Drawer Slide Clamps

15 cabinet clamps every (serious) woodworker should own

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After custom building over 100 kitchens I’ve calculated gluing over 10,000 wood panels, 1000’s of face frames and drawers and doors. And, mostly, with just a few types of cabinet clamps.

So after all of that, I know one of the hidden costs of woodworking is clamps. 

Because you’ll need a lot of them.

While the table saw, miter saw and sanders are an easy item to buy; woodworking clamps are built in so many variations it’s tough to decide what you’ll need. And, which one’s you’ll need a lot of.

In this article we’ll go through the various types of clamps and help point you to which clamps you’ll need – and which ones you’ll want to buy multiples of.

Like my go-to 3/4-inch pipe clamp  to glue wood panels.

Where to Begin: Three Clamps Every Woodworker Needs

I’ve stacked, planed, glued and sanded tens of thousands of board feet of lumber. And with repetition comes simplicity and using the best tools to get the job done quickly.

So, rather than make you wade through a dozen clamps for what you need, let’s start with three cabinet clamps that every woodworker needs in their workshop:

Pipe Clamp to Glue Wood Panels (Cheaply)

Bessey Pipe clamp

When to use a Pipe Clamp

With a couple of exceptions a pipe clamp produces the most gluing force of any clamp. And that makes it great for:
  • Gluing wood panels for drawers and cabinet dors
  • Assembling cabinet doors
  • Gluing face frames

Buying TIps

I own dozens of pipe clamps and use them 3 at a time to glue up wood panels. 

And, to repeat, I only use pipe clamps to glue up wood panels as they are cheap and fast.

A few basics:

  • Buy clamps for 3/4″ pipe – not 1/2″
  • Because some pipe clamps are tippy during glue-up opt for the versions that have distinct feet
  • Purchase black pipe at a big box store
  • If you’re starting out, go for at least 6-8 pipe clamps and buy pipe 48-72″ long.

Recommendation: Note the wide feet and tall stance with my choice of Bessey 3/4-inch Pipe Clamps  that will allow for tip-free clamping over your workbench.

Hand Clamp to Hold JIgs, Assemble Small Projects

Milwaukee Hand Clamp

When to use a Hand Clamp

  • Cabinet assembly (holding screw strips to back)
  • Drawer and hardware jigs – I prefer over a Kreg face clamp with the Milwaukee fast and firm grip
  • Clamping guide blocks on the drill press 
  • Clamping for pocket hole jigs

Buying Tips

There are dozens of clamps out there, and I look for:

  • Swiveling face jaws
  • Fast squeeze design without need for adjusting a pressure screw
  • Non-mar pads

Recommendation: I own and recommend the Milwaukee 4-inch Hand Clamp  that produces solid clamping power without need for adjustment.

Choosing a High Quality Trigger Clamp

Center mount type of drawer slide

When to Use a Trigger Clamp

  • Utility clamping of just about anything you can fit in the jaws
  • Clamping frameless cabinets during installation
  • Lifting base cabinets or spreading surfaces

Buying Tips

While we all have our own budgets, I can tell you from experience I pay more and avoid the shrink-wrapped multi-packs of these style of clamps.

Instead, opt for a few pairs of high reviewed clamps that feature:

  • Strong, slip-free holding force
  • Deep throats
  • Large, non-mar pads with grip
  • Optional, but handy, reversible jaws for 2-in-1 spreader capability

Recommendation: Jorgensen 300-pound Force Clamps 

Types of Cabinet Clamps for Woodworking

Now that we’ve touched on the three cabinet clamps that every cabinetmaker should have let’s look at the comprehensive list.

But first, I don’t recommend buying every type of cabinet clamp. In fact, there are types of clamps I own that are used infrequently enough I regret buying them.

Based on my experience, here’s a list of cabinet clamps every woodworker should consider:

Assembly Clamps

  1. Pipe clamps
  2. Parallel clamps
  3. Face clamps
  4. Bar clamps (aka F-clamps)
  5. C-clamps
  6. Sash clamps
  7. Clamp heads

Utility Clamps

  1. Hand clamps
  2. Quick action clamps (aka Trigger clamps)
  3. Spring clamps
  4. Frameless cabinet clamps

Specialty Clamps

  1. Corner clamps
  2. Cabinet Claws (installation)
  3. Edge clamps
  4. Toggle clamps

By considering clamps in these three categories you can ensure diversity in your clamps. And purchase specialty clamps for well, specialty purposes.

Cabinet Clamp Types

Assembly Cabinet Clamps

One of the core uses of woodworking clamps is gluing panels, assembling cabinets and fitting furniture parts.

And this is where assembly clamps come into play. 

Why is pressure important?

