Clamps are indispensable to hold items in many situations while working or just waiting for the glue to dry or the solder to cool and to hold power tools. Many types were accumulated from a multitude of sources and used, until something better was found. Small, spring types crop up almost everywhere unexpectedly. Their use is only limited by imagination. Since a large percentage of usable clamp are very inexpensive and only storage is a problem, it does not hurt to accumulate a wide variety. Murphy's law dictates that, no matter how wide the variety on hand is, none fit the job.

Probably the simplest clamp is the plain old rubber band _or strips, sold by the length, for wind-up airplanes. For quick and dirty holding uses, they are hard to beat, if you discover how to place them. Pressure is adjustable by the band size and number of loops. Pads may be added to avoid both slipping and damage, also to localize the pressure area. To provide distributed pressure, an old standby is to place two longer sticks on either side of the object and loop rubber bands around the ends to squeeze, similar to a splint. These are very useful for straight, butt joints or slices. Now sold as craft sticks, cheap used Popsicle sticks work fine for shorter work. To improve rigidity extra sticks may be added on both sides. With a good supply of inexpensive rubber bands and sticks, assembly-line processing can be carried out.

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holding window glazing while white glue sets.

Band clamps with ratchet tightening, as used in furniture assembly, seem to be absent in the modelling field. Easily made from parts available at sewing machine stores, a small, flexible, 1" wide strap clamp with a latching buckle can hold an assembly together with only finger tightening. Similarly a 3/4" wide, Velcro strip pair can be used without buckle. Length depends on what is found, since today in our prepackaged world very few items are sold in bulk. Several strips of Velcro pairs may be chained together. Velcro sells precut GET-A-GRIP straps in various sizes like a medium 1/2" x 11". A string could be used and tightened by twisting with a stick knotted to the loop end. But a thin string tends to cut into the surface, unless padded.

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Velcro Get-A-Grip

Small items require small spring clamps. In many cases several are needed, strategically located. Alligator clips and their larger cousins crocodiles are used extensively in electronics and many "third-hand" devices; but their teeth can be damaging. Other clamps are sold for hobby use. Concave jaws can hold rod like objects. Hair clips are excellent for applying light pressure on flat objects. Cross lock tweezers can be used, but too often the long handles are in the way.

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  1. very small alligator clip.
  2. plastic coated pointed.
  3. small narrow.
  4. with mounting holes.
  5. concave jaw
  6. broad
  7. double tip hair clip
  8. single tip hair clip

There are other variations of those shown, including bent and curved jaws. Thicker jaws provide more mass for heat sinks.

Where more pressure is required or large items are held, larger clamps with heavier springs are required, however most found in hardware stores are too strong. Inexpensive spring clothes pins can be shaped and can apply fairly high pressures. Although metal pins are stronger, harder and make good heat sinks, plastic and wooden types are easier to shape and less likely to cause damage. Many paper clamps or clips prove useful with wider pressure area. Useful for laminating, high pressure binder clips come in several sizes. From 5" X 8" on up, clip boards can hold sheets for scribing, scoring or marking and hold instruction sheets well. Some clips have magnets affixed, which are usually too weak for serious holding. Visit your local dollar store or fleamarket, since many medium sized clamps and clothes pins are available at 10 to 64 per 1 dollar, imported from China.

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Plastic clothes pin. 48 / $1
Plastic clothes pin. 60 / $1
Plastic tipped metal clamp. 10 / $1.
Plastic bag clip w/ magnet. 9 / $1
Plastic paper clip. Free give-away.

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Large binder clip.
Small binder clip. Opening position.
Self adjusting plastic tips.
Soft cup tips w/ weak magnet.

Some clamps have quick release using cam-lock or adjustable ratchets to ease work. Spring is often in the body material. Soft buffer tips grip odd shapes without slipping or damage. These perform well as HAND-HELD VISES. . .

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Small wire cam-lock.
Large wire cam-lock.
Large ratchet.
Larger ratchet.

C clamps are screw types usually used to apply a fairly large pressure to a relatively small area. They come in a wide variety of sizes and dimension ratios in throat and opening capacity. (To obtain probably the smallest, you might raid your woman's jewelry box and disappear a clamp-on earring.) Many are cast, but some are pressed steel. For light weight, aluminum, often extruded, is used, but for greater strength steel is preferred . One of the selection criteria is that the throat must be deep enough to reach the desired pressure point. This could require a heavier, more unwieldy clamp. Better quality clamps have freely swiveling pads on the screw, but a little oil helps. Pressure can be distributed by adding larger pads at either end. Smaller sizes usually have knurled knobs, some with screw driver slots, while larger have T bars.

