#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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.