HOW TO USE A HANDSCREW CLAMP LIKE A PRO



How to Use a Handscrew Clamp Like a Pro
A plane held in a handscrew.

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If you thought the word handscrew was some kind of wooden screw, it is quite understandable, as handscrews are not as common as they deserve to be. As problem solvers, handscrew clamps are often underappreciated by many woodworkers, but certainly not by acclaimed Canadian infill plane-maker Konrad Sauer, whose handscrews play an important role in his work.

Whether or not a handscrew is new to you, here are seven of many ways you can utilize it around the shop.

Worn from use, this non-marring handscrew works nicely here with a metal vise in a vise-in-a-vise fashion. (Photo credit: Konrad Sauer)

#1 – A Round Peg in a Square Hole Is a Good Thing


If you need to drill or hold dowels, you will appreciate how cutting a V-notch on one or both jaws of a handscrew can be useful. The opening allows you to hold a round object tightly.

A round dowel held in the jaws of a handscrew.

The V-shaped notches on the jaws provide strong clamping pressure for round objects.

#2 – A Handscrew Is a Stop Block, Too


My drill press fence has a built-in stop block, but for some tasks I need a second stop block. On those occasions, I simply clamp a handscrew to the fence at the desired position.


Using a handscrew as a stop block.

A handscrew can also work as a stop block on other machines, such as a mitre saw or router table.

#3 – Use Handscrews Like Your Third, Fourth…Hands


Handscrews hold parts vertically with ease, whether for display or as part of a dry-fitting process. In a recent project, I used handscrews to stand the components upright for taking some measurements.

Using handscrews to hold a dry assembly steady while taking measurements.

The author takes some measurements on a dry assembly held steady with the use of handscrews.

#4 – A Handscrew’s Jaws Add Registration Surface


When chopping offset hinge recesses by hand, I clamp a handscrew on the door. It serves two functions by giving me a place to rest my hand and by preventing breakage of the thin mortise walls.

Using the handscrew jaws as a hand rest.

The jaws add ample working surface on which to rest a hand or a tool (such as a palm router).

#5 – Turn a Handscrew into a Bench-Top Vise


Did you know you can plane a long board held in a bench vise without the need for a deadman? Here’s how. First, glue or screw a board as a wing to the side of the outer jaw of a handscrew. Then, secure one end of the workpiece in the handscrew and clamp the wing in the vise. Now, you have a benchtop vise working for you!

Image left: Using a handscrew with a bench vise. Image right: Using the clamp as a vise on the bench top.

Left: The author added a wing to the side of one of the jaws for use with a bench vise.

Right: The modified clamp becomes a vise on the bench top.

#6 – Handscrews Keep You Safe


A handscrew can be used to hold a small or short piece securely and position it for milling or cutting on a router table, for instance, without otherwise risking your fingers.

Feeding the work into the bit using a handscrew.

The author feeds the work into the bit using a handscrew.

#7 – Align a Panel Glue-Up with Handscrews


Lastly, when gluing up a panel, I flush up the outmost ends with cauls at each joint. But for narrow boards, sometimes I can flush up two joints at a time by straddling three boards with the handscrew jaws.

Image left: Using notched blocks to flush up the boards at the outer ends of each joint. Image right: Tape prevents glue from marring the handscrew.

Left: Notched blocks can be used to flush up the boards at the outer ends of each joint.

Right: Strips of tape on the inner faces of the jaws keep the glue squeeze-out from getting on the clamp.

If you decide to join the handscrew camp, you can either buy or make your own handscrews from hardware kits. Either way, as you add handscrews to your tool kit, you are surely adding to your ability to solve more than just clamping challenges!



Text and photos by Charles Mak

Charles Mak, now in retirement, is an enthusiastic hobby woodworker, teacher, writer and tipster. He formerly worked part-time at his local Lee Valley Tools store.

Clamps and Accessories

03F0714 - 14" x 7" x 10 1/4" Dubuque Wooden Handscrew, each

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03G1010 - 6" × 36" Grip Liner

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50K3801 -  Assembly Clamps, pair

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17F8415 - GyroJaw

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