Photos by Wayne Wiebe
Illustration by Len Churchill
As a woodworker, I quickly learned that you can never have too many clamps. In the past, a woodworker may have had six types or so, but with new technology it seems there is a clamp for everything. The result in my workshop? Clamps all over the place.
DIFFICULTY – 3/5, LENGTH/TIME – 3/5, COST – 3/5
Over the years, as I was working on projects, I found I was walking back and forth between various areas of my shop looking for the clamps I needed for the job at hand. I was wasting too much time and energy, and in some cases I never did find what I was after. I decided it was time to build a clamp storage device that would hold all of my small clamps and was portable enough to move to my workstation when I was clamping and out of way when I was not.
Take inventory of your clamps
My first task was to go through every box, drawer, cupboard and hiding place and collect all my small-to-medium-sized clamps. I laid them out on my workbench and started to organize them into types, sizes and how I use them so I could start on the design. I found I have approximately 12 types of clamps, not including pipe clamps.
The majority of the clamps are “C” clamps and range in size from 2" to 8". Some are wide-mouth for deeper clamping ability. I thought it would be best to hang these on a pipe so that I could see the sizes and take hold of them easily. I had the same theory for the small bar clamps, but found that the movable end always fell to the end of the clamp. This made the hanging theory more difficult so I decided just to fasten those to pieces of wood at the end of the cabinet. I use pinch clamps and three-way clamps on a lot of projects so decided cubby holes would be best for those. It’s always nice to have some smaller pipe clamps (24") around so a long cubby hole was needed for these. Finally, there are specialty clamps that don’t get used that often, but you want to know where they are, so two drawers was a necessity. All my requirements had been identified – I just had to figure out how to pull it all together.Small Clamp Storage – The upper two cubby holes are great for storing small, and often used, clamps.How heavy are your clamps?
When I looked at all of the clamps laying there, the first challenge that came to mind was dealing with the weight of the clamps and cabinet material. This unit was going to be 200–300 pounds. I had to ask myself if I would actually be able to move this thing. I had another portable unit in my shop so I loaded everything onto and into it. Wow! Fortunately, it didn’t go through the floor but it did move. It was obvious that a more heavy duty caster was required. I used a 3" caster, but with the benefit of hindsight a 4" caster would have been even better, and I may upgrade mine.Strong Casters – Though Wiebe only used 3" casters on his clamp rack, he suggests a 4" caster might be even better. The weight of the rack can easily add up to well over 200 pounds. and scratching when the clamps are moved in and out.Stay upright
Balance was the next issue. The rack had to be wide enough that it would not tip over, but not so long that it would be hard to maneuvre. I figured out the overall length of pipe I needed to hang all the C clamps and how they had to be spaced on the rack to accommodate the various sizes of clamp. There are three rows on one side and two on the other. There is also some room left in case I buy some new ones. The final dimensions are 30" long, 24" wide and 37" high without the casters. This allows for two cubby holes on top for small clamps. Below these are two drawers and one large cubby hole for short pipe clamps. This last cubby hole is lined with plastic laminate to reduce bruising
Start building your clamp storage
The main body of the rack is built with G2S Birch plywood. All joints are put together with 1/8" deep dadoes, so 1/4" has to be added to some of the measurements. I was not concerned about cosmetics, so everything was glued and screwed. By using screws, I could dry-fit everything.
A few words on solid wood edging. Once the parts were cut to size and assembled, I applied the solid wood edge strips to the edges of the parts where required with glue and a fine nailer. I made sure to start with the strips just barely wider than the plywood, and applied it flush with one face so I only have to flush up one face of the edging with the plywood. There are also many other ways to do this. You could glue the edging in place with the unit dry-assembled.
Once the edging was dry, you could trim it flush and ease the edges before final assembly. A third option would be to apply the edging to the parts before final assembly, with appropriate setbacks where the dadoes are. The edges of the edging could then be trimmed flush with the plywood before final assembly.
I installed the drawer slides and plastic laminate in the cubby holes before it was all put back together. The drawer faces, handles, pull supports and bar clamp pieces are also made from cherry. The drawer material in my clamp rack is solid wood but could also be Baltic birch plywood. Joints are the same as the main body but dovetails are also an option, if desired.
The clamp bar is 3/4" black pipe used for gas fitting. In hindsight, I should have used at least one 1/2" pipe at the top for smaller clamps as they just fit over the 3/4" pipe. The same pipe is used for the pull. The pipes sit in 3/4" recessed holes in the plywood and are set far enough back from the main structure to prevent the clamps from contacting the plywood (approx. 4"). If you wanted some flexibility down the road you could install the pipes with flanges after the case was assembled. This would also make assembly easier.
The horizontal spacing between bars will depend on the size of clamps being stored and I have mine set up so that the clamps are between quarter and half open. You should also have the two upper bars down far enough so the clamps do not sit up past the top of the cabinet. This allows you to lay a piece of plywood flat on top of the rack if you would like. The top should be secured so that it does not tip and can be used for moving larger pipe clamps to the work area.
I added a horizontal surface below each drawer, as well as one at the bottom of the pipe clamp storage area. This makes the unit more rigid and allows for easy installation of the drawer sliders. In addition, if you ever want to remove the drawers, you will have two more cubby holes for long clamp storage.Deep Drawers – The space in the middle of the clamp rack is wasted unless you make two deep drawers. The weight of the clamps will ensure the drawers, even when both are fully extended, will not tip the unit over.Pipe Dreams – 3/4" pipe makes a great addition to this rack. Clamps are easily stored and accessed and the pipe is very durable and strong.End Cleats – Wiebe stores his F-clamps on wood cleats attached to one end of the rack.Assembly
During dry-assembly I was able to practice the order in which pieces are assembled, as well as drill any pilot holes for screws. Varnishing some of the pieces before final assembly can also save time and headaches. Starting with the bottom and one gable, then adding a main divider, the drawer and cubby hole pieces, the second main divider, the 3/4" storage pipe, then the final gable I assembled the unit. Parts like the drawers, handle and F-clamp cleats were added once the unit was dry.
The end result is a very stable clamp rack that is easy to move to the work area, stores a wide variety of clamps and makes them all easy to access. This is a great project for a beginner to intermediate woodworker looking for a bit of a challenge as it requires a good deal of planning, reasonable precision in cutting the plywood pieces and dadoes, construction of drawers and a systematic order in putting it all together. I’m off to buy a few more clamps.