A collection of small clamps is invaluable in the workshop.  (By small, I mean a clamp with a maximum jaw opening of 6 in.) The ideal small clamp, I suppose, would work perfectly in every imaginable application: Open and close quickly, tighten just as easily, and provide adequate pressure. It would clamp non-parallel surfaces, and it would release pressure easily.

I've yet to find that mythical clamp. But, after taking a close look at some 40 different types of small clamps, I ended up with the seven essential ones shown below. I've listed the number to include in a starter set. As you spend more time in the shop, buy a few more of the ones you find yourself using most often.

  4 Spring Clamps
For holding small parts, light-duty and temporary clamping. Author's favorite: 2-in. clamp, $1, from Home Depot.
 
   
  4 Bar Clamps
For tasks that require lots of clamp pressure.
Author's favorite: 6-in. Bessey Tradesman medium-duty, $10, from Woodcraft.
 
   
  2 Quick-Grip Clamps
For one-handed clamping when a spring clamp is too small, or dent-free clamping of stock to bench. Author's favorite: 6-in. Irwin Quick Grip, $18, from Rockler.
 
  2 Cam Clamps
For small repairs, clamping small parts; cam action makes it especially quick to adjust, tighten, and release. Author's favorite: Bessey KliKlamp, $19, from Hartville Tool.
 
   
  4 Parallel Clamps
For applications where you want the jaw clamps to remain parallel, so parts don't slide out of position. Author's favorite: Bessey 6 in. UniKlamp, $22, from Highland Woodworking.
 
   
  4 C-Clamps
For times when you need maximum clamping pressure. Author's favorite:  6-in. adjustable, $8, from Coastal Tool.
 
   
  2 Hand Screws
For applications where you need a deep reach, or when you need to hold angled parts. Author's favorite: Jorgensen, No. 1, $23, from Woodworker's Supply.
 
 Excerpted from Small Clamps Everybody Needs, from FWW #199.