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Unless you’re in the engineering, metalworking, or woodworking fields, clamps tend to be something that isn’t really a part of everyday life. Even so, they play an important role in securing and creating different things that we use every day. There are many types of clamps out there, all of which serve different purposes and are made out of various materials. They can vary considerably in size, style, application, color, and function, so let’s have a look at exactly what a clamp is, some of the most commonly used clamps out there, what some of their key characteristics are, and what they’re used for.
Table of Contents
- 1 What Is a Clamp?
- 2 Different Types of Clamps
- 2.1 Common-Use Clamps
- 2.1.1 The Sash Clamp
- 2.1.2 The Spring Clamp
- 2.1.3 The Bench Clamp/Vise
- 2.1.4 The Strap/Web Clamp
- 2.1.5 The Pipe Clamp
- 2.1.6 The Wire Rope Clamp
- 2.1.7 The Marmon or V-Band Clamp
- 2.1.8 The Miter Clamp
- 2.1.9 The Quick-Action Clamp
- 2.1.10 The C- and G-Clamp
- 2.1.11 The Locking Clamp
- 2.1.12 The Hand-Screw Clamp
- 2.1.13 The Drill-Press Clamp
- 2.2 Special Use Clamps
- 2.2.1 The Picture-Frame Clamp
- 2.2.2 The Flooring Clamp
- 2.2.3 The Hose Clamp
- 2.2.4 The Cardellini or Matthellini Clamp
- 2.2.5 The Kant Twist Clamp
- 2.2.6 The Pennington Clamp
- 2.2.7 The Mogen and Gomco Clamp
- 2.2.8 The Ear Clamp
- 2.2.9 The Parallel Clamp
- 2.2.10 The Corner Clamp
- 2.2.11 The Cable Clamp
- 2.2.12 The Power Clamp
- 2.2.13 The Trigger Clamp
- 2.2.14 The Plastic Jaws or Elastic Belt Clamp
- 2.2.15 The Pinch-Dog Clamp
- 2.1 Common-Use Clamps
- 3 Frequently Asked Questions
What Is a Clamp?
Most of us think that we have a pretty good idea of what a clamp is but considering that there are so many types of clamps available we should establish a baseline definition based on their function. The most common definition of a clamp is a device that is used to blind or compress two things together and/or hold them in place.
Clamps are most commonly used as temporary fastening devices. Why would you need something like this? Well, in wood crafting and metallurgy these are used to hold objects together while adhesives dry and cure. Clamps can also be used to ensure objects are compressed for removal and installation, which can be pretty dangerous too.
Clamps are also available in various shapes and sizes to account for different applications. Clamps can be really big like the ones used in industrial applications or they can be really small for everyday applications. They can also look nothing like you’d expect them to, featuring futuristic mechanisms that have a very niche application.
These clamps can also be made of different materials. Why? Well, clamps are designed for various applications, and the materials that they’ll be in contact with could be damaged if they were all made of one substance. This being said, these clamps can be made of a wide variety of materials including metal, plastic, wood, and even vinyl and resins!
Most clamps can be characterized as one static flange and one flange that is able to move closer or further away depending on your needs. These sections are typically joined together by a threaded section on which the second flange is able to move along. Generally, the object you wish to compress, or bind is placed between these two flanges and the clamp is tightened.
Different types of clamps can have different means of compressing and expanding though. Familiarizing yourself with the different types of clamps that are available to you and how they work will allow you to use them more effectively. Most people don’t realize how much clamps can improve their everyday lives and getting to know a few of them could result in you making your life a little bit easier.
Different Types of Clamps
As we mentioned previously there are different clamp designs that are used for various applications. This is why we’ve decided to show you a few of the most commonly used clamps (and some of the least commonly used ones) as well as what they’re used for and what some of their key characteristics are. If you’re unsure whether a clamp is suitable for a particular application, there are loads of forums online that could lend a helping hand.
Common use clamps are clamps that are used for various everyday applications, whether they be for industrial or private use. These clamps can usually be purchased over the counter and are relatively easy to find if you know what you’re looking for. They are usually hard wearing, and some may even be used in multiple professions and industries.
