Quick Homemade Clamps – Small & Large [with video]

by | Aug 26, 2022 | 9 comments

In this post I share my favourite design for homemade clamps. They can be made really large or really small to suit your needs.
Further down we also include a short video segment from our latest series where I explain further how the clamps work.

I’ve just been sitting staring into the bottom of an empty tea pot.
And I got thinking. I can’t remember the last time I bought something. I don’t mean a bill or owt like that, just something that I really wanted. It might have been some surplus boots, they were 20 quid I think.

This isn’t because I don’t appreciate value or I’m tight. To be honest it’s more the opposite. I can really value handmade items and the costs of them. And if there’s something I really would like or need then I’m happy to spend.  I’m normally a ‘buy well, buy right, and do it once’ type of man. 

The thing is, I just don’t seem to get a kick out of having lots of stuff.
Or it could be that ‘old man’ is setting in with me a tad early. 

Anyway, I filled the teapot back up so that’s that problem solved.

That’s all to say that when it comes to getting a quick kick out of buying something new, one thing that will never even make it to the list, is a clamp.
They’re quite expensive and normally you need a lot of them.
I bet I could set someone up with a complete starter set of good hand tools for the cost of a full set of clamps.
And I guarantee even with the clamps, the next job you start you’d not have one that was long enough. In fact, you could build a whole bloody workbench with a pricey wooden vice screw for the cost of a set of clamps. 
But it’s not really about the price. It’s more that they’re just dull. 

And that’s why I have the most shoddy set of clamps that you’re likely to find in any professional workshop.

I wanted to show you one of many of my work arounds for not having nice clamps.

These are a really great clamp design that you can make yourself whenever you need them.

make your own homemade clamps

I’ve found that they work so well that I’ve never really craved or needed ‘proper’ clamps.

This simple clamp is just a bit of stick with a block screwed to each end. 

The following video is a short segment taken from our Nest of Tables build.
I explain a little more about my ‘homemade’ clamps in here, along with why they were so useful for the glue up of this small table which was delicate and awkward due to how important it was to keep everything parallel and square:

To make the clamps I leave the space between blocks around an inch wider than whatever’s being clamped.
And then a rough cut wedge acts to provide the clamping force.
The wedge doesn’t have to be accurate as the block can pivot on a single screw.
Depending on what you’re clamping, you can use hand force on the wedge or knock it really tight with a hammer if you need a bit more welly.

You can knock them up as stout or as lightweight as needed, and I usually keep hold of the battens afterwards so I do always have plenty of clamps to hand.
A gash bit of stick is the most useful thing in any workshop!

Strong Homemade Clamps
This one here is made from a full section of 4”x2”. A handful of these could easily be used to  glue a workbench top up.
Of course it’s worth reinforcing with a heavier gauge screw as needed.

These clamps could even be made nice.

Wax up a load of battens to stop any glue sticking, and have a load of pre-drilled holes along their length. Then just bolt the blocks in place as needed. Fill a box with a few dozen wedges and you’re sorted.

Of course I know many people that have built very nice working clamps, but for me at that stage I’d rather just buy some.

Now none of this is to say you don’t need to buy any clamps. I love having a few quick grips kicking about the workbench. But when it comes to not having enough or having the right size then these are a fast get out of jail.

And after a long run our Nest of Tables build is now complete!
At over 8 hours in total the full series offers plenty more tips and tricks as we tackle the pretty unique challenges of this really precise build.
You can have a watch of the series trailer and find full details HERE.

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About Richard Maguire

About Richard Maguire

As a professional hand tool woodworker, Richard found hand tools to be the far more efficient solution for a one man workshop. Richard runs 'The English Woodworker' as an online resource and video education for those looking for a fuss free approach to building fine furniture by hand. Learn More About Richard & The English Woodworker.


  1. Ed

    Sometimes, I need a deep-throated, long-reach C-clamp (or G-cramp depending upon where you live). I’ve never seen a way to improvise one of these. Maybe a shop-made cam clamp, but I’m not sure if that would generate enough force. Those nested tables are beautiful! Can I confess that sometimes I watch your videos just to listen to the piano?

    • Richard Maguire

      Hi Ed, I try not to be one of these people that have to make everything just to make a rod for their own back – sometimes it’s best just to buy a clamp! And I think the G clamp scenario might be one of those for me. I also find that with the more specialised clamps in particular you don’t need dozens of them either which helps.
      Yea, I agree on the music, I always feel blessed to be able to work with Emma.

  2. Bob Easton

    DANG! The bar clamps (and pipe) I bought for a recent benchtop build cost nearly as much as all the lumber for the bench. …and I’ll probably never use many of them again. Where were you when I needed clamps? But, the bench turned out fabulous.

    THANKS Richard for the great tip!
    THANKS also Helen for the fine production work, and Emma for the music. Truth be told, I come back for the music as much as anything else. 🙂

    • Richard Maguire

      Ha, sorry I was in my cave hiding from the world!
      Still, if you’ve got a good bench then they were worth the purchase 🙂

  3. Mike Ballinger

    That was so interesting! I have a set of 6 sash clamps that are steel with cast iron heads. They are so bloody heavy and I wish I had bought aluminium ones instead. Anyway enough of the whinging they get me by for most things. When I need a longer clamp I can disassemble two and join the bars leaving two threaded heads at either end. It’s a bit of a faff but gets the job done. This method you shared is great because they’re not heavy.

    I think I really need to buy your get sharp series though, I really struggle with tear out, and when I try to bring the cap iron tight to the cutting edge the shavings get stuck in-between the cutting iron and the cap iron. I’ve tried flattening the cap iron’s surface more than once but to no avail.

    • Richard Maguire

      Hi Mike, I completely agree with the cast iron clamps. I was brought up using them and unless you’re just gluing up large flat panels I find they cause more carnage than aid.
      I’ve also never found the need for such pressure with woodworking that these things can generate.

      As far as your cap irons are concerned – if it’s just a cap iron issue that the challenge is getting the two surfaces to mate.
      The first thing to check is obviously your iron flatness on the back. If anything, make sure it has a hollow, and that way when you lap the back you create a true flat right at the cutting edge.
      With your cap iron, make sure it’s lapped flat, but make sure it’s very undercut along the edge. If anything you want it to be an almost sharp edge that engages with your plane iron. That way, when it’s tightened it almost flexes into the iron.
      And finally, steepen the angle on the face of the cap iron. The steeper that angle is, (where the shaving engages it) the further back the cap iron can sit from the cutting edge. Don’t go nuts with this, just try it incrementally.
      And as an extra note when you’re doing the job of mating the surfaces, always set up with a freshly flattened stone.
      Another tip… sorry… you can actually run a burnisher along the edge of the cap iron, almost creating a burr that would engage with the back of the cutting iron. Again this would really seal it off.
      If you’re still having trouble get in touch.

  4. james g

    wow! i agree with it but why not take a coping or scroll saw and make a slit for a bolt to slide in and ti can be adjustible without having a new back evry once and a wile is this an ok thing to do?

  5. james g

    I also think that you cold ad a retention slot to the block to hold the wedge but that wold be interesting

  6. james g

    I like things that are reusable


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