Clamps

After spending quite a bit of time working on a certain project, I have quickly come to the conclusion that I don’t have a good enough set of clamps.  Sure, I have a whole collection, of various ones, and that is useful for a wide variety of jobs, but when it comes to a glueup, a whole set of identical clamps is the way to go.

Given I keep turning to the Irwin Quick Grips for so many of my small clamping needs, I need to find a good set.  My issue with the Irwins, is they tend to load up unevenly across the surface, causing the two pieces of timber to slip apart -rather undesirable when gluing up.  They also don’t give as good a feel for how much pressure is being applied, nor are they particularly powerful.  That is not to say it is all bad. I have plenty of other clamps, and yet still do turn to the Irwins for their convenience.

While passing by Carbatec yesterday, I picked up another couple of X5 clamps from Lidwig.  They are not a replacement for my main set, but again they do a good job when needed, so having a few more available was preferable.

After that though, I really wasn’t sure where to go with respect to what brand I should start consistently collecting.  Funnily enough, and you may remember that there was an article in Australian Wood Review on just this topic back in about 2009, and written by me no less.  I couldn’t remember my own outcomes, so have gone back to that article to make a decision on what to start purchasing.

I may have to drag out my second article on panel clamps to see what I thought of the K Body clamps from Bessey.

Must say, I am looking through the list (23 clamps), and not one stands out as hitting all my ideals – size, weight, quality, cost.  Hmm – more research required.

New Australian Wood Review

Has just come out.  Particular reason I’m mentioning it is I have a follow up article to my panel clamp article – a look at a wide range of hand clamps that are on the market (and a quick review of the Mustarka Rabbeting Router Bit Set).  There is also a review of the Torque Workcentre (not by me – get a second opinon!).

My clamp article wasn’t particularly complimentary of some commonly available clamps….. but hey, do you want a review that just says everything is golden, or one that actually calls a spade a spade?

Movin’ In

It was definitely a weekend revolving around the new tool (understandably), from the pickup/delivery organising on Friday, the assembly (and getting it into the shed) Saturday, and commissioning it with some real tasks on Sunday.

If you were wondering how I was going to fit a 2.5m x 1m tool in my workshop, well, you were not the only one!  With a large pry bar!  Archimedes once remarked (paraphrasing) that with a firm place to stand he could move the Earth (with a long-enough lever that is).

Makin' a Hole

Clearing space was a combination of moving the jointer to where the router table was, removing the corner bench and in future the sanders will (potentially) be on roll-outs from under the Torque, and the router table met an untimely end, with the top being amalgamated with the TWC.  A hole was born.

The Torque arrives in its new home

I did try the TWC along the back wall, but lost too much access around the unit.  The MDF top has yet to be added – will do so some time this week.

That 1300mm arm is huge – I’m going to fit the 600mm (or 900mm) arms for the majority of the jobs, and the 1300 will get used only when I need that much extension.  For some workshops it probably would remain, but that is the one compromise on space I will have to make.  Sure looks nice here (by the end of the weekend it sure ended up rather dusty!)

Adding the Router Table

Here I have added the router table (with Incra Positioner/Fence) to the end where there is some dead space (because of the way the tools are carried on the left side of the arm), so this really utilises that area. I’ve moved the bandsaw further back so I have adequate access to the router table, and it isn’t hard to swing the entire unit out from the wall if I need more in-feed area.  Since this photo, I have also replaced the first module of the top with a plain cast-iron wing – it won’t be a two-router table now (well it is, but one is overhead), and I’ve shortened the cast iron top to 3 wings from the original 5.  The MDF of the rest of the bed will be at the same height, so there is no shortage of area for the positioner now!  At 2.5m long, this may be the largest router table in the world!

The clamp roof

The clamp wall was a problem, both getting access to the clamps, and also having them interfere with the X axis of the TWC, so they have been moved to the roof.  If the clamps are any good, then it won’t be a problem where they are!  Added benefit – partway through a clamp-up, if I need another I just reach up!

Temporary Triton Mount

One minor glitch I had (and it will be rectified by the end of the week), is the router mount had support posts for a Makita (I think), and not the Triton – the Triton needs both a larger diameter and a longer post.  Converting the Triton to fit the table took a few seconds, as did reverting it back to standard operation.  I was surprised just how easy it was – a single circlip.  So that I could make use of the router before the parts arrive, I added the old Triton quick-release plate from the original Triton router table.  The setup is rather flimsy like this, but it got the job done.

Oven Doors

First job was the oven doors for the kid’s kitchen – setting the stops for the size of the opening, then routing it out.  I also used the same method for cutting hinge mortises.