The Sash Clamp
This type of clamp is usually reserved for really big projects like big doors and window frames. These are small clamps that run on a threaded tube and are usually placed on a flat surface. They are typically placed in a series parallel to one another, allowing them to combine their holding power to secure workpieces that would be far too big for a single clamp in most instances.
The Spring Clamp
Spring clamps are one of the most commonly used clamp types in a number of occupations. This clamp type is best characterized by a handle clamp, similar to the appearance of the type of clamp you’d see on a pair of jumper cables. These are designed to compress an object instead of separating them. This being said, they’re a quick and easy way to secure your workpiece while you work.
These clamps are available in a number of shapes and sizes for different applications. These usually have an insulting plastic or polyurethane layer to protect the user and the clamp from damage. These are used for a number of applications including woodwork, making jewelry, and even the creation of installation art.
The Bench Clamp/Vise
Out of all of the clamp designs, this is probably one of the most recognizable. These can be found riveted or bolted to workbenches in a number of occupations. They have one static jaw and one that is able to move back and forth on a threaded section. These are usually used to secure wooden and/or metal workpieces while they’re being worked.
These clamps are usually made of solid steel with older ones being made of iron, making them extremely heavy. This being said, the jaws themselves can be quite harsh to the surfaces of a workpiece and are usually softened up with a little detachable polyurethane or wooden guard, which are usually replaceable.
The Strap/Web Clamp
The strap clamp or web clamp is a type of ratchet strap that is commonly used to compress the exterior of a workpiece. Essentially, the straps are wrapped around the exterior of the workpiece and tightened using the ratchet clamp. Additionally, padded or plastic bushings can be placed underneath the straps to prevent the edges from being damaged.
This is somewhat unique among clamp designs, and therefore isn’t typically considered to be a clamp. This being said, it does fulfill the basic functions of a clamp and is used in many applications as a primary camping device. It’s best used to hold cubed workpieces in place while waiting for adhesives to dry and cure.
The Pipe Clamp
Another common type of clamp in most industries and in our homes is the pip clamp. Pipe clamps are circular and are commonly used to hold pipe pieces in place by squeezing the inserted sections together. They can be tightened and loosened by driving the screws on either end in or out of their threaded holes.
They are also available in a variety of sizes for different pipe sizes.
The Wire Rope Clamp
Wire rope clamps, as the name suggests, are designed to secure and retain wire ropes. Wire ropes are usually used to secure tarps and heavy loads like elevators, platforms, and pretty much any other application that is being used for leverage and/or mechanical advantage. In airplanes, wire ropes can be used to manipulate control surfaces, but the clamps are usually used for static applications.
These clamps are not really designed to be adjusted, but rather to firmly secure workpieces.
The Marmon or V-Band Clamp
The Marmon clamp and the pipe clamp are similar in both appearance and application. Both of these clamps are used to secure piping and/or other cylindrical objects to one another or to other surfaces. Like the pipe clamp, this one is used by increasing and decreasing its tension by driving or releasing the screw.
This is an easy-to-use mechanism that tends to be quite durable and robust.
The Miter Clamp
One of the most well-known types of woodworking clamps, the name of this clamp pretty much says it all. In wood crafting, there are a number of joint types that need a workpiece to be secured in a certain manner in order for them to be implemented. In this case, the miter clamp is used to hold a wooden workpiece in place if a miter joint needs to be implemented.
These are niche clamps that use two threaded screws to secure a workpiece at a 90-degree angle while the joint is implemented.
The Quick-Action Clamp
The quick-action clamp is one of the most versatile and easy-to-use types of clamps there is. Quick-action clamps are used to instantly grip and release a workpiece. They’re operated by using a trigger mechanism to grip your workpiece, but there are different types of quick-action clamps available for different applications.
There are trigger clamps, trigger clamps, and even lever clamps! They can also be operated with one hand, which is useful in certain situations.
The C- and G-Clamp
One of the most versatile types of woodworking clamps around is G-clamps and C-clamps. These have been around for a really long time, and are best characterized by their shape, which, as you may have guessed, look like the letters C and G. They are used to secure a workpiece to a flat surface or compress two workpieces together.
