Toolmakers clamps, unlike many workshop items, have very little room for deviating
from their required mode of use. For example, you can run your lathe, too fast or
too slow, with the cutting tool well below centre or even above centre at large diameters
and still produce reasonable results.
However, only a very small deviation from the perfect setting for a toolmakers clamp
and you will have an inadequate clamping action and, depending on the task in hand,
a potentially dangerous one. Used correctly though, their clamping action will be
the equal of, and often superior to, most other clamps. This depending of course
on them being used only for applications that they are suitable for.
Before discussing their use let us consider what is available. Toolmakers clamps
come in a range of sizes though in terms of design there is very little difference,
though a comment about that later.
When I first became more involved in metalworking, some 20 years ago, I decided that
I would like to equip the workshop with a generous range of sizes but found that
the suppliers to the home workshop at the time only listed the smaller sizes. Even
those supplying industry stopped at 100mm and were very expensive. Range though,
rather more than price, dictated that if I wanted sizes from 50mm to 150mm then making
them myself was the only option.
This situation though has now been some what eliminated with larger and smaller sizes
much more readily available and at more acceptable prices though 100mm would still
seem the maximum size easily available, Therefore, if, like me, you want to equip
yourself with two of each size from 50mm to 150mm then it will still be quite pricey
and you may like to go down the route I took and make your own.
If you make all five sizes whilst you are set up for the task then it should not
be a too time consuming project. Having equipped the workshop with all the sizes
you will soon realise the benefit of this, even the very small sizes.
One likely difference between commercial and shop made clamps will be the fact that
the commercial ones will be hardened but having used my mild steel clamps, Photograph
1, extensively over the twenty plus years I feel that they would be adequate in all
but the most demanding workshop environment.