Cam clamps for almost free or about £1 each.

P1150418A few weeks ago I made some cam clamps for the woodworking school but used only hand tools to make them. These are the ones I made, clamping the box bottom on above. I think we may be the first to video making them completely by hand, except for a battery-driven drill, which we didn’t really need. Of course we wanted the video to open up the whole process for anyone and everyone and especially those not wanting to work with machines. Because there has been a very definite void regarding making useful equipment such as these by hand I thought we would fill the gap without much more of a do.DSC_0034

Cam clamps are not new at all, but they are less seen than the ones we are used to seeing today. These clamps have distinct advantages you might not see at first glance. One is the unique clamping action that exerts direct pressure without the usual twisting torque that occurs through threaded clamping heads. On thin and delicate materials this type of clamp has unusual advantages via the applied energy of the lever cam. The other enjoyable feature of cam clamps, often called by a trade name, Klemmsia, is just how light they can be. Favoured by stringed instrument makers making violins and guitars, cellos and such, They are indeed indispensable. Though I used steel for the bar, I could have easily used alluminium, which works well enough too. You might choose metal size and type according the work type you might engage in. I have made these clamps from1/8″ to 3/16″ thick bar stock by 3/4″ for beam strength. For general and heavier clamping, but still relatively lightweight, I suggest you try 3/16″ steel.DSC_0042

If you want to learn how I make these we made a short three-part video series on to train you. The processes is crystal clear, simple and requires only a handful of very ordinary tools. In about an hour os so you will have your first clamp.

27 thoughts on “Cam clamps for almost free or about £1 each.”

  1. This really interests me! Will I be able to download these videos so I can take them to the shop with me? I love projects like these.

    Thanks once again Paul,


  2. Disregard the last comment. I just received another link and I was able to download the file.
    Sorry about that.


  3. Too funny this vet thing is on my list of shop projects to do. I think it’s number 10 or so I have the aluminum from my metal supply store close to my place. My only thing that I have wondered about was if its better to use a roll pin to attach the clamps to the bar or just use a nail and turn it into a rivet??

    1. Nails will work but roll or split pins work better because the compress when driven and then roll out to fill the hole and remain tight. Nails run the risk of splitting and so does peening the nail as with a rivet.

      1. Thanks for the reply.I will pick up some roll pins the next time I get out. I also remember that somewhere I saw this style clamp used to clamp a peice of solid wood on a shelf to glue up by clamping to the shelf and using a lower jaw from another clamp “with the cam” held between the clamp to put pressure onto the front edge of the shelf. As to help save money from buying spring clamps with webbing built in to them. Thanks for all you do amongst the woodworking community.

    1. It doesn’t make much difference. I bought some alluminium plate from a scrapyard and then ripped the 3/4″ plate down on the tablesaw without any problem (take the right safety precautions). The weight is markedly less but it will depend on what you use them for. I can see everyone making them from steel and alluminium. I have seen them made just from wood too, but the sections were larger and they looked clunky to use.

  4. I have always wondered why the levers on these clamps are made so pressure is applied when they’re pulled up, rather than applied while they’re being pushed down. Is there some sort of mechanical, or ergonomic reason why everybody makes them as pullers, rather than pushers?

    1. I presume the lever cam, and the surface it mates to, wear slightly & compress a little over time. If the lever was a ‘pusher’ it could reach the far end of its travel before the jaws are fully closed with sufficient pressure, and the lever would have no further travel possible.

    2. I suspect i has more to do with releasing the clamp than setting the clamp. If you push to set you may end up with the lever so low you can’t unset it. Not o menation it likely stores better in the down than up position.

  5. The wood I have is between 3/4″ & 1″ thick, almost dressed. I have access to oak, maple, walnut. Does it really need to be 1″ x 1.5″? Can I get away with 3/4″ and rough sides? or should I glow two layers together to get the 1.5″ and cut 1″ wide pieces?

    1. These episodes are free and go up on Friday evenings. The 2nd will be up tomorrow.

      1. Please change the last line in the email originally sent about episode 1 that clearly states subsequent episodes will appear on Wednesdays


        1. I can’t change emails already sent out, Bill. I think people will understand.

  6. Hi – Is the Part 2 video published? I can’t seem to find it! I like the first one & looking forward to seeing the others.

  7. Hi Paul,
    As always, thank you for your generosity.
    Regarding the screw used to prevent splitting of the clamp, and assuming my time is not so important; would a wooden dowel glued in place present a more solid connection of the wood fibers than a screw?

  8. Great videos Paul thanks.

    Would brass shaft be ok instead of roll pins? I have some 3mm brass. (although I know pins are cheap).

      1. Ah brilliant thanks for the fast response! I will get to making them as soon as my vise all finished:-) So rewarding making tools

  9. The two clever Canadians were just having a clamp design contest,
    I think Mathias won but John Heinse revised his design.

    Now our Paul Sellers presents an over-the-top bit of simple Cleverness!

    I feel inspired, again.

    I’m a retired Steel worker, only lately doing wood. I’ve purchased the Alum. Sash clamps ( explained by Mr.Sellers ) and seem to love them! I find myself turning to Mr.Sellers techniques doing my various projects. Now, it seems all my work is being “informed” by “Sellers” methodologies. I feel like an Apprentice again! I’m using my “Sellers” Sharpened chisels at every turn ( they’ve been dull and unusable for years ), I even purchased a small coping saw which finds many applications for its use. I already seem to have a wide range of “retired” wood tools that I’m now “Sellers” restoring and using, even old screwdrivers are getting touched up tips and seem to work with re-newed precision and utility.

    Somehow, my mind seems to absorb things as I watch these videos. I don’t realize it happening until I’m working on a project and one of the “Sellers” ideas pops-up in my head and I try out the concept ( for the first time in my lifetime ).

    I’m becoming a wood worker!

    I feel like a little child learning how to ride a bicycle, successfully.

    I still have my Festool “training wheels” though. I don’t have a proper workbench ( yet ) or a proper vise but my mind is organizing itself for “hand” tools and away from powered. I feel a personal success from using my hands instead of 110VAC.

    Thank you Mr.Sellers,

    Tony in Michigan

  10. Hello Paul,
    I’m planning on making a few of these in the near future, and am wondering whether the design can be applied to much longer clamps – such as sash clamps of perhaps 900 or 1200mm? Would clamps of that length have sufficient clamping force, or would their effectiveness diminish the longer they got? Sorry if this question is answered in the video series – I’m at a computer with no sound!

  11. First of all thanks for your will to teach, as a beginner it is difficult to sort through so much information available online to reach such good content.
    Second, could you please tell me the length of the pins you used?

    Regards from Portugal

  12. Hi Paul –
    Thanks for these videos! I’ve been using some homemade spool clamps for guitar building and have wanted some of these cam clamps for some time. However, the $20+ per clamp has put me off a bit.

    At risk of sounding daft, how does one obtain the plans for these clamps? I can’t seem to locate the download file. My apologies if I’ve overlooked something.

    Kind regards,

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