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Poorboy Parallel Clamps…questions from a Woodworker

Woodworker Parallel clamps made in the Wood Shop

Woodworking Parallel clamps made in the Wood Shop

Perhaps you watched the recent woodworking video How to make poorboy Parallel Clamps.

Here are a few questions from one viewer that got me thinking.
A quick question …The poorboy parallel clamps obviously works well for panel glue ups, but what are limitations you could see. For instance:

* Could you use this with deeper pads for a benchtop glue up? or would the clamping force not be up to that task?
* Would longer pads apply more pressure across whole glue up or would more clamps be better?


These are very interesting questions.
1.) Benchtop glue-up. While I have not experienced a benchtop glue-up using the poorboy adjustable parallel clamps, I sense that it could be done if the wood clamps were proportionate to the pieces being clamped. I believe the system itself would work and that the clamping force would be adequate for a good glue-up. (However, for larger glue-ups I may consider using steel screws or perhaps lag screws instead of drywall screws where the pillow blocks attach to the main beam.)

Deeper pads? I believe the pads could be a bit deeper. However, consider putting the poorboy clamps on both the top and the bottom of the glue-up. This could give good even pressure all the way around and on the top and bottom of the pieces being glued. Remember, these woodworking clamps are cost effective so it doesn’t hurt for woodworkers to add more clamps.

2.) Longer pads or more clamps?…My instincts tell me more clamps. Here are my thoughts why. A clamp has so much pressure when fully tightened. A longer pad will not increase this pressure, but it will dispurse it in a wider area. More clamps mean more of pressure that can be equally distributed. (disclaimer…woodworker here, not a rocket scientist) ;)

Limitations? Keep an open imagination as there are many beneficial uses for the poorboy clamp.

Woodworking parallel clamp made by a woodworker

Poorboy parallel clamp tightened for a glue-up

A few thoughts…

Miguel, a viewer to the blog mentioned that he now has 3 pairs of the poorboy clamps. He brought up a good point when he explained that he likes the clamps because they are light in weight. This makes the clamps easier to handle than a heavier parallel or pipe clamp. If you were clamping all day long which type clamp would you prefer?

A woodworker may consider having pairs of these parallel clamps that vary in length. However, a longer length clamp can simply be shortened by moving the second pillow block or adding a third pillow block to create the length needed at the time.

Certainly, there are instance where it is advantageous the use store bought parallel clamps or pipe clamps before using the poorboy parallel clamps. However, there are numerous occasions where the poorboy parallel clamps would be my first choice. Why?
On the job site and in the workshop.
1.) On the job site, rarely does a finish carpenter have access to all the parallel clamps needed for the job at hand. However, a carpenter does have access to wood and screws necessary to build the poorboy clamps. There is very little cost in materials and in labor to make the size of clamps needed for the wood project.

2.) The poorboy clamps are very light in weight and easy to position. At this point it is simply a matter of tapping the pillow block to secure the fit.

3.) The poorboy clamps can be made to virtually any length that is required. Store bought parallel clamps are limited by their length. Pipe clamps and bar clamps can be long, but they can also heavy to handle and can also mar the surface of the material being glued.

Let me know how the poorboy parallel clamps work for you.

Recommended Videos:

Let’s Build a Drill Press Table
Let’s Build a Dedicated Dado Sled for the Table Saw
Let’s Build a Drill Press Table

The Apprentice and The Journeyman now has woodworking Plans and Books available for purchase.

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37…How to make poorboy Parallel Clamps

Learn how to make Parallel Clamps


“Beauty is truth, truth beauty. That is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
John Keats…English Romantic poet (1795-1821)

The Need for Parallel Clamps

We have all heard that a woodworker can never have too many clamps. However, what do you do when you need parallel clamps for gluing up lots of panels of Koa wood, you are on an island, and you don’t have any clamps available? You simply have to be creative and use the materials available to you make your own parallel clamps. This was the case for me twenty years ago while working as a finish carpenter at a 5-star resort on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

At that time there were no hardware stores available that one could easily purchase parallel clamps or woodworking supplies. All of our materials and equipment were shipped in a cargo container from Southern California and would take weeks to receive. Waiting for any parallel clamps to arrive was out of the question. However, a fellow finish carpenter and I came up with a solution that worked like a charm. In this post I’ll share it with you.

