Modular Bar/Pipe Clamp Square Glue-Up Jig

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Project by ADHDan posted 02-25-2015 03:21 PM 6094 views 11 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I can’t really afford to buy more than a handful of parallel clamps right now (I’ve got two 24” and two 50”) so I was looking for a decent workaround for glue-ups requiring extra parallel clamping action. After a little tinkering I came up with this modular, adjustable, and portable parallel clamping jig made from scrap plywood.

The jig has quite a bit of flexibility. First, each of the clamp holder racks is slotted to allow various clamping widths. Second, I made clamp rack sets for both 3/4” pipe clamps and aluminum bar clamps – since the aluminum clamps are so much lighter and easier to maneuver. Third, I cut three lengths of vertical spacers (roughly 20”, 30”, and 40”) to provide the best possible support for various clamp lengths. Fourth, I cut one extra bar clamp rack and sliced it into individual holders (pic 3) for situations where I just want to elevate one or two clamps off the table without setting up a full rack.

The racks have a little wiggle when assembled but once the clamps and the workpiece are in place it locks pretty close to square (and it’s really easy to fine-tune it with a square right before applying final pressure). And I can store all of the components in a “case” made from a cut-off of 4” dust collector pipe.

I’m always on the lookout for ways to make panel/face frame clamping even easier, so now that I have the Rockler T-Track table I may try to rig up something that lets me quickly square up an assembled rack using T-Track stops. Alternatively, I might drill holes in the bottoms of the rack components (adding a wider sub-base if necessary) spaced such that I can lock the components on my workbench with bench dog pegs so that they self-square.

-- Dan in Minneapolis, woodworking since 11/11.

8 comments so far

View LJackson's profile


295 posts in 2106 days

#1 posted 02-25-2015 04:55 PM

I am interested in this, but I do not understand how it works. I, too do not wish to spend hundreds of dollars on bar clamps. I don’t see how this provides extra clamping action with fewer clamps. It looks like it just holds the clamps in place, so that they do not rock while you are using them.

I have an eight foot workbench I am trying to glue up. I have been going down the path of making my own bar clamps out of 2×4s, but that is a long process.

View ADHDan's profile


800 posts in 2621 days

#2 posted 02-25-2015 05:18 PM

You’re correct – it doesn’t provide extra clamping force, it holds clamps in a squared-up and stable configuration so they don’t shift around while you’re getting things set for glue-up. Basically, it’s a jig to enable you to mimic the stability and ease-of-use of expensive parallel clamps using much cheaper bar and pipe clamps (I use Bessey 3/4” pipe clamps and Harbor Freight aluminum bar clamps).

In your case, this type of jig could be somewhat useful for alignment/stability, and maybe even help you get more pressure with fewer clamps using cauls. If you built the frame to be 8’ long by 2’ deep (or however deep your benchtop is), you could use it to hold, let’s say, six 3/4” pipe clamps square and stable along the 8’ length while you get your boards set up on the clamps. Then, you could put cauls at each clamp jaw to spread out the pressure while you crank down on the pipe clamps.

(I just picked the number six out of the air; I’m sure one of our LJ engineers would be able to actually do the math on how much force you get using various permutations of clamps and cauls.)

Does that make sense?

-- Dan in Minneapolis, woodworking since 11/11.

View LJackson's profile


295 posts in 2106 days

#3 posted 02-25-2015 09:43 PM

Ah, that makes perfect sense. Thanks for the detailed explanation.

View ADHDan's profile


800 posts in 2621 days

#4 posted 02-25-2015 10:28 PM

Great, glad to help out.

If you do make one, I suggest cutting notches for the bar clamps on both boards at the same time, to make sure they are identical. I clamped two pieces of plywood together and cut the notches on the table saw with a zero-clearance miter gauge (router would work too). For the pipe clamp holders, take a piece of plywood twice as big as the height you want your clamp racks to be, mark the center line, and use a drill press to bore 1” holes (for 3/4” pipe) spaced evenly along that center line. Then just rip the board in half down the center line, and you’ve got two identical sets of semicircular notches.

-- Dan in Minneapolis, woodworking since 11/11.

View eldercop's profile


76 posts in 2020 days

#5 posted 02-26-2015 03:10 PM

Cool gluer-upper. Gonna make one. Doesn’t one need clamps going across also, for square?

-- "Experience is what you get the day after you needed it" Mark Twain

View ADHDan's profile


800 posts in 2621 days

#6 posted 02-26-2015 03:21 PM

Yes, but it’s a lot easier to position the perpendicular clamps when your first set of clamps is stable and parallel. I did have the same thought though, and I’m considering building a new set of vertical stretchers that are higher than the horizontal racks and have notches for bar or pipe clamps to rest face-down for full square clamping. Haven’t fully thought through the logistics, though.

-- Dan in Minneapolis, woodworking since 11/11.

View CueballRosendaul's profile


484 posts in 2652 days

#7 posted 03-03-2015 08:02 PM

Yeah, great idea, very similar to mine. I had a thought about doing some alignment bars to have them dead parallel, and I still might add them to my design. I also see a set of those harbor freight bar clamps in my future but I’ll make single stands for them because they’ll be the longest ones available. Nice job

-- Matt CueBall Rosendaul. I don't think I've ever had a cup of coffee that didn't have cat hair or sawdust in it.

View RockyMtnBlue's profile


12 posts in 2395 days

#8 posted 03-05-2015 03:27 PM

Great idea.

-- - Roger

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