 02-18-2013 08:48 PM 2146 views 0 times favorited 32 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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7945 posts in 2129 days

02-18-2013 08:48 PM

I am getting ready to do my first joinery project and will need to really bone up on my clamps (I only have 12” irwin quick clamps mostly for construction projects). While investigating what I want I keep coming back to asking “Why would someone buy a short clamp?”

So I pose the question “Why do people buy short clamps”? A 36” F or bar clamp will clamp a 6” glue up right?

Is it just awkward to have the extra overhanging bars? My wallet doesn’t mind awkward ;)

-- I came - I sawed - I over-built

32 replies so far

View mds2's profile


310 posts in 1942 days

#1 posted 02-18-2013 08:50 PM

I have some 6” bar clamps that get used WAY more than my long clamps. Need to buy about 20 more of them.

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 2485 days

#2 posted 02-18-2013 08:51 PM

I like my 6” and 12” clamps.
When glueing up narrower pieces a bunch of 6” clamps 3” apart is much easier to handle than a bunch of 18”, 24”, 30” or 36” clamps.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

4986 posts in 2491 days

#3 posted 02-18-2013 08:56 PM

You’ll get pretty tired handling that extra weight (and having those long bar in the way)using those larger clamps when a small one would do. My shorter ones get used far more often than the longer ones.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View JayT's profile


5629 posts in 2209 days

#4 posted 02-18-2013 09:00 PM

Awkward, yes, but also do not discount what having all that extra weight as a long lever can do when you are trying to get everything aligned on glue-up.

I’m with the others, I use the shortest clamps that I can get away with and can always use more shorties. Your wallet may not mind awkward, but mine can buy more short clamps than long ones for the same amount of money, too.

-- In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Thomas Jefferson

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3479 days

#5 posted 02-18-2013 09:02 PM

Even though long clamps will work for short items, it’s more convienient to use short clamps on small items On small items they are much easier to use. I have clamps from 12 inches to 50 inches and I can double them up to make longer ones. When making a small box for instance, I like to use small clamps because they are easier to handle and not so heavy and they dont take up a lot of room. I use a lot of Bessey Revo clamps since they clamp nice and square…nice for cabinet work, and I also use a lot of Jorgensen ISO clamps because they are great for clamping things to the bench and they work great for clamping things like mouldings etc.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2849 days

#6 posted 02-18-2013 09:04 PM


You ask a very good question!

Too-long pipe clamps stick out the backside of the assembly table or bench. No big deal. Too long bar clamps stick at you—not good.

I keep six 6” bar clamps on each side of the table. I have to take a step or two for the 18s, 24s and 35s.

-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View TimberFramerBob's profile


68 posts in 1922 days

#7 posted 02-18-2013 09:06 PM

was just going to post pretty much the same thing as JayT…......use the shortest clamps you can. the money you save by using all big ones is gonna be spent in time setting things up or fixing them when the heavy clamps pull it out of alignment….

-- ..........a man who works with his hands, his brains, and his an artist.

View Manitario's profile


2630 posts in 2881 days

#8 posted 02-18-2013 09:07 PM

I just bought a bunch of short clamps after struggling for the past couple of years using long clamps…makes life a lot easier when gluing up a 6” piece not to have 40” of bar overhanging…

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View ToddJB's profile


7945 posts in 2129 days

#9 posted 02-18-2013 09:08 PM

Got it. So they can function the same way, but it’s just a hassle. This project will require the long boys, so they are the ones going to be purchased first – I guess we’ll see how annoyed iI get once I start doing smaller glue ups.

Here’s another question: I’ve read that you only need to calculate clamp pressure per inch for one face to be glued, and that it does not matter how many multiples you have after that. Is that correct?

-- I came - I sawed - I over-built

View TimberFramerBob's profile


68 posts in 1922 days

#10 posted 02-18-2013 09:12 PM

I’ve made a lot of furniture…..youre better off getting a feel for your clamping pressure. Not sure I’ve ever calculated how many pounds per square inch of pressure a board should have on it….........if it falls apart clamp it tighter….......if all the glue comes out on the floor…..clamp it looser…..:)

-- ..........a man who works with his hands, his brains, and his an artist.

View Don W's profile

Don W

18715 posts in 2566 days

#11 posted 02-18-2013 09:13 PM

If your buying bar clamps, get the pipe in 2 sections with a coupler. Then you have both.

you don’t need to calculate anything. Just clamp it tight.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View ToddJB's profile


7945 posts in 2129 days

#12 posted 02-18-2013 09:18 PM

Don, I’m not sure if you came up with that idea, but it’s a genius one. Thank you.

I was just sitting here thinking, “How often am I really going to need like 6 or 7 48in clamps?”

-- I came - I sawed - I over-built

View Don W's profile

Don W

18715 posts in 2566 days

#13 posted 02-18-2013 09:20 PM

I’ve got a pile of couplers but I doubt I thought of it. But maybe in a smarter life, who knows.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Earlextech's profile


1161 posts in 2689 days

#14 posted 02-18-2013 09:31 PM

Calculating clamp pressure? I have to ask, are you some kind of engineer? Trying hard not to be a smart ass (better than a dumb ass though) but in my experience engineers tend to overthink things and make them more complicated than they need to be. Even if you calculated how would you apply that calculation to the clamp? Am I underthinking? I’m with timberframerbob and don w, practice and experience will teach you more than a math problem in this case.

-- Sam Hamory - The project is never finished until its "Finished"!

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2969 days

#15 posted 02-18-2013 09:39 PM

I buy short clamps so I don’t need so many long ones.

For example: building my work bench. The legs and stretchers were built up as laminations.
I needed a minimum of 6 clamps of 8” capacity each for each leg or stretcher.
I had to do two legs per night. I needed my longer clamps to built the top and I only had 6 long ones.

And yes, it is a point where the long bars sticking out get in the way or keep you from orienting something the way you might like to.

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