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Home : Trade Secrets Archive : Issue 127, You need a bag of clothespins for your workshop!
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Photo: clothespinsHandy-dandy clamps!
You need a bag of clothespins
in your shop. Here’s why.

Today I used clothespins as kerfing clamps, and
I was reminded of how many uses they have.
I’m even using them as Christmas presents...
Dan Erlewine, November 25, 2010
Photo: uses for clothespins Photo: Dan ErlewineClothespins make
great mini-clamps.

Here are some of the ways I modify wood clothespins for use in my shop: Turn the spring around backwards, and the wooden jaws become tapered, light-duty clamps. They can hold parts when I’m soldering (top photo hanging at left), or keep binding strips together when I’m about to glue them (lower photo).
Today, I turned clothespins into kerfing clamps for gluing new kerfed lining on an old Gibson archtop about to receive a new back. I customized this batch so they’ll grip kerfing tightly and they’ll last for years.

Photo: kerfing clamps




Plastic Binding





Kerfed Guitar Linings
Photo: where to remove wood They were easy to make, and I had fun doing it. I cut an angle into the jaws so they’d match the shape of kerfing. This meant cutting away some wood: the penciled area on the pin at left shows what had to be removed. One side got an angled cut to match the kerfing (roughly a 13° angle). The other side was just pared down to the depth of the curve that already existed in the jaw.
I used a gauged saw and a chisel to cut these jaws into shape. I enjoy just sitting at my bench, working with hand tools for little jobs like this. It’s relaxing.
Photo: electric glue potI’ve said it before: I’m a hot glue fan
I like to use hot hide glue for gluing kerfing. But it does set up fast, so I need to move quickly. I’ve got maybe two minutes to get everything clamped up before the glue gels. To gain a little more clamping time, I warm the basswood kerfing on an oil-filled space heater. Keeping an eye on a surface thermometer, I get the wood as close to 100° as I can. I also turn the heat up in my shop when using hot glue.
The glue itself is warmed in a small jar that’s suspended in heated water in my electric glue pot.
Photo: broken clamp Back to my clothespin clamp:
Testing the first one I made, I found that the clothespin spring didn't have enough clamping strength. For more oomph, I wrapped the clamp with a rubber band. But the added pressure caused the wood to break at the thin point created by my angled cut. Shoot! Too much wood had been removed. Hmmm...
Photo: reinforced clamp I glued a reinforcing strip of wood on the backs of the wooden pieces using #20 super glue, zapping them with accelerator. Then I sanded the pieces smooth.This reinforcement did the trick: They’re strong enough to stand up to the added pressure of a rubber band.
Super Glue
Photo: mass production Mass-production time! With Titebond, I glued several pieces to the edge of a pine board. Rubber binding bands held them together until the glue dried.
After an hour of dry-time, I bandsawed the wood so each of the clothespin pieces came away with a strip of the supporting wood attached. I smoothed this long strip of clothespin halves on the belt sander, then did my jaw-shaping before cutting them all apart into separate pieces.
Photo: chiseliing
Photo: finishing the clamps Why not put a finish on them?
These are really useful, and I know a luthier who would be happy to have a set. I made a double-batch so I can give the extras as a Christmas present. I wanted them to look nice, so I wiped the pieces with fretboard finishing oil. It dried in an hour, leaving a good-looking sheen. Hey, this is practical too: the finish will make it easier to clean glue from clamps.
ColorTone Fretboard Finishing Oil
Photo: clamps as gifts Ho Ho Ho!
I think a couple bundles of these kerfing clamps will make a nice present!
Problem-solving products for this kind of work:
Surface Thermometer
A compact 50-500 degree F. thermometer that can be placed directly on the flat top of a heating iron to monitor the correct temperature.
Behlen Ground Hide Glue
Traditional luthier's glue that creates stronger wood joints than bottled liquid hide glues, and allows disassembly later with a hot knife.
Gauged Saws
These low-profile saws are available in five different cutting widths, and include super-thin .010" blade.
More More More
Super Glue
The only instant glues formulated specifically for instrument repair!
Franklin Titebond Glue
The luthier's favorite aliphatic resin glue, for joints that are stronger than the wood.
Guitar Brace Chisel
Our chisel for carving and shaving guitar braces has a specially curved blade, 6-3/4" x 1/2."
More More More

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