Wooden Handscrew Clamp

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Project by danriffle posted 09-11-2008 03:46 PM 30198 views 54 times favorited 19 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’ve made a bunch of these little handscrew clamps. Of course, you can never have too many clamps. I plan on making some larger clamps in the future but these have been working for me so far.

The construction is pretty simple. There’s nothing really tricky about making the clamp—just keeping the pieces consistent and holes lined up. Threading the dowels is done easily with an inexpensive wood tap/die set. Birch dowel rods thread really well—so does maple, oak does not. I used scrap pine for the jaws and handles on these. The soft pine jaws won’t mar the things that you clamp.

The handles were drilled, tapped and then the threaded rod glued in. That worked okay but cutting threads into the end-grain of a piece of pine was a waste of time. In the future I’d just leave the end of the rod unthreaded, drill a matching hole in the handle and glue it. The handles were shaped by making taper cuts of each face on the bandsaw freehand. Then they were shaped with a drawknife. I have turned complete handle and rod pieces, but for me it was a lot more work for something that I dropped and broke a few months later. (Half inch threaded dowel is somewhat fragile and will break if dropped, but it has a remarkable amount of clamping power. I’ve only dropped one…)

Makes a nice Christmas present for the other woodworkers in your life, but my wife wasn’t impressed ;)

UPDATE: here are some details for those wanting to make their own clamps.

1. You’re going to need to be able to thread the clamps. These were made with a 1/2” threader. The kits are available from a lot of distributors and they all look like the same thing to me. I like Highland Woodworking’s kit because it comes with 2 taps; standard & bottoming. (Sorry, no pic) When you get your kit, read the instructions (they are simple). Then play with it on some scrap—drill some holes & tap them. Get some dowel rods & thread them.

2. Cut the jaws. These clamps use a 1 1/2” x 1 1/2” x 8” pine jaw (perfect for using up 2×4 scraps). Obviously cut them in pairs. The taper that I put on the jaws starts 4” back from the front and tapers to 3/4”. I cut it on the bandsaw, but any saw will work—this is certainly not a critical cut. The inner jaw (non-tapered side) needs to be nice & flat so they fit together as nicely as a glue joint. You may want to ease the edges so it’s not sharp and could potentially ding a piece that you’re clamping.

3. Drill the jaws. This is the only tricky thing and even this is fairly forgiving (my first pair we’re exactly precise, but they still work okay, the jaw just don’t line up pretty when it’s closed).
Clamp disassembled
Naturally, you want the holes perfectly vertical, so a drill press is almost essential, but a good drill guide might work if you don’t have a press (or if you’re a chairmaker, you may be that good with a brace & bit). If you’ve got a good eye, you’ll notice in the picture that the holes in the jaws are not identical. For the jaw on the left, the upper hole is a full 1/2” (even slightly oversized) the lower hole is 3/8” and only bored 1/2”-3/4” deep and neither hole is tapped (that is, threaded). For the jaw on the left, both are bored at 3/8” all the way through and then tapped. The holes should be placed on center about 1” & 3 3/4” up from the butt (non-tapered) end of the jaws.

4. Make the handles and rods. Starting with the handles, again I used 1 1/2” x 1 1/2” scrap pine about 4” long. Bore a 1/2” hole centered on one end about 1 1/2” to 2” deep. After drilling, I tapered the handles on the bandsaw and whittled them to a shape I liked with a drawknife. You could also turn them on the lathe or even whittle them with a pin knife. Next cut your rods to length. You want about 6” of thread plus unthreaded blank to go into the handle—so, 7 1/2” to 8” rods. NOTE ON THREADING: dowel rods can vary tremendously in diameter. To save some frustration, bore a 1/2” hole through a piece of scrap. If you’re dowel rod won’t slide easily though that hole, you need to sand it until it does (or take the scrap with you when you go to buy your dowels and only pick ones that are the right size). Of course you can always turn your own rod on the lathe… Make sure to leave that bit of unthreaded stock at the end of the rods—glue that into the handles and let it cure. If you’re nervous about it coming loose, drill a tiny hole in the handle and tap a brad through the handle and rod—personally, I wouldn’t sweat it. One rod needs to have a different end—the pusher rod. It needs to have a tip that will fit loosely into the 3/8” stopped hole in the jaw. So, whittle the end of one of your rods to size.
Rod Ends

5. You’re ready for assembly. Take the jaw with the threaded holes and insert the pusher rod into the lower hole and run it almost all the way up to the handle.
Pusher Handle Inserted

Then insert the other rod through the upper (loose) hole of the other jaw.
Loose Rod Inserted

Then line up the pusher with stopped hole in the opposite jaw and start threading the upper rod into the threaded jaw. After a dozen or so turns the assembly should be snug enough that you can “bicycle” the handles to close and open the jaws. VIOLA—a clamp!
Clamp Assembled

Additional Note on Threading: a little parafin wax on the threads can be a good thing but I don’t apply any finish to the clamps at all. Don’t even wax the threads until you assemble the clamp and make sure it’ll turn smoothly. If it’s hard to turn and screams like a banshee, you may need to: 1.) sand the threaded rods a bit more, 2.) re-tap the threaded holes in the jaw, 3.) adjust the cutter forward in the threading box and run it back over your rods.

