Boxland: Work Stations and Boxing Tips #6: Making Great $5 Band Clamps!

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Blog entry by Boxguy posted 09-08-2012 07:49 AM 22417 reads 43 times favorited 26 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 5: Mortising Piano Hinges In a Box (An Easy Method) Part 6 of Boxland: Work Stations and Boxing Tips series Part 7: Process For Setting Depth for Spline Cuts »

Overview: If you are going to make boxes there is no substitute for good band clamps. They pull all eight joint cuts together and tend to average out any cuts that are slightly off. I use two clamps on each box. They are expensive to buy, but cheap if you make your own. When in use, they look like this. These are really cranked down to pull all the joints tight. (A big thanks to Derrick who patiently helped me picture each step in this process.)

Hint: To make this a quick read just scan the dark print and look at the pictures. You can come back for the details if you need them.

I will try to explain this process in two languages…English and pictures. Any comments or suggestions will be appreciated.

Start with a package of these. Cheap tie-downs from Sam’s or an auto store. Buy a set that has rubber covered crank handles as they are much easier on your hands when you tighten them.

General Idea: What we are going to do is remove the hook on the long strap. Throw away the small strap. Grind away the rivet from the frame, and re-position the long strap so the looped end that held the hook is now re-connected with a bolt where the short strap was connected, and re-thread the long strap through the eye in the ratchet mechanism. If this is confusing…just follow the pictured steps.

Here are the tools I used for this job. You don’t need all of these, but they are useful if you have them. A vise, angle grinder (you could use an emery wheel or file), ball peen hammer, small vise grips, drift punch, scissors, channel locks, 1 inch x 1/4 inch bolt, a couple of wrenches to fit the bolt and nut, and a big screwdriver. If you have been looking for a use for that great big screwdriver that came in the Craftsman set you got for Christmas…this is your chance to finally use that sucker!

Start by cutting away the short strap and hook with the scissors. DO NOT get carried away and cut the loop on the long strap! We will need this for later.

Now, you have the fame with no straps attached.

Twist the hook on the longer strap to spring the eye of this hook slightly so you can slip the loop off the hook. Told you you could finally get to use that great big screwdriver. (This is much easier and faster than cutting the hook itself.)

The next modification is to remove the rivet holding the long strap onto the ratchet mechanism. We are going to grind off the head of the rivet to remove it without harming the ratchet frame.

Use the channel locks to bend the frame enough so the rivet head stands proud of the frame itself.

I found it useful to use the vise grips to hold the rivet up while the frame was clamped in the regular vise.

With the frame clamped back in the regular vise grind away the head of the rivet.

Use the hammer and a punch to remove the rivet from the frame.

With the channel locks bend the frame back into its original position making sure the ratchet can turn freely and the spring loaded catch mechanism works freely too.

Now we are going to re-attach the loop from the long strap (This loop originally held a hook we removed.) We will bolt it in place back on the frame using the holes from where the short strap was originally held in place by the rivet.

Here you see that the original rivet has been replaced by a 1/4 inch bolt and nut.

Back to the vise putting the bolt head in the vise jaws.

Grind away most of the bolt sticking out beyond the frame, but leave about 1/8 of and inch to peen down. Caution: don’t let the bolt get so hot you melt the nylon strap. If you melt through the loop the clamp can’t work. (The voice of experience speaking here.)

Peening the threaded end means you batter what is sticking out beyond the nut spreading the end of the bolt so the nut won’t be able to come off.

Final step…take all the twists out of the strap and thread the loose end of the strap through the eye in the ratchet mechanism. You need to feed the strap from the bottom of the clamp to the top so it will draw around the box as you tighten it up.
I keep my supply of these straps hanging on my glue-up table. They are color coded for length since it is awkward gluing up a small box with a longer strap. Hint: I usually put a small block of wood under the ratchet body to prevent denting the wood when the clamp is tightened.

Thanks for working through all these steps with me. This post was really tedious for me, but hopefully it will cover any problems you have with the process. If you have questions ask, please Any comments or suggestions are always appreciated.

-- Big Al in IN

26 comments so far

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4074 posts in 5307 days

#1 posted 09-08-2012 11:41 AM

Smart modification!

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over two decades.

View Roger's profile


21055 posts in 4047 days

#2 posted 09-08-2012 01:46 PM

Or, you could get a couple of these from Harbor Freight at 6 bux each plus cheaper w/20% coupon… jus sayin:

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View DIYaholic's profile


19921 posts in 3918 days

#3 posted 09-08-2012 02:15 PM

I have used UNmodified ratchet straps, in the past, as a band clamp. Your little “Hot Rodding”, makes it soooo much better and more versatile. Thanks for going through the effort to document the process. I think some ratchet straps at work may suddenly go missing!!! Lol.

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View dustyal's profile


1322 posts in 4718 days

#4 posted 09-08-2012 02:39 PM

I FINALLY have a need for that super long and tough screwdriver my dad left me… Hack saw or Dremel tool might help me to keep from melting the loop. And I was just at Harbor Freight when they had these straps on sale… and they had various lengths and weights. The smallest would do fine, I suspect.

Thanks for taking the time to do the blog… much appreciated. Dang, I think I could also do this to do a different cargo management system in the bed of the truck. I really don’t need the hook as much as the basic loop strap.

Unfortunately, there is no excuse to go out and buy new tools… I have all of these!

-- Al H. - small shop, small projects...

