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Sept. 24, '06

 Clam Clamp Miter Clamps
Perfect Miters ...... Fast

Clamp Review #3

Reprinted from "Fine Homebuilding" magazine , September 1996
Issue 104, page 108


Miter clamps for
 interior trim

Fine Homebuilding Photo 

Regular readers of Fine Homebuilding probably recognize Jim Chestnut as a frequent contributor. When I heard that he had designed miter clamps for trim work, I wanted to try them.
      Clam Clamps, as Chestnut calls them, consist of two steel bars sandwiched between L-shaped nickel-plated steel plates (P.O. Box 320094, Fairfield, Conn. 06825; 800-966-4837 to order, 203-384-0888 for more information). Each bar holds four setscrew pins ground to a point for gripping the stock. One bar is fixed, and the other is spring-loaded against a cam. After the clamp is placed against the trim pieces, the cam's handle is turned, drawing mitered pieces together evenly.
  The clamps come in two models, one with an integral handle and one that accepts a 3/8-in. square-drive ratchet wrench.


Once the clamp has been tightened, the wrench can be removed. The clamp maintains its pressure. This allows prefabricated trim units (such as a set of door or window casings) to be stored in a small space until the units are ready for installation.
      Fine-tuning the clamps' action is accomplished by threading the pins in or out, and by sliding the cam's adjustable pivot to concentrate force at the heel or toe of the joint.
      So far, so good: clamps that are powerful, efficient, well-made and durable. But because there are other clamps out there that can do similar things with miter joints, you might balk at their price -$55 each-especially if you don't know what they're really for.
      Chestnut, a finish-carpentry contractor for the past 20 years or so, has developed an elegant system for installing high-quality trim work on a production basis, and these clamps are at the heart of that system. By this method, side and head casings are measured, mitered and slotted for biscuits, then glued, splined and clamped. Fabrication can be done on a


simple, job-site worktable, made from a Formica-covered sheet of plywood mounted on sawhorses.
       This technique accomplishes several good things: Because the work is done off the floor, it's easier to do accurately; splined, glued and clamped, the casings joints are far less likely to open over time; and the pieces are far more likely to wind up in the same plane on the wall (eliminating much finicky fitting). Accurately made up, a prefabricated trim unit can double as its own squaring jig at installation.
      Obviously, avoiding bottlenecks is crucial to any production technique, and Clam Clamps are powerful enough to secure casing assemblies while they're moved to make room for the next, and unobtrusive enough to leave on during installation. This makes glue-curing downtime a function of the number of clamps at hand. Chestnut estimates that four or even five pair of these clamps would be necessary for ultimate efficiency, and that's a lot of dough. But for those who believe that organization pays, these tools, especially when used as recommended , are a winning proposition.
 --Michael Standish, a carpenter in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts.

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