Cost Effective Parallel Clamps

The poorboy parallel clamps are easily made from scrap material and are adjustable for varying widths of material to be glued. All you need for a clamp is a beam, two pillow blocks, and two drywall screws. Drill pilot holes and then drive the screws through the beams and into the pillow blocks. Make as many wood parallel clamps as necessary to get even clamping pressure. (Also…make sure to place a piece of plastic or wax paper between the parallel clamps beam and the glue seam to avoid gluing the clamp.)

The distance between the pillow blocks should be the width of the glue-up plus about 1/4″. Place the parallel clamps over the wood to be glued and simply tap the pillow blocks to create an evenly distributed pressure along the glue joint. The tightened woodworking parallel clamps will produce a nice, tight joint. It doesn’t get any easier than this.

Recommended Video… Woodworking Tip…The Power of the Shim

The Apprentice and The Journeyman now has woodworking Plans and Books available for purchase.

The Apprentice and The Journeyman University


Super Holiday Deals in the A&J Tool Store

Here are some woodworking tools from the A & J Tool Store that you may find useful in your shop whether you are an apprentice or a journeyman. Most of these tools are already in my woodworking shop and many of you have seen them used in my woodworking videos and in the blog postings. The Forrest Woodworker II saw blade is a standard for the table saw. Actually, the shop has three of these saw blades. The reason that there are three blades is because this assures that the table saw will always have a fresh, sharp blade. Generally, two of the table saw blades are sent for sharpening at a time and this allows for a fresh saw blade to be available for cutting the current wood project.

The Wixey digital angle gauge is used for assuring saw blade setups when cutting on the table saw, miter saw, and even the band saw. This set up tool allows the woodworker to confidently make cuts at the intended angle. It simply removes any guess work. See how the Wixey digital angle gauge is employed in the following woodworking videos and articles.

The Wixey 8" digital protractor is an invaluable tool you have seen used during the segmented woodturning articles and videos like when the ring segments are being cut. The digital protractor takes the guess work out of the equation and replaces it with accuracy.

The Milwaukee 18 volt compact drill and impact driver set is used often in the shop. It is great to have the drill and the separate impact driver on hand and ready for any woodworking projects. It comes with 2 long lasting batteries and a charger.

The dial caliper is a tool that is used all the time in the shop. A woodworker continually strives to improve his skills and maintain accuracy. This affordable tool allows the craftsman to be dead on accurate. Using a digital or dial caliper will take your woodworking projects and skills to a higher level. We want to always strive to improve our skills as well as our accuracy. This precious tool truly makes a difference. Once a woodworker starts using a good digital or dial caliper he won't go back to his previous methods of measuring.

The Porter Cable 895 PK 12 amp 2-1/4 HP Fixed and Plunge Base Router is a great combination to have in the shop. The fixed base is continually used in the router table and it is easy enough to set up the router for a plunge base operation when necessary.

A few of these tools are not in the shop (yet). The tools not in the shop are the Bosch 12'' dual bevel slide miter saw, the Robert Sorby lathe gouges, and the Jet variable speed mini lathe. The miter saw is included on this list because of my preference to have this miter saw over the one currently in the shop. A few nice features included with this saw are the cutting capacity it offers and the limited rear travel of the saw guide rails. The list also includes the named brand Robert Sorby lathe gouges because they would be a welcome upgrade. The Jet mini lathe is also included because of its great reputation and also because this would be a terrific lathe for either the apprentice or the journeyman wood turner. This lathe would be great for turning smaller objects such as pens. The mini lathe would also work well for someone who wants to turn, but it limited in shop space. Many woodturners today have a mini lathe as well as their full size lathe.

Also added to this list is the Bosch Colt Router with the edge guide. This is a very handy sized router to have in the shop and is well known for its performance.