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small cast steel has 9/16" span
cast steel
deep throat extruded aluminum
stamped steel

Useful variations may be found in kitchen gadget (You can "borrow" one when your wife isn't looking.), pencil sharpener or power tool, table clamps.

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round bar
flat bar
pencil sharpener

Machinist's parallel clamps are similar but use two screws. Although they can be skewed inward at the tips to localize pressure there, it is not highly recommended to skew outward. due to possible slippage. They can fit in tighter spaces than C clamps and deliver pressure over a larger area. Very large sizes are available. For faster distant adjustment, screw knobs are gripped in opposite hands and one is orbited around the other.

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small has 3/4" span

Used for larger or longer items, bar clamps come with one or two bars, on which one jaw slides. Larger ones commonly use a length of pipe. They can be very useful in the assembly of structures and longer rolling stock. Jaw pressure may be applied by wedges, elastic bands, ratchets or screws. Some have tiltable jaw attachments for non-parallel use, but too often they slip. Frequently, with the wedge types, the wedge jams, making release difficult. In the rubber band powered, pressure is determined by the size and number of the loops and opening due to stretch.

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Largest 5 1/16"

Although lighter, the larger one could be used as a starting point to make the BAR SCREW PRESS _ used for mounting worms on shafts.

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simple jamable wedge, 7 1/4"
large rubber band w/ removable tilt jaws, 4"
small rubber band, 1 3/8"
two bar W/ pads, friction lock, hand squeeze adjust, 3 1/4"

The wedge type is a little awkward on release. On the band clamps, pressure is regulated by the size and number of bands. The bar types come color coded with soft, hard and solder resistant pads.

Zona markets the very flexible Berna Assemblers system in two series with various sizes, which may be used in combination. The lighter Hobby provides up-to 11 lbs of force for more delicate work, while the larger Master yields up-to 200 lbs. These can be configured to handle almost any situation through connectors and addable, reversible jaws. Soft, removable pads provide non-slip grip. Unique carbon rods bend to vary pressure. To further variety, parts are available separately.

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Lower image from Zona brochure.

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brass screw bar lock and adjust, 10 5/8"
aluminum pin stops and screw adjust, pads both ends, 8 7/8"
Steel, quick set, rack tooth stop and screw adjust, pad on screw, 4 1/16"
Quick-grip triggered wedge and release removable pads, 4 5/8"

For very large work and dual service as a vice, this bar clamp includes a quick mount, swivel, bench clamp base. Jaws are reversible , one push button setable; the other trigger lever tightened and button released. The bar tends to tilt when large force is applied toward the rear, so a plastic support block can be placed under rear jaw.

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Each has its merits and disadvantages. Bands are quick. Color coded, two bars are available with cork, plastic and solder heat resistant pads, while opening is a little sticky. The brass is more precise in alignment. The aluminum is fairly quick, but stop pins frequently fall out, when no pressure is applied. Fortunately they are tethered to the jaws to prevent loss. The steel can apply greater pressure, but the large wooden screw handle is frequently in the way. The Quick-grip is the most convenient; but with the fast trigger tightening, there is little feel in tightening; so it is very easy to crunch objects. Size is limited; so it will not span rolling stock lengths. A longer bar is desirable. Much larger and longer sizes are available, but they are very cumbersome and heavy for model work. However they are very useful for open benchwork to temporarily clamp risers, legs and other parts for adjustment and while screwing permanently.

Corner clamps are common in larger sizes for assembling picture, door or window frames, but smaller sizes are scarce. Normally they are sold in sets of four. In a pinch square or angle stock can be inconveniently clamped inside walls to align for gluing. Using all-thread, a four bar screw version, the Cinch from Xacto, can surround larger rectangular assemblies, applying pressure at all four corners. Long knurled nuts are included for adding extension bars. Strap clamps or elastic bands could accomplish the same on odd shapes.

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Cinch 4 bar clamp, range is from 2" x 2" to 24" x24".
Inside ferrule nut for bar extension
PanaVise corner clamp, set of 4

Some clamps are designed to hold round or regular polygonal shapes. Often these are clamped to tables for drilling or milling. Vee blocks are normally sold in matched pairs to hold longer stock between them.

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Disk or cylinder end clamp w/ 8 notched sizes on 4 edge pairs
Small steel precision machined vee block
Larger plastic vee block.

Often a more secure grip is required. To withstand forces applied, VISES are larger, bulkier and more robust clamps. More often these are fastened to benches or machine tool tables, but some are specifically designed to be HAND-HELD .




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