Shop made toggle clamps

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Project by stefang posted 05-09-2009 04:13 PM 60152 views 116 times favorited 46 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is my first posted project, I hope you like it!

I couldn’t find commercially available toggle clamps here in Norway, and I didn’t want to order them from the States because with postage and customs duty the cost would be at least doubled. The solution was to make my own. I wanted to share this with the LJ members, who might appreciate saving some money on a very useful shop item, especially folks with a limited hobby budget. These clamps are almost free, being made from plywood scraps, cheap threaded rod and nails. They are also very easy and quick to make. They are not very pretty, but are very effective, and I haven’t worn any out after using them for about four years.

The first picture shows two sizes . They can be scaled to any size by enlarging or reducing the patterns in a copying machine . The next picture shows the clamps in a locked position. The third picture shows them attached to a stave cutting jig, and the last one is composed of the patterns for both sizes. Be aware that the sides and the connectors (smallest part) will require two pieces each.

There are basically 6 plywood parts in various thicknesses in each clamp, plus a bottom (optional) which I only use on the larger clamps. In addition, there 4 axles which I cut to appropriate lengths from 1/8” high tensile strength nails with my Dremel cutting disk. A length of threaded rod with an epoxied foot on the end, a nut under the clamp arm and wing nut on top provides adjustability for the foot height. The reach of the clamp is regulated by inserting the the rod through one of two holes drilled vertically through the clamp arm, one towards the end and the other closer towards the rear. The approximate thicknesses for the plywood parts are noted on the patterns below. Please note that it is important that the highest hole on the clamp side points towards the clamp foot end (front).

To make the clamps, I just trace the patterns onto plywood in the proper thickness including the location of the axle holes and cut the parts out with the bandsaw or scrollsaw and drill the axle holes. I cut a lot of parts at the same time and then assemble them when needed. The patterns (as shown above) cover two different sizes. I made them out of thin hardboard The idea is to just print them out, re-size them in a copying machine if necessary and then pasted onto a thin piece of hardboard for cutting and drilling to be used as templates for tracing. Save them for future use!

The re-sizing might not it be necessary, but I’m still not sure how the uploads work with printing (I’m a computer challenged person). Regardless of the size, the scaling will be correct and the clamps will work. The approximate thickness is marked on each pattern piece. Please disregard the large hole in the center of the handle on the large clamp as it has no function.

I think the pictures pretty well describe how they go together, but you can contact me if you find anything unclear in my description of the process or sizing. After assembly it’s a good idea to cover the axle holes with epoxy or a thin piece of wood to prevent them working their way out with repeated use. I also glue a piece of sandpaper to the bottom of the foot to prevent slippage. Feel free to make any changes or improvements you want. Good luck!

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

46 comments so far

View Dusty56's profile


11863 posts in 4742 days

#1 posted 05-09-2009 04:46 PM

Wow , nice projects and so useful too ! Thank you

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View TheCaver's profile


288 posts in 4893 days

#2 posted 05-09-2009 04:48 PM

Very clever, however I would use extreme caution with something like this. Toggle clamps are generally used when it would be unsafe (or inconvenient) to hold a part while being cut/shaped. If a wooden clamp like this were to break during that action, disaster could result…..

Take care….

-- Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. -Carl Sagan

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4388 days

#3 posted 05-09-2009 04:57 PM

Like you Caver, I am very aware of safety, but these clamps are very strong and made out of very good materials. They hold the work perfectly. I have been using mine for about 4 years now, and believe me, they are safe and work extremely well. But it is important to make these from plywood and high tensile strength nails. And of course to have an appropriate length on the threaded rod to ensure good clamping pressure. Thanks for your comments, safety is the most important thing in the workshop!

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View lew's profile


13332 posts in 4809 days

#4 posted 05-09-2009 05:12 PM

Very Cool!!!

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Chris 's profile


1880 posts in 5045 days

#5 posted 05-09-2009 05:18 PM

Mike…. These are very cool…..

-- "Everything that is great and inspiring is created by the individual who labors in freedom" -- Albert Einstein

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5272 days

#6 posted 05-09-2009 05:52 PM

Very clever indeed!

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View a1Jim's profile


118161 posts in 4631 days

#7 posted 05-09-2009 05:55 PM

View Miket's profile


308 posts in 4826 days

#8 posted 05-09-2009 06:27 PM

Those are pretty cool and with your patterns you could make them all day long.

-- It's better to have people think you're stupid rather than open your mouth and remove all doubt.

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4388 days

#9 posted 05-09-2009 06:35 PM

Yes Miket, but life would get pretty boring and I am too old to waste the rest of my life making the same thing over and over!

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4388 days

#10 posted 05-09-2009 06:47 PM

Just another comment in reply to TheCaver’s safety concerns, which I respect. Anyone skeptical about the strength and durability of these clamps can easily make one and subject it to whatever tests they deem appropriate before they use it in order to feel comfortable. Maybe one of the members can devise a test that can satisfy everyone? I don’t mean to be defensive, but I do want a lot of people to get the benefits derived from this little gadget, not the least as relates to the shop safety aspects.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View tmiller's profile


103 posts in 4367 days

#11 posted 05-09-2009 06:52 PM

Very cool.

I love the inventive/design side of project making.

Honestly, how many times did you have to build then to get them to function perfectly?


View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4388 days

#12 posted 05-09-2009 07:59 PM

Actually Tmiller, it didn’t take very long. The whole process took place in one day. After working out the main idea it was just cutting here and there until it worked properly. This design was 10% ingenuity and 90% necessity. I had seen many pictures of the commercial ones in the woodworking magazines and I just had to have something similiar. I love it here in Norway, but it’s a very small market for hobby woodworkers, and you would not believe how much I envy my countrymen in the U.S. the access they have to just about everything a woodworker can dream about. Having said that there are many clever woodworkers in this country who are probably a lot smarter than I am about getting what they need.

Thank you and all the others for your kind comments.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Hacksaw's profile


185 posts in 4430 days

#13 posted 05-09-2009 09:06 PM

It seems here in the states we take things for granted…When I first saw your project I thought why? just go buy em they aren’t that much money.Then I read the writeup and it makes perfect sense if you can’t source it locally sometimes you just HAVE to make it.I applaud your ingenuity and drive! Great Project! Is the import tax paid on things sent from one individual to another?Perhaps a fellow LJ would be willing to pick up and mail (you pay them for the items and postage of course) things of this nature in the future.Just a thought.

-- Nothing's just gets expensive

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4388 days

#14 posted 05-09-2009 10:08 PM

Yes hacksaw, gifts from one individual to another are duty free providing the package is marked as a gift, so if anybody out there wants to send me a low angle Veritas jack plane from Lee Valley please feel free to do so! Ha ha.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View PCorl's profile


65 posts in 4433 days

#15 posted 05-09-2009 10:17 PM

WOW!!! Great idea. I will be making some of these. Fantastic design.

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