While cable clamps are useful in some situations and corner clamps certainly have their place in the toolbox, there is a lot to be said for the humble toggle clamp. These clamps typically do not get as much attention as other workholding tools because they are used for specialized applications. Below are five instance where toggle clamps can help.
Handling Narrow Rails
It is unsafe to feed the narrow ends of cabinetry door rails past the coping bit without backing up the piece. Without proper support, the rail can turn into the bit, ruining the piece and, potentially, the woodworker's fingers. While it is possible to use a backup board and hold everything together, it is not the best solution. Instead, use a spacer board and a pair of toggle clamps to hold the workpiece in place.
It is easy and simple to use a table saw to cut tenons, and cutting them on-end can speed the process somewhat. However, it can be unsafe to do it freehand. Workpieces can tip in any direction, binding the saw blade and causing kickbacks. For safety, use a couple of toggle clamps and a tenon jig built from scrap wood.
Tapering Without Tension
There are two-leg tenon jigs in home improvement and hardware stores, but they have one notable flaw: there is no easy way to hold the workpiece against the jig's angled leg. It can be awkward to use a push-through stick, and it is dangerous to hold the piece in hand. Make a quick tapering jig from a rectangular piece of scrap wood and align the layout line on the piece with an edge of the jig's base.
Use spacer blocks to hold it at the right angle, and use toggle clamps to secure everything. Once the piece is in place, adjust the rip fence of the saw so the jig's leading edge is even with the saw blade. When the jig is fed past the blade, the user will get a precision cut without unnecessary risk.
Locked Miter Joints
There is no simple way to close a miter joint with a bar clamp. Pressure must be applied evenly to both sides, or parts may fall out of place when the glue is added. Toggle clamps can be used to apply lateral force against a square backup block, and two pairs of clamps on a solid base can form an easy, quick and useful mitering station. However, the backup block on the inside should be precisely square, and miter angles must be cut with precision.
Template Routing of Narrow Pieces
A template and a pattern bit can help a woodworker create all types of shaped parts. However, routing a curved, narrow workpiece can put the user's fingers perilously close to the router bit. Make the template piece a bit wider than needed and add a spacer block for toggle clamp use. Position the block to extend the piece 1/16" from the template for easy trimming and fasten the toggle clamps to press the piece to the template. With this easy solution, there is no need to use hot glue, push pads, or double-sided tape to hold parts in place.
Many woodworkers go their entire lives without using toggle clamps; but, once they own a set, they are amazed at how convenient and useful they are. Their small size, clamping force, and convenience put them in a tool category of their own.
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