Happy Clamping!

19 comments so far

View davidtheboxmaker's profile


373 posts in 4576 days

#1 posted 09-11-2008 03:57 PM

I really like the look of these – must give it a try some time.

View SteveKorz's profile


2140 posts in 4485 days

#2 posted 09-11-2008 04:05 PM

These are nice… I’d like to own a half dozen or so, but they are so expensive to buy. Maybe I’ll just add it to my project list…

-- As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17) †

View sIKE's profile


1271 posts in 4525 days

#3 posted 09-11-2008 04:42 PM

Very Nice, I like the use of inexpensive materials…...

-- //FC - Round Rock, TX - "Experience is what you get just after you need it"

View Pathpounder's profile


98 posts in 4664 days

#4 posted 09-11-2008 05:08 PM

Never crossed my mind to make some screw clamps. I will have to add this to my list too.

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 4515 days

#5 posted 09-11-2008 05:36 PM

THIS is an excellent scrap wood project. I always have those pieces of 8/4 that I just won’t throw out, until I fall over them. Thanks for the post.

View northwoodsman's profile


261 posts in 4517 days

#6 posted 09-11-2008 06:02 PM


Rockler has 10” screw clamps on sale for $4.99. I bought 10 of them almost a year ago and use them every day. They work just as good as Jorgenson. They have been on sale for nearly a year. I also bought 3 sets of the Jet Parellel clamps (2-24”, 2-40”, 4 blocks and 4 dogs) for $109 ea. (at the Mesquite, TX store). These clamps are amazing. They are actually better than Bessey.

-- NorthWoodsMan

View brianinpa's profile


1812 posts in 4494 days

#7 posted 09-12-2008 02:29 AM

I have been considering this type of a project for quite a while. The thing keeping me from making them was the threaded rod: I could never find the way to do it that I liked, but these are very nice. I have the thread cutter, now all I need it the die. Thanks for the post an pointing me in a different direction.

-- Brian, Lebanon PA, If you aren’t having fun doing it, find something else to do.

View Ben Griffith's profile

Ben Griffith

50 posts in 4450 days

#8 posted 09-12-2008 05:03 PM

These look great, and they got me looking for dowel threading kits. FYI, Rockler appears to only have a 3/4” kit on their site. has several sizes, including 1/2” for $35. That includes the die, a thru-tap, and a round bottom tap. No affiliation, in fact I don’t think I’ve ever bought anything from them.
A variation would be to have the screws thread into a dowel that goes through the jaws, like the commercial clamps do. That would reduce any tendency they might have to bind, and the threads through the dowel would probably be stronger than threads in the pine jaws.

Edit: I just read the updates and I see that the clamps work a little differently than I had assumed, so my variation doesn’t really apply.

View danriffle's profile


73 posts in 4344 days

#9 posted 09-12-2008 05:18 PM


That’s a neat idea and it would be fun to make some clamps with a threaded insert like you describe, but I think there’s one advantage to this “old fashioned” clamp. The jaws stay nearly parallel unlike a Jorgensen-style that will move in a parallelogram shape. In many cases that can be a real annoyance (in other cases it’s an advantage to be able to offset the jaws, which is why I also have Jorgensens). Trust me, the rods would snap before the threads in the jaws would give way.

Also, I wouldn’t hesitate to use a 3/4” threaded rod. Just step up all the other dimensions accordingly—probably a 10-12” long jaw 2” thick, 2”- 2 1/2” wide. Increase the length of the threaded rods to 8” or 9” instead of 6”. The thicker rod should be a little less fragile (Yes, I plan on getting a 3/4” threading kit in the future).


View kenn's profile


813 posts in 4490 days

#10 posted 09-14-2008 12:09 AM

Thanks for sharing this profect. I’ve bought the tap and die set and have had this project on my list of things to get done in the shop. Your instructions were very helpful and I hope to have some made soon.

-- Every cloud has a silver lining

View waraji's profile


1 post in 4156 days

#11 posted 02-17-2009 11:39 AM

Hi Dan, I just came over from the Yahoo 10er group. I am familiar with Jorgenson clamps, but I never knew how these old wooden clamps worked till reading this. Now I see that these are worth making!

John ~S.F. Bay area

View Amcarver's profile


48 posts in 3782 days

#12 posted 02-27-2010 12:18 AM

Great article. I have both modern day hand screws and antique hand screws like the ones you are describing. The antique screws work so much better. Much more clamping pressure but they are old and I am afraid of breaking them. I am going to try this out. Thank you.

-- E.R. Bunn,

View duh Padma's profile

duh Padma

1 post in 3723 days

#13 posted 04-26-2010 04:08 PM

Took it into me head to make 36 of these twisterupper hold it together type clamps.


-- What was the thought in your head when the chisel slipet?

View davidm85's profile


10 posts in 3618 days

#14 posted 08-10-2010 12:08 AM

thanks for showing this. ive been wanting to make some of these

View danriffle's profile


73 posts in 4344 days

#15 posted 08-10-2010 01:39 AM

You’re welcome!

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