Before we take a look at clamps let’s first consider why pressure is important:

    • High pressure cabinet clamps provide the force required to properly set glue joints.
    • Also, high pressure allows for the work piece to be firmly held square while the glue and joint properly cures.
    • Lastly, as glue dries it releases moisture into the wood. And without a high pressure clamp the wood will swell as it takes on this moisture and break-open the joint.

1. Pipe Cabinet Clamps

Bessey 3/4-inch pipe clamp

Use a Pipe Clamp For:

  • Gluing wood panels and face frames
  • Assembling cabinet doors

Tips and Tricks

  • First, you’ll need to purchase black pipe to screw these clamps to. So the cost isn’t just the clamp itself.
  • But don’t purchase all black pipe the same length. I have a dozen 60″ pipes, some 48″, a few 36″ and finally a couple of 96″ for long face frames.
  • And when clamping finished edges (face frames) use pads or a sacrificial scrap wood to take the pressure
  • Lastly make sure to use even pressure on the bottom and top side of wood. For example, when gluing panels use two clamps on the bottom and one on the top. Tighten the top and bottom a quarter turn at a time (alternating).

Purchasing Guide

Key buying criteria for pipe clamps are:

  • Wide clamp base to prevent clamps from tipping during assembly of your project.
  • Tall stance so you can turn the clamp handle over the bench surface.
  • Non-mar pads for finished edges like a face frame.
  • Black pipe size is either 1/2″ or 3/4″ and unless you have a need for lightweight pipe choose 3/4″ for strength.

Unless you’ve found a bulk pack that meets the first 3 criteria don’t try to save a few dollars now only to be frustrated later. I do own a few of the “round foot” Pony clamps and try to only use them on top of panels as a pressure offset clamp.

Recommended brands: Bessey , Rockler and “professional” versions of Pony.

2. Parallel Cabinet Clamps

Parallel Clamps

Use a Parallel Clamp For:

  • Gluing wood panels and face frames
  • Assembling cabinet doors

Tips and Tricks

  • Similar to the pipe clamps, with this woodworking clamp you’ll want to use clamps on the top and bottom of work pieces to avoid buckling

Purchasing Guide

  • Length of the bar is fixed and typically cannot be swapped out
  • Throat height for handling thicker material (3″+ is ideal)

Recommended brands: Bora Parallel Clamps , Pony Jorgenson, Bessey (performance)

3. Face Clamps for Clamping Wood and Pocket Hole Jigs

Kreg Face Clamp

Use a Face Clamp For:

Tips and Tricks

  • When applying heavy force on softwoods use a wood block to avoid dents
  • For finished cabinet surfaces (eg. hardware jigs) put blue tape on the jaw to prevent marring the surface

Purchasing Guide

  • Throat depth for reach “into” a cabinet or working space. A standard depth is around 4″, but depths of up to 12″ are available.
  • Throat height for handling thicker material.

Recommended: Kreg Face Clamp 

4. Bar Cabinet Clamps

Bessey Bar Clamp

Use a Bar Clamp For:

  • General purpose clamping
  • Edge gluing – such as shelving trim
  • Furniture assembly

Tips and Tricks

  • I prefer these clamps in shorter lengths for smaller glue-up jobs
  • While not as powerful as a pipe or parallel clamp, this clamp should still be used with caution on softwoods.

Purchasing Guide

  • Consider throat height for handling thicker material
  • While not common in long lengths over 36″, a variety of bar lengths from 6-18″ is common and useful.

Recommended: Bessey Bar Clamp  , Jorgenson

5. C-clamps

Great Neck Padded C-Clamps

Use a C-Clamp For:

  • General purpose clamping
  • Cabinet assembly (plywood backs to screw strips is my preferred use)
  • Holding drill press and fence blocks

Tips and Tricks

  • I have very seldom used any C-clamp larger than 3″ in cabinetmaking projects
  • Use a padded version or blocks to avoid marring any type of wood

Purchasing Guide

  • Throat height for handling thicker material
  • Throat depth for clamping depth on larger projects.

Recommended: Great Neck , Pony

6. Sash Clamps

Jorgesson Trigger Clamp

Use a Sash Clamp For:

  • Heavy duty clamping of larger and thicker wood tabletops

Tips and Tricks

  • This clamp is best used in a permanent glue station or for only very heavy applications.
  • Like other clamps, use padded blocks on finished edges
Recommended: Sash Clamp 

7. Clamp Heads

Irwin Clamp Heads

Use Clamp Heads For:

  • Small project glue-ups
  • Secondary clamping to support pipe clamps – eg. joints and buckle points

Tips and Tricks

  • This clamp is best used in a permanent glue station or for only very heavy applications.
  • Like other clamps, use padded blocks on finished edges
Recommended: Irwin Clamp Heads 

Utility Cabinet Clamps

So not all steps in building cabinets will require a heavy-duty, massive PSI clamp. 

