The mighty pipe clamp
Considering its versatility, Mke Farrington thinks the pipe clamp is an underrated, yet cost-effective, tool.
Woodworking is not an inexpensive endeavor. As such, anything to reduce costs while still maintaining quality is a welcome addition to any workshop. The mighty pipe clamp is often underrated and dismissed, yet it’s a cost-effective tool, especially when considering its versatility. The main reason many woodworkers dismiss pipe clamps is their tendency to bow when put under tension. I think that if your joinery needs that much force to be brought together, then maybe there is another problem. But that’s a topic for another blog post.
For light to medium duty, pipe clamps are supertastic.
Recently, I needed to clamp two pieces of 5×5 Baltic birch together, meaning I needed a clamp that had a 10-ft. capacity. No problem; a piece of 10-ft. pipe, plus a connector and a second short piece of pipe to make up for the space the clamp heads take, and I’m in business. A few months prior I had to glue some solid-wood edging onto a rectangular, veneered tabletop. The short dimension was 42 in., the long was 99 in.–again no problem for the pipe clamp.
So we’ve established that pipe clamps are a great solution when clamping very large things, but they can do so much more. Below are a few tips, tricks, and reasons why you should have a few pipe clamps in your arsenal.
Buy 10-ft. lengths of pipe and have them cut and threaded at the store. In my area, a 10-ft. piece of galvanized pipe is about $20. My local hardware store will cut and thread the ends for free. This makes short clamps very inexpensive.
Homasote is a great clamping pad, drill a 1 1/8-in. hole and attach it with some hot melt glue and you have a great non-marring clamp. Homasote is a building product, typically sold in the drywall section, used to reduce noise in a house. Its squishy, fibrous nature makes for a clamping pad of the right density.
I like the old-style ends that have a lever. They work great and I find them easy to adjust. I don’t think they are made any more, but I haven’t had trouble finding them on eBay and local classifieds. I have bought a few of this newer style, and they work great but are a little harder to adjust. When shopping used, I keep the price between $5 and $10 per set. I think that is a great deal for the older versions. Combine that with $5 worth of pipe and you have yourself a pretty darn nice clamp.
I consider pipe clamps as just one of a few different types of clamps needed in a wood shop. Buy a few and try them out. If you’re already a fan of the mighty pipe clamp, hopefully I was able to share a tip or two you hadn’t heard before. Thank you for reading.