They are often used interchangeably, but there are certain applications that require one of them specifically.
The Locking Clamp
The locking clamp is an extremely useful tool that allows you to lock a workpiece to a flat surface or lock two workpieces together. It does this by implementing the same mechanism used in vice grip pliers. This allows you to easily secure and release a workpiece simply by squeezing the trigger. The jaws of this clamp are hinged and are capable of opening up to 8 inches.
Locking clamps are available in different sizes and shapes to ensure you always have the right tool for securing virtually any workpiece you can think of.
The Hand-Screw Clamp
If metallurgy is your thing, then you should consider getting yourself a pair of hand-screw clamps. These clamps are designed for use with metal. They are easy to use and can be used in pairs as well. They’re simple tools that can be adjusted simply by using turning the handle in and outward or inward to loosen and tighten the grip of the clamps.
This clamp type is available in both wooden and metal variations, which makes them more versatile in terms of what they can be used for.
The Drill-Press Clamp
This is more of a specialized clamp. Unlike other clamps that can be used independently, this clamp is unique as it needs to be attached to the base of a drill press. It is used to secure a workpiece firmly to the base of a drill press during operation, and it does so by using the same leverage technique that a C- or G-clap uses.
It’s a simple and effective means of securing virtually any flat workpiece at the base of your drill press.
Special Use Clamps
Unlike common use clamps which can often be used interchangeably, special use clamps can (typically) only be used for their intended application, with a few exceptions. Special use clamps are often more challenging to come by, which means you could spend a pretty penny ordering one of these. Here are a few that you might come across.
The Picture-Frame Clamp
This one is pretty straightforward. Picture frame clamps are used to secure and retain miter joints used to create picture frames. They are essentially rectangular frames that are placed over a picture frame. At each edge of the rectangle (or square) is a holder that squeezes the edges of the frame and holds it in place. These joints are connected to one mechanism located in the center of the frame, which can be tightened or loosened as need be.
Besides pressing miter joints, they can be used to hold frames in place while adhesives dry.
The Flooring Clamp
The flooring clamp is one of the most convenient tools to have around when you’re installing engineered wood flooring. This type of clamp uses a ratchet clamp mechanism that squeezes together flooring boards that connect to one another using tongue and groove joints. The clamps sit on the surface of these boards and partially over the edge to generate the necessary leverage.
One floor clamp is capable of holding as many as 10 flooring boards together.
The Hose Clamp
The hose clamp is pretty much like any other type that is used to secure cylindrical objects. It is slipped over the hose or pipe and is secured by tightening a screw to increase the pressure on the workpiece. This screw can then be loosened to reduce pressure as well, which makes them a simple and effective clamp for all manner of applications.
These clamps are usually small or medium in size and are used as semi-permanent fasteners.
The Cardellini or Matthellini Clamp
Unlike some of the other clamps we’ve had a look at so far, this clamp isn’t really used for engineering applications. Instead, you can find these holding lighting rigs and piping place either while they’re installed or achieve a certain position. They consist of one static jaw and another that can be moved back and forth on a threaded cylinder.
The Kant Twist Clamp
Kant twist clamps are essentially the modern equivalent of C- and G-clamps. They are used for securing workpieces while they’re being worked on. They can be used to hold a workpiece or secure it to a flat surface. They are used for both metallurgy and woodworking, and they happen to be a lot better than a conventional C- or G-clamp because their jaws can be moved to hold a workpiece at an angle.
The Pennington Clamp
This clamp is unique. The Pennington clamp is not used for engineering or wood crafting applications. Instead, this clamp can be found in surgical theatres pretty much all around the world, holding open incisions to allow surgeons to do their job. They can also be used to depress blood vessels to prevent internal bleeding in surgical applications, which makes them one of the simplest and indispensable clamp types out there.
This clamp type resembles scissors with jaws instead of blades.
The Mogen and Gomco Clamp
Another unique medical clamp that has been used for quite a while in clinics and hospitals around the world is the Mogen and Gomco clamp. These clamps are used exclusively for circumcisions and have provided a quick and effective (not to mention safe) way of performing this procedure.