Oven Shelf

The second job was creating the shelf in the oven.  Rather than just a plain shelf, I didn’t want the inside of the oven to look like a cupboard, so I cut parallel slots through using a 1/2″ straight router bit, and moved the whole setup 30mm for each pass.  Again, something that could have been done other ways, but this was a very simple (and accurate) method.  It’s like using a machine with a built-in, adjustable jig.

So that was all I had time for in the end, but already it has been demonstrating for me just how functional the concept is.

Episode 30 Pro Drill Press Table

Tool of-the-month (December 07)

The tool for December is the latest version of the Superjaws by Triton (which will be covered in a video…..soonish).

The Superjaws as a product has been available for a number of years, and is held in high regard by those that have one. With a clamping capacity of 900mm, and a maximum clamping force of 1000kg (2240lb), this thing can squeeze the glue right out of the joint!

At the wood shows in Australia, it seems there is hardly a stand that doesn’t utilise at least one, and in years past, some stands were held together with nothing but. I had a friend who said it was a great tool, so bought one on blind faith. I now have four. (Ok, so I bought one, won one, and two are demo ones, but having one is great, two is excellent (clamping up big jobs, or having one for woodwork, one for metalwork, or one for the shed, and one for clamping logs etc etc), so more is just bonus!) I use them for everything from glueups, to an anvil, to a press for squeezing bearings on shafts, or my turned pens together.

This month though, rather than focus on the Superjaws in general, I thought I’d specifically refer to the newest version.

I think I’m in a pretty good position to give a (relatively) impartial view of this latest version, because I really wanted to dislike it. It is the first model to be made overseas (China), and I still have strong views about that. I know it makes it cheaper, more affordable, and therefore able to break into more markets, but I REALLY liked that its older siblings were made right here in Melbourne, Australia. The other thing I really wasn’t happy about was the loss of the cross-bracing on the legs. So that’s where I started from.

Unfortunately, or fortunately I guess, I have been won over. Here’s why:

The build quality seems excellent. It still feels like a significantly solid tool, can still take a pounding, and clamp like nothing else on the market.

The design changes are great. The legs are a bit less stable, held in place now with a cam on each of the two front legs. I really thought this would be a significant hardship, but it turns out I was wrong. The back leg has a very solid method of being locked in position (for use, and for storage/transportation). When folded up, the unit can now only stand on one end, whereas the older versions could be either way up. The old unit had crossbracing on the legs as I mentioned, and this was one of the things I thought was a serious mistake leaving out. Guess I was wrong…..again – not only have I not missed them (and the extra setup getting them in place), but it makes the tripod design even more stable on very uneven ground.

The actual mechanism is substantially different. No longer is there a plate you have to pull out to lock the jaws, now it is a simple switch. For those of us who have used Superjaws for years, it takes a bit of getting used to! It just works. I will be interested to see how the unit (and the mechanism) stands up to a few years of use and abuse, but at this stage I am very impressed with it.

The locking rod is fully secured at the lower end – a problem experienced on very old model Superjaws that was fixed a couple of versions back.

The jaws now have bearings to give a consistent amount of friction so they more much more smoothly when sliding them by hand. Not a problem on the older model, but now even better!

Some of the accessories have changed, the pole gripping jaws being very obviously different. They have gone from a heavy gauge folded steel to a fully welded rigid design. Not sure which are better! The new ones feel very robust, and grip a pole well. The old ones flexed as they gripped, so they gripped at multiple points, and had much larger teeth that were good for punching through bark to get a good purchase. Think I like the new ones better, but for no good reason, they are just different.

The Engineers Jaws are the same, and can still take a heavy pounding.

The tray is very different, and is now a vacuum molded plastic resting on 2 square steel tubes. The outside of the steel framework is the same height as the bottom of the jaws, so acts as an infeed or outfeed support. I can almost see 2 trays being useful! Now there are no gaps (as opposed to the wire cage of the old tray), you can throw nails and screws etc into it, so that is an improvement.

So all in all, I wanted to hate it, but I am finding it very hard to fault the new Superjaws. If you are looking for a vice, or a clamp, then these are a great addition to your shop.

Tomorrow…….

Another course at Holmesglen coming up – making a barstool. Hope to take a few WIP photos, but once I get into it, all other thoughts go right out of the head!

I was trying to arrange a collection of extra clamps for the day, but left my run way too late unfortunately (was hoping to get hold of some Irwins). So off to Bunnings I went, and found a whole collection of imitation ones, all 600mm going for $5 each. You beauty! Bought 12 for the course – cost all of $60, and that is how much just 2 good ones would have set me back. These clamps will do the job I need – sometimes these cheap Chinese (crap) imports are all you need. I do tend to steer clear as much as I can, but just sometimes……..

Been quiet the last few days – sorry – been completely under the weather. (And it was quite a storm)

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