View GrandpaLen's profile


1652 posts in 3516 days

#5 posted 09-08-2012 02:51 PM

Big Al,

I bought a couple of wood working strap clamps at one of the wood working shows a few years back to use in the shop, as I remember they sold for $10 or $12 each.
Last year I was helping my son move and needed a couple tiedown straps and picked them up at HF , 4-pak for $7.99 plus Uncle Sam’s cut, when we finished the move I hung them up and never gave it a thought to morph them into wood working clamps. Now they may get put back into action rather than hanging there collecting saw dust in the automotive section.
Thanks for sharing.

Work Safely and have Fun. – Len

-- Mother Nature should be proud of what you've done with her tree. - Len ...just north of a stone's throw from the oHIo, river that is, in So. Indiana.

View dustyal's profile


1322 posts in 4718 days

#6 posted 09-08-2012 02:58 PM

...hhhmmm … is it necessary to cut off the short end hook at the rivet? Could you leave the short end on the rivet and just grind the rivet head and remove leaving the loop of the short hook intact—for use in other purposes? Or, would it melt with the grinding required? Guess I will find out when I get a strap and try it.

I suspect I have a short clevis pin laying around with my boating stuff… might work instead of a bolt. I love these types of projects.

This would work for a recent chair leg glue up repair I need to do.

-- Al H. - small shop, small projects...

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 4552 days

#7 posted 09-08-2012 03:24 PM

That is a really good idea. I have several of the Bessey strap clamps but the straps are a good bit longer than necessary for my box making needs and I hesitate to cut them because they were not cheap. I have about a dozen of the smaller strap clamps I have accumulated over the past few years and this would be a good usae for them.

I currently use the Vertias picture frame clamps with the threaded 1/4” rods. The work well but I might try the strap clamp conversions to see if they work better.

View robert triplett's profile

robert triplett

1566 posts in 4348 days

#8 posted 09-08-2012 04:14 PM

Great post, I have avoided buying a band clap because of cost and the length was too much. This will work well for me. If i remember it tomorrow!!

-- Robert, so much inspiration here, and now time to work!!!

View Boxguy's profile


2901 posts in 3511 days

#9 posted 09-08-2012 07:08 PM

Replies To First Set of Comments:

Doug, thanks!

Roger, I wish I had know about Harbor Freight’s possible buy. I sort of avoid them for tools, but this product might work well. They do need a rubber handle cover.

Randy, happy five-finger discounting.

Dusty, comment on two postings. There is a fine line between woodworking and tool collecting. I have some times strayed over the line.

The short hook and loop…I have saved them for use on my tractor. I use one of the thread-together links and attach pull-behind implements like a drag for smoothing dirt and my drive way. They work great for that. I cut them away in the blog because it was faster.

Len, you have a knack for finding inexpensive tools. The latest Pony brand clamps are quite expensive and the toy ratchet and wrench don’t work well.

Greg, I have tried the type of clamp you mention, but got really tired of all the adjustments needed to work on a wide variety of sizes of boxes. My experience is that as long as all 8 of your miter joints are cut all the way across the wood the belt clamps give good square results. This system doesn’t work if a joint is a little short and has a flat spot on the point. You also have to be sure your inserted board is not too large…then the insert will hold the joint open. This method is easy and draws the joints together with equal tension. I tend to really tighten them up.

Robert, glad to help with the band clamp…sorry but can’t help with the memory part. Was there a third thing….?

-- Big Al in IN

View NormG's profile


6511 posts in 4247 days

#10 posted 09-08-2012 08:15 PM

Great idea, thanks for sharing

-- Norman - I never never make a mistake, I just change the design.

View Philzoel's profile


303 posts in 3586 days

#11 posted 09-08-2012 10:08 PM

Boxy, rockler makes a band clamp for I think $6 or 8 that look like your final. Are they?

-- Phil Zoeller louisville, KY

View Kookaburra's profile


749 posts in 3467 days

#12 posted 09-08-2012 10:41 PM

Damn, I wish I had seen this a year ago. I have some I got for repair to an antique headboard – $35/each. I have used them only a couple of times but I could not come up with a good alternative at the time. (BTW, the bedroom set, just so you can all drool, is book matched crotch mahogany, inherited from my grandparents)

This looks like a great way to get that benefit for a lot less money – and nice clear instructions as well. Thanks Al.

-- Kay - Just a girl who loves wood.

View Boxguy's profile


2901 posts in 3511 days

#13 posted 09-09-2012 01:02 AM

Replies To Second Round of Comments:

Norm, cute picture. Thanks for the comment. Looks like it is time for you to put up some projects as well.

Phil, I checked Rockler on line and didn’t find anything under $16 to $50. However, look above at Roger’s comments. He spotted something very similar at Harbor Freight. There really is a difference in the quality of some of these Chinese-made tie-downs. Rubber crank handles are a must.

Kay, crotch mahogany is indeed something to drool over. I was given a scrap piece with lots of cracks and checks that I have made into several tops that I plan to make into boxes this winter. It is beautiful stuff. I sure did like those lamp bases you made.

-- Big Al in IN

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 3933 days

#14 posted 09-09-2012 02:05 AM

I too use ratchet straps for band clamps but instead of removing the ratchet pin, I just cut the short strap off and discard it. I then tie the hook end of the long strap to the rivet at the appropriate length. I use the 1” ratchet straps. We need more of these useful shop tips. Thanks for making others aware.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View LittlePaw's profile


1572 posts in 4321 days

#15 posted 09-09-2012 03:26 AM

Ditto on all of the above!

-- LittlePAW - The sweetest sound in my shop, next to Mozart, is what a hand plane makes slicing a ribbon.

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