I have a bunch of clamps. Not as many as the master, Norm Abrams, but I have a bunch. The latest addition to my collection is the Automatic Locking C-Clamp from Hanson. I first saw it at the Hardware Show in Las Vegas earlier this year and was impressed. I finally got a chance to use one in my shop a couple of days ago…I was even more impressed.
I used it in the process of making a cabinet door for my downstairs kitchen – a project that’s only taken me about 8 years to finally complete, but that’s a different story. I used my trusty Kreg jig to construct the door frames, but instead of using the clamp that comes with the jig, I substituted the Hanson version. It performed like a champ.
If you’ve used this type clamp in the past, you know that it’s a trial-and-error process of finding just the right pressure to hold the wood together. You try it, then adjust the screw, then try it again, and then maybe a third or even fourth time – finally, it’s dialed in…at least for that pair of pieces. Not so with the Hanson Automatic Locking C-Clamp. Once you have the stile and rail mated properly, just place this clamp in position and squeeze the handles together. There’s no fumbling and no adjustment…well, almost no adjustment, but I’ll get to that in a moment.
The clamp holds the wood firmly in place and allows you to install the fasteners with little-to-no muss and fuss. The only adjustment you might want to make is the pressure with which the clamp holds the wood. This would be more important when dealing with softer woods than the 50-year-old ash I was fastening. I’m not sure you could dent this stuff with a sledge hammer. But I digress.
The only issue I had with the clamp was the width of the handle in the open, or unlocked, position. It’s a pretty wide spread and while I have some pretty big mitts, it was literally a bit of a stretch for me to get my fingers in position to squeeze the handles. Using two hands to do the job is easy, but when you’re trying to hold two pieces of wood in the proper position and get the clamp in the right place, it can be a challenge – even for someone with Banana Hands (if you haven’t seen Shallow Hal with Jack Black and Tony Robbins, you should). Also, while I was using the clamp, the small tension spring inside the clamp came loose and I had to reattach, which took all of about 20 seconds, so no biggie.
I can say that after a few times using the clamp, I found a way to position my hand on the clamp that made the process much easier. So don’t give up if it feels a little large or clunky at first.
Here’s my bottom line: This clamp is genius! I even told the guys at Hanson that they should team with the Kreg folks and package this with the jig kits. It truly is a time-saver. The packaging states that it’s 7 times faster and 100% easier. Since I’ve never timed myself using the old-style clamp, I can’t say for eertain that it speeds the process 7 times, but it does speed the process up considerably. It also eliminates the need to re-adjust the clamp for slightly different thicknesses of stock.
They come in several sizes, and for less than $18 for the 7 inch version, this clamp is worth adding to the toolbox, especially if you’re into building face-frames or cabinet doors. It will save you time, most likely, and will surely save you some aggravation during the build.
As always, let me know if you use the tool and have a differing opinion. I welcome all input!
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