Australian Wood Review

Latest issue of AWR is now out, and if you are interested in panel clamps, I have a big 5 page review of 13 different panel clamps that are available featured in this issue.

Issue 64

Issue 64

For those who have discovered Stu’s Shed from following the URL at the end of the article, welcome! Hope you like the place 🙂

The Trouble with Reviews

And particularly conducting them on a significant number of tools of any one genre that are on the market, is you get to see the best and the worst on the market.  The worst is no problem (so long as you don’t own them), but the best is another matter….

Conducting a review really exposes you not only to the tools, but provides an opportunity to really put them through their paces, and the more you use a really good version, the harder and harder it becomes to face returning them at the end.  And so it is with the Frontline Interlocking clamps that I was covering for the next edition of the Australian Wood Review.

So now I have not one (one on its own is not particularly useful for any clamp), not two, but three of these significantly serious clamps in the workshop.  What can I say – I love good tools!



I guess I really have to justify having these clamps in the workshop, and I can’t think of a more justified (and necessary) project, particularly for my workshop, than building a decent laminated workbench.  I just need to source some decent timbers to make it out of!

Reverse Engineering

I’ve still been working on the panel clamp review, and a big part of it can really be considered reverse engineering the product to see what really makes it tick, and when comparing different brands, it also provides a level playing field.

When getting to compare different brands, and having started the reverse engineering process, you also learn a great deal about design in general.  Choice of thread types, diameter, pitch, length, material, bar section, handle length, diameter, pin material, diameter, on and on.

It really is interesting to see the decisions made by the engineers when the clamps were originally designed, and in some cases whether an engineer seemed even involved in the process at all!

I always find I’m disappointed with some products – they promise so much, and fail to deliver, and I just see them as a complete waste of the materials used in their construction. The worst examples of that is often when a product has been reverse engineered, quickly and poorly as so many companies have been doing – rather than actually researching the product’s purpose, they take an existing product and make it as cheap as possible, avoiding the cost of actually using engineers to properly research and design a decent product. Others get the majority of the design right, then forget that there is a need for a human operator!

On the other hand, after looking at a wide range of product, you do formulate a definite wish-list of what you’d want to see in a set of clamps for the shed.

My dream- a wall set of good clamps of a range of sizes (and multiple copies of each size), such as you see on the walls of good workshops everywhere (and particularly on TV / WebTV)!

Episode 52 Frontline Interlocking Clamp

Episode 52 Frontline Interlocking Clamp
Clamp Pricing: 900mm $363 inc GST, 1220mm $399 inc GST, both with free delivery in Oz.  That is a lot cheaper than I realised!

A quick preview of Frontline

You know you are onto a good thing when you have a guest in the shed, and you just have to rave about a tool you are reviewing, and this is absolutely the case with the Frontline Engineering clamps that arrived today.

I will do a comprehensive review of this clamping system in the near future (actually, I will probably do it as a combination of written and video) – there is a lot worth covering with this system.

In the meantime, I had an opportunity to have a good chat in my shed this morning with the inventor of the product (well I hope that is right!) – he certainly knew the product range and design backwards. It helped a lot getting that hands-on exposure to the product, and its various features, and it really opened my eyes to a product I have seen from a distance numerous times (as an in-store display), but not realised just how good it is to justify a much closer look.

Probably a good thing, otherwise my wallet may have already had to pay the price, and these are not cheap, but with these clamps you really get what you pay for. I’m seriously impressed by them.

Panel Clamping

Panel Clamping

The picture here is from the Frontline website (and the in-store displays), but as much as it does explain the product well, it also does it an injustice.  Sure, you do get the idea that the clamp is great at making panels, but unless that is specifically what you need, you may completely overlook the other aspects of this system, as I have until now.  You also miss out on the scale involved.  Given that the boards in the photo are around 2x4s, you start to realise the actual size of these units.

This may look to be a clamp limited to only one task (and by the look of the graphic, one that it does do very well), but it certainly isn’t a one task wonder.  The biggest thing I had not realised, is this is a sash clamp, pure and simple.  Just because it has the upper channel in all the images, this system does not require both the upper and lower channels, and by removing the upper section, you have a sash clamp with up to 4 tonne of clamping force. 4 tonnes is astronomical for a sash clamp – almost unheard of.  If fully utilised, there would be glue everywhere but between the boards.  The fact that the components have been designed and manufactured to cope with this sort of loading goes to show the quality of the tool’s manufacture.  I mean how many other sash clamps you know incorporate thrust bearings in their design?!

Where it does come to panel clamping, it appears quite unique in that it fully loads up vertically, getting all the panel components properly aligned before the horizontal loading even starts to be applied.  Glue between the boards doesn’t get wiped off as would happen if the boards were bought into alignment after the clamping had begun.  Another thing that impressed me was there was finally some real suggested clamping pressure, so the opportunity to starve a joint of glue is reduced. The guidance is once the boards are clamped in line vertically, then bought together horizontally (just), one half-turn of the clamp handle (equating to 2mm of travel) is all that is required to achieve proper clamping pressure.

So as mentioned, I will do a more intensive review of this clamp in the near future, but in the meantime, don’t do what I have in the past, and just miss the Frontline display – the amount of engineering involved in these are an ideal combination of simplicity, and elegance, and worth a much closer look.

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