And that’s especially true as your projects progress into installing cabinet hardware, holding drawer slide jigs and grabbing face frames with cabinet claws during installation.

8. Hand Cabinet Clamps

Drawer Slide Clamps

Use Hand Clamps For:

  • Holding drawer and cabinet hardware jigs
  • Utility clamping of wood blocks on drill press, miter saw stop blocks and small glue jobs

Tips and Tricks

  • Use this clamp for general clamping or light duty gluing only

Purchasing Guide

  • Brand reputation matters in this clamp – and I’ve found the Milwaukee clamps to be the best performing
  • Look for the largest opening and deepest throat depth as possible. Also, the jaws should swivel but not freely

Recommended: Milwaukee Hand Clamp 

9. Trigger Clamps

Jorgesson Trigger Clamps

Use Trigger Clamps For:

  • Holding material to workbench
  • Clamping cabinets during installation
  • Jigs, cut-off blocks, small glue-up jobs

Tips and Tricks

  • Look for a trigger clamp that is reversible to a “spreader clamp” that can be used to reverse clamp or be used as a base cabinet jack

Purchasing Guide

  • Large, high-grip pads are a must
  • Consider a few lengths for variety of clamping jobs

Recommended: Jorgensen Trigger Clamp 

10. Spring Clamps

Rockler Bandy Spring Clamp

Use Spring Clamps For:

  • Small clamping projects where alignment of pieces isn’t important
  • Stop blocks and edge gluing

Tips and Tricks

  • A “Bandy clamp” like the Rockler version shown provides a useful 2-in-1 for a good value. And provides a 3rd dimension of clamping force for edge gluing.

Purchasing Guide

  • Consider a variety of clamp sizes from 1″ up to 6″
  • Look for padded clamp surfaces with soft handles for ease of grip

Recommended: Rockler Spring Clamp 

11. Frameless Cabinet Clamps

Fastcap Cabinet Clamp

Use Frameless Cabinet Clamps For:

  • Clamping frameless cabinet sides during installation
  • Jacking up base cabinets (with a dual clamp and spread) for installation of shims

Tips and Tricks

  • Use a shorter clamp for connecting frameless cabinets. And for most upper cabinets use 2-3 to ensure a tight fit along the full length of the cabinet face.

Purchasing Guide

  • A 2-in-1 frameless clamp and jack will provide the best installation flexibility
  • Use 6-12″ for cabinet sides (narrow cabinets)

Recommended: FastCap JACK of All Trades 

Specialty Cabinet Clamps

In our last category let’s explore some of the more popular “specialty” woodworking clamps that can be used for cabinet making.

First, these aren’t clamps you’ll use every day.

Or, for even all cabinet jobs.

Instead these are clamps that are good at one specific task and when you need them, well, you need them.

12. Corner Clamps

Can-Do Corner Clamp

Use Corner Clamps For:

  • Holding two pieces of wood or plywood at a 90-degree angle
  • Drilling and screwing 

Tips and Tricks

  • Mount to bench to avoid slipping during drilling or screwing

Purchasing Guide

  • For maximum clamping pressure look for a sliding t-handle versus a single round grip.
  • Support for two pieces of different thickness

Recommended: Can-Do Clamp 

13. Cabinet Claws

Pony Cabinet Claw

Use Cabinet Claws For:

  • Clamping face frames of cabinets during installation
  • Installing filler strips to cabinet edge 

Tips and Tricks

Purchasing Guide

  • Felt pads to avoid marring finished cabinet surfaces
  • Swing-away pilot hole bushing 

Recommended: Pony Cabinet Claw 

14. Toggle Clamps

201-B Quick Release Tool

Use Toggle Cabinet Clamps For:

  • Router table jigs when cutting cabinet door rail ends
  • Holding stop blocks on miter saw fences

Tips and Tricks

  • Use with a fixed jig or sled to hold wood pieces for routing and shaping
  • Or, strategically mount on bench to hold work pieces during sanding or assembly

Purchasing Guide

  • Large, firm padded clamp surface
  • Easy to adjust
Recommended: 201-B Toggle Clamps 

15. Edge Clamps

Bessey Edge Clamp

Use Edge Clamps For:

  • Gluing face frames to cabinets when nailing isn’t an option
  • Or, holding work pieces in place during assembly

Tips and Tricks

  • Avoid nail holes in cabinet face frames with an edge clamp – great in combination with pipe clamps for “center of cabinet” spots a pipe clamp can’t reach.

Purchasing Guide

  • These clamps can be hard to find so due to that I recommend looking at pairing an edge clamp, like the Bessey, with a high quality bar clamp where the bar clamp provides one direction of clamping.
Recommended: Bessey Edge Clamp 

