Using Hand Screws
Time-honored tool is still first choice for a variety of shop tasks
Synopsis: Hand screws may have been around since ancient times, but that doesn’t make them outdated or obsolete. In fact, they have lasted precisely because they can do a variety of tasks better than anything that has come along since. They are adept at holding a workpiece for glue-up, especially when it involves angled shapes, edge repairs, and delicate work. They’re invaluable for keeping edges aligned during panel glue-ups. They easily hold small workpieces securely at the bench when your vise is too big or too clumsy. In fact, Garrett Hack uses hand screws for so many jobs around the shop that he wouldn’t be without them.
Useful tools survive. They find a place in your shop because they do certain tasks easily or well. With all sorts of modern clamps available, simple hand screws might seem outdated—quaint reminders of woodworking past. Hardly. Their design is ancient, but hand screws are still my first choice for a variety of tasks. Their parallel screws let them grip where other clamps won’t, and their large, flat jaws can act as built-in cauls. This lets them fill several roles in glue-ups and in securing small or oddly shaped work.
The hand screw’s basic design—a pair EASY AS RIDING A BIKE of wooden jaws linked with two threaded handles that screw the jaws open or closed —probably came from the Romans. Modern versions feature steel screws threaded into nuts embedded in the jaws. On most, these embedded nuts also can rotate, allowing the jaws to be angled considerably for grabbing tapered work.
Hand screws are commonly available with jaws from 4 in. to 12 in. long. The reach—and the opening—of the jaws is usually half of the length. Hand screws can be frustrating to use at first.…