The Apprentice and The Journeyman University

James Krenov…Legendary Woodworker 1920-2009

James Krenov...Legendary Woodworker 1920-2009

James Krenov

James Krenov passed away September 9, 2009 as many of you know. However, all you have to do is to look at his furniture designs or read one of his books to be inspired by the energy of this legendary woodworker and author from Fort Bragg, California. James, founder and teacher of the College of the Redwoods and builder of wonderful, custom furniture with a unique style unto its own built wooden hand planes in his later years.  Even the thought of James Krenov in woodworking shop at his workbench he seems to resonate a certain passion about woodworking. His passion was indeed a personal excitement. It almost seems as if his enthusiasm for his wood craft has a life of its own and yet is quite infectious when this renowned cabinetmaker would speak. Perhaps this gives insight into the custom woodworking of this man and also to his writings of the woodcraft. When one talks of The Fine Art of Cabinetmaking it is quite understandable that James wrote the book.

James Krenov, woodworker, cabinetmaker, teacher and author, was born on October 31, 1920. He died on September 9, 2009, at the age of 88.

The Apprentice and The Journeyman University

Precision Woodworking Tools…Dial and Digital Calipers

When we as woodworkers see a fine piece of custom furniture we tend to look at it very closely to observe the design and the choice of woods being used. We tend to want to touch the piece to get a feel for it and we eventually will inspect the craftsmanship of the joinery. Perhaps this is only natural due to the inherent nature of the woodworker to continually work to improve his knowledge and skill level. A piece of fine woodworking seems to set a standard. The piece could very well represent a personal best of the craftsman and be representative of all the training and experience collected during the individual’s career. Works of certain calibers are sometimes recognized as they find their way into museums and art galleries due to a specific standard that they have set.

Along these lines we somehow see quality works and think in terms of excellence, precision, and accuracy as well as the craftsman’s level of skill. So, my question is “How can we improve the quality of our work?”

Perhaps there are many areas that can be addressed as the question is rather broad, however we as craftsman are driven to continually improve in our chosen craft. After all, one of the reasons we got involved in the craft of woodworking was because we were driven or inspired to take on a challenge. Maybe when we started it it was just a small step to get us involved, but then we repeatedly commenced taking on greater challenges to test ourselves.

As we move forward in our craft we select various woodworking tools for the type of work we want to take on and it is only natural that we look for the best tool for the best price. Sometimes our choice of tool is simply limited by what we can afford. However, once again we are always looking for quality and this time we are looking for quality in our shop tools because this can relate directly to making the most of our skills. Now, maybe you will agree with me that great woodworking tools in the hands of an unskilled woodworker will not make much of a difference. However, a poor quality tool in the hands of a skilled woodworker can make all the difference in the world. So, what happens when you give a skilled woodworker a great tool?

When we measure it is typical to use a tape measure or a carpenters’ rule. In some instances we use a story stick and sometimes we are able to make a tick mark directly to the material we are going to cut and fit. Since we are always looking to achieve precision in our work perhaps we need to take a look at the measuring tools we are using. Are these the best tools for the job when it really comes time for precision and dead on accuracy?

Here is one simple tool that we can reach for to improve our accuracy. Enter calipers. According to Starret Tools, the digital and dial calipers came on the scene in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Originally, these calipers were used by machinists in metal working shops because of the high need for accuracy when tooling metal parts.

Well, somewhere along the line a woodworker found out about the dial and digital calipers and began using this measuring tool for his wood projects. To his delight his joinery improved immensely as well as the overall quality of his woodworking projects. His mortise and tenons now fit accurately and snugly just like in the woodworking magazines. Moreover, the shelves of the bookcase he built fit right into the dadoes without any play. All of a sudden his craftsmanship was taken to another level in his woodworking shop just because of using this more accurate measuring device. His confidence and pride of craftsmanship grew as well all because of using calipers in his work. For him there was now a new sense of confidence and new found freedom all because of using his new precision woodworking tool.

Our woodworker who continually wanted to improve came to the realization that the quality of his work was being compromised by his choice of tools. So for him the caliper now became one of his “tools of choice.”

The Apprentice and The Journeyman University

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