Sticks & string & wedges - it's a clamp!

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Project by Mike in Wisconsin posted 07-10-2013 02:55 AM 6247 views 20 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Here’s a fun trick I picked up from a book I had around. They called it a luthier’s clamp, but it’s handy even if you’re not making guitars. You can use this for any edge-gluing job, but its biggest advantage is when gluing up thin pieces.

You’ll need a number of sticks, the same number of wedges, and a length of rope. Sorry to be so vague, but you can really use pretty much anything. My sticks are some chunks of furring strips from the scrap bin. The wedges are roughly a foot long, cut at a 5 degree angle. I used about 15 or 20 feet of 1/4” nylon rope for this job, but that will vary a lot depending on the size of the pieces you’re using.

I also waxed the surfaces of the sticks and wedges – it keeps glue from sticking to them and makes the wedges easier to put in place.

Spread the glue and press the pieces together. Lay the sticks underneath the glued pieces, perpendicular to the glue line. Tie one end of the rope to the end of one of the sticks on the outside. Now thread the rope in a figure-eight pattern, over the glued pieces and under the stick underneath.

You should do this before you put the wedges in - sorry, forgot to take a picture of that!

Go around three or four times, then move the rope over to the next stick. You’ll want to keep the rope relatively tight, but a bit of slack is okay. When you get them all done, tie off the free end of the rope.

The wedges go underneath the rope but on top of the glued pieces. By pushing in the wedge, you draw the rope tight. The rope pushes in the edges of the glued pieces and also pulls the wedge & sticks against them, keeping them in alignment.

Here’s another closeup of the wedge position.

You can see I got glue squeeze out, so the clamps are doing their thing.

Here’s the final product – just a rough storage box, one of a batch of them for an organization project. The pine I used is a little under half an inch thick.

This is a pretty nice way to edge glue some wider boards. It’s especially handy when you’re using thin stock that would be hard to keep from bowing in a bar clamp. It’s also handy if you just don’t have enough clamps around. You could adapt this to wider glue-ups by using a second set of sticks on top of the others, in between the wedge and the glued pieces. You want something that will go across all the boards to keep them flat.

With a little ingenuity, you could probably adapt the basic idea of wrapping a rope around and pushing in wedges to some other clamping jobs.

11 comments so far

View watermark's profile


483 posts in 2358 days

#1 posted 07-10-2013 04:59 AM

Cool trick thanks for sharing

-- "He who has no dog, hunts with a cat" Portuguese proverb

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18595 posts in 4091 days

#2 posted 07-10-2013 06:48 AM

I like it. Should hold flat as well ;-)

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View GerardoArg1's profile


991 posts in 2409 days

#3 posted 07-10-2013 01:44 PM

Good idea. Look easy.

-- Disfruta tu trabajo (enjoy your work) (Bandera, Argentina)

View drbyte's profile


830 posts in 4478 days

#4 posted 07-10-2013 01:49 PM

Great clamping tip. Could add another set of boards and another wedge (facing opposite direction) on other side of flat strip to do two panel glue-ups at once!

-- Dennis, WV

View Ampeater's profile


441 posts in 4163 days

#5 posted 07-10-2013 01:54 PM

Great Idea. I bet it would work great on cutting boards too. It is difficult to keep the glued up pieces from slipping. If necessary, there is still room to add a few clamps.

-- "A goal without a plan is a wish."

View JR_Dog's profile


526 posts in 2735 days

#6 posted 07-10-2013 02:37 PM

Thanks for sharing your idea and great write up and pictures

View Michael Wilson's profile

Michael Wilson

588 posts in 2906 days

#7 posted 07-10-2013 02:44 PM

I love the idea. It seems to me like you’d be racing against glue set time when tying that all together.

View steliart's profile


2894 posts in 3104 days

#8 posted 07-10-2013 07:00 PM

Don’t know who will ever use this trick but you never know, great tip, thanks

-- Stelios L.A. Stavrinides: - I am not so rich to buy cheap tools, but... necessity is the mother of inventions !!!

View Sergio's profile


470 posts in 3108 days

#9 posted 07-10-2013 10:39 PM

I think it is great to join boards, stretches and maintain them flat. Thanks

-- - Greetings from Brazil - --

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18595 posts in 4091 days

#10 posted 07-11-2013 01:43 AM

I would use it on a wide glue up rather than buy clamps for a one shot project.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Mike in Wisconsin's profile

Mike in Wisconsin

10 posts in 2326 days

#11 posted 07-11-2013 02:47 AM

It seems to me like you’d be racing against glue set time when tying that all together.

You definitely want to do a trial run before you add the glue. I found it goes faster if you put something underneath to raise the whole thing off the work surface and leave the stick ends free – you can throw a loop around them very quickly then. I wouldn’t use it for a six-foot long tabletop, though.

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