'You can never have enough of them,' boatbuilders like to say. I wouldn't disagree, I'd love to have plenty of clamps but if ever I've had a spare 20 euros it seems to end up on a haul of household basics. No, I've never prioritized clamp buying.
Any workshop will only have as many clamps as it can store, I have a small cupboard, if I tried to imitate some of the projects I see where the gunnels are gripped as if by legions of leaches, I would quickly reach peak clamp.
Lime Regis' St. Ayles Skiff gunnel glue up
I've got on alright with four reasonably sized clamps and four small ones (no idea where they came from). Anything beyond what these could manage I've sorted out with a length of cord. You know, bowline in one end, figure of eight with a bight 20 or 30cm back from that. The working end goes round the piece to be clamped, through the bowline and back through the loop. You've then got a 2:1 reduction to get some good tension on the line and it can be tied off with a clove hitch round the standing part. I built a lot of Onawind Blue using that method and still use it to lash kit within the boat.
But while glueing up a crate built from some scrap, I thought it was time to look more closely at the clamp situation. And it appeared that I had enough wood left over to make one. I was keen to move on to another project to take my mind off the failure of the crate, which was simply too heavy to do the jobs I'd had in mind for it. Put an aubergine in it and it became cumbersome.
I discovered some truly talented and inspirational woodworkers on youtube, soaked up as much information as I felt I needed and began. I work rather like I cook, seeing what I've got and taking it from there rather than going out for a bag of ingredients. So this clamp had to come from the cupboard. The blocks that I'd just made hadn't cost me a cent and there was even less reason why a clamp should.
Since the cordless screwdriver/drill packed up I've stopped using screws. The upside of this is that I am becoming familiar with the dowel joint. So making a strong, right angled clamp head was not a problem. The rest of the system is rather more clumsy and not quick but it is strong and for glueing up it will work fine.
Having finished the clamp and being confined to the house for days I couldn't help spending some time on the finish. I enjoyed the irony of trying to achieve a good finish on something as humble as a clamp that spends a lot of time at the bottom of the tool box scuffing against all and sundry.
Following my boating doctrine that kit should have more than one function I inscribed the clamp with an exhortation not to lose my cool. I now need two more with slogans, one to encourage me to make decisions and another to discourage me from rushing in headlong.