For one pair of handscrews, you will need a few hardwood scraps, four 3/8"-16 T-nuts, four 3/8" fender washers and a 36" long 3/8"-16 threaded rod. I used pallet wood, which happened to be poplar, as well as maple cutoffs from my scrap bin.

Milling the Parts

Before heading to the planer with my pallet wood, I used my random orbital sander with a coarse 80-grit sanding disk to remove any bits of dirt and stone that could damage the sharp edge of my planer knives. Because the poplar was a bit bowed, I cut it in half to minimize waste. I ended up with 1-1/4’’thick pieces.

After a few passes on the jointer to straighten the long edges, I used the table saw to rip the pieces to the maximum width I could use (1-3/4’’).

I used the miter saw to cut the four required pieces for the 1’ long jaws. I chose to make them 1’ so that each handscrew would have a good 7’’ deep throat capacity.

I clipped off the end of the four jaws at 20° using my shop-made miter saw acute angle cutting jig. I believe this is the safest and fastest way to cut acute angles.

Shown are the four milled jaws and the remaining required parts and hardware, including two 1-1/2" x 5’’ rectangle hardwood scraps to machine two oval knobs, two ±2-1/2’’ square hardwood scraps to machine two disk knobs. The threaded rod is cut into four identical 9’’ long pieces to provide 5’’ openings for the handscrews.

Stack the two rectangular hardwood scraps together using double-sided tape and use the bandsaw to cut an elegant oval shape. A disk sander does a great job of refining and smoothing the perimeter.

Left: Knob and discs completed. Right: Marking position of holes to be drilled.

Mill the two disk knobs at the bandsaw using a circle-cutting jig or at the drill press using a hole saw or an adjustable circle-cutting jig. Using either method, you will end up with a perfect center point. At this point, drill 3/8’’ through holes for the threaded rods. Use a bench chisel to separate the two oval knobs from the double-sided tape and cut the threaded rod into four identical 9’’long rods.

Align the four jaws on your work surface. Use a square to draw one line 1’’ from the square ends and a second line 5’’ from the square ends. Find the center of each jaw and punch center holes.

Left: Checking fit of rods in holes. Right: Using epoxy to secure threaded rods to the jaws.

After drilling the eight required 3/8’’ through holes, insert the rods to check the fit. You need it to be snug. Don’t worry if the jaws are not perfectly aligned, as shown, since the holes in one jaw will be enlarged later. To optimize the alignment, use a fence on your drill table while drilling the holes. (This is what I should have done!)

Here is the critical part. Use masking tape to temporarily cap the holes on the exterior side of two jaws, as shown. Mix some quick-set epoxy and smear it evenly on the inside surfaces. When done, thread the rods into their respective holes and gently slip the second set of jaws onto the rods. This will guarantee that the rods will be perfectly aligned with all holes. Let dry overnight. To be on the safe side, the next day drill a small hole through each rod from one side of the jaw and pin it with a 1-1/4’’ finishing nail.

Left: Counterboring the holes in the knobs. Right: Counterboring for the T-nuts.

At the drill press, use a Forstner bit (or a spade bit) to drill a 1’’ counterbore deep enough to sink the head of a T-nut into one side of each knob. Since you don’t have a center point, I suggest you drill a 1’’ hole in a thin scrap (shown behind), secure it with double-sided tape and use it as a guide to center the Forstner bit on your workpieces.

Drill another counterbore the size of the bodies of the T-nuts.

Left: Marking the position of the T-nut spikes. Right: Installing the T-nuts.

Since you are dealing with hardwood, make punch holes using the T-nuts and head to the drill press to drill shallow 1/8’’ pilot holes.

Using a hammer on a socket is a great way to properly bottom out the T-nuts in their final locations.

Sanding the knob and discs smooth.

A router with a 1/8’’ round over bit creates nice edges on the knobs. A quick sanding removes any burn marks, and you’ll end up with very comfortable and smooth knobs to apply torque with. Also take the time to sand any of the jaws’ sharp edges.

The Assembly

Thread the round knobs on the rods closer to the square end, T-nuts down. You'll use them to set the opening of the jaws when in use. Then slip the fender washers onto the same rods.

Left: Installing the floating jaws and knobs. Right: Completed handscrews.

After you have enlarged and countersunk the 3/8’’ holes to 13/32’’ in the two floating jaws so that they will slide smoothly and easily, slip the fender washers onto the second set of rods, install the floating jaws and thread the oval knobs, T-nuts outwards, which will be used to tighten the handscrews. That's it!

A completed set of proudly shop-made handscrews.

Left: Pair of handscrews for clamping angled pieces. Right: Sanding the end of the dowel and cutting to length.

A Step Further

The above floating jaws will only slide parallel along the rods. If you want or need handscrews that could be used to clamp angled pieces, I suggest you make a second set of floating jaws. All of the dimensions should be the same, but you’ll drill and countersink 5/8’’ through holes at the same 1’’ and 5’’ locations from the square ends. Drilling even larger holes increases the angle openings of your handscrews.

One at a time, sand a round dome at the end of a 1-1/2’’ hardwood dowel. (I used a leftover maple handrail.) Cut four of them, each about 1/2’’ thick, to use as rocking washers.

Left: Drilling holes in the wooden dome washers. Right: Handscrews assembled with woodne dome washers.

Find the center (I used a turner’s center finder) of each wooden dome washer. Pre-punch and drill 13/32’’ through holes. Remember that small pieces always deserve respect and attention! Use a safe way to secure them.

Remove the parallel jaws and oval knobs and slip on the freshly milled parts to create angle adjustable handscrews. The dome wooden washers ensure good contact with the jaws at any angle, and the disk knobs freely turn to tighten the jaws. The oval knobs cannot do this because of the angle of the floating jaws.

Here is a set of adjustable handscrews securing wedge shaped pieces on a carpenter’s bench.

Once again, you can never have enough clamps! Be proud and enjoy your shop-made handscrews.

Serge Duclos

Serge Duclos started woodworking in 1972 after purchasing his first house. He soon found it was a way to relax from the stress related to his job as a human resources professional. Since retiring in 2004, Serge continues to enjoy his pastime and to update his bilingual woodworking blog with his projects, as well as his tips and techniques.

Handscrews: Make or Buy

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