These provide a clean, uninterrupted cut, and can be used consecutively given that they have been properly sanitized after each use.
The Ear Clamp
The ear clamp is yet another type of clamp that is commonly used to secure and retain pipework in various industries around the world. They’re usually pretty small and aren’t much bigger than an inch, which means they’re used for pretty niche applications.
Ear clamps can be found securing and retaining hose connections, and they’re pretty easy to identify since they have little protrusions on each end, which have come to be known as their “ears”.
The Parallel Clamp
The parallel clamp is easy to use and can be used to secure a workpiece quickly. These can be operated with one hand simply by slipping this clamp over the workpiece and securing it by moving the sliding jaw back and forth until it makes contact. The sliding jaw can then be secured either by a pressure clip or by a screw-like device located near the handle of the clamp.
These are usually used to secure doorframes and are generally used (and sold) in pairs.
The Corner Clamp
As the name suggests this clamp is used to secure the corners of a workpiece. They can be used on flat square workpieces like tabletops or the faces of wooden boxes. Corner clamps come in various designs, but all share the same function of applying equal pressure to all sides of the materials being joined to ensure a 90 degree angle is achieved without slippage or insufficient pressure.
The Cable Clamp
If you’ve ever had trouble with messy wiring then you’ve probably thought about getting one of these, even if you weren’t sure about their name. Cable clamps or zip ties are used to secure a wide range of wiring cables, not only making them look a bit neater but ensuring that they can be safely suspended without being squished.
They are best characterized by their loop and protruding flange through which self-tapping screws and bolts can be driven.
The Power Clamp
The power clamp is probably the coolest clamp on this list. They’re medium-sized handheld devices that make use of pneumatic or hydraulic pressure to secure a workpiece. They have two jaws that are able to expand and contract to fit the size of your workpiece and are capable of exerting an incredible amount of force, more so than you would be able to produce with conventional mechanical clamps.
The Trigger Clamp
The trigger clamp is one of the most versatile and easy-to-use clamp types out there. Not only can you use it with one hand, but it’s also available in various different sizes for your convenience. They’re essentially semi-circular with an attached hinge that is used to grip and secure your workpiece.
They can be quite expensive though as they’re made of thick metal clasps.
The Plastic Jaws or Elastic Belt Clamp
These clamps are used for securing workpieces that might otherwise be damaged if conventional clamps were to be used. They’re essentially operated like scissors, and by simply squeezing these clamps together you can safely pick up or secure a workpiece made of delicate materials like wood or soft metals.
These don’t really have a dedicated application, so they’re a nice tool to keep around your home, especially considering how cheap they are.
The Pinch-Dog Clamp
If you’re looking for a clamp that’s easy to use and isn’t needlessly complicated, then the pinch dog clamp might be up your alley. These aren’t what most of us would consider a clamp in the conventional sense, but they do help wooden workpieces retain their position, making them functionally clamps.
These are inserted over two pieces of a workpiece (usually connected by joints) to hold them in place while adhesives dry, or while they settle into one another.
Now that you have a good idea of what types of clamps are out there, how they are used, and what they can be used for, it’s time for you to get out there and put your newfound knowledge to the test. Remember that clamps should only be used for their intended applications as far as possible, as using them interchangeably can be dangerous in some instances.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are There Different Types of Metal Clamps?
There are loads of types of metal clamps available for a wide variety of applications. These clamps are used to retain and secure the position of a workpiece in most instances. This can be while you’re working on the object in question or to secure it in its intended position.
What Are Clamps?
What are clamps? Clamps are any device that is used to bind, compress, or retain the position of one or more objects. Clamps are not unlike fasteners, except they’re usually mechanical devices of varying intricacies that can be attached and removed with greater ease compared to most fasteners.
Are There Permanent Clamps?
Technically, there are permanent clamps available. Wire clamps and pipe clamps are considered to be permanent as they can be left in position with no maintenance needed. However, clamps can wear and erode over time, which means that they will need to be replaced eventually, especially if they’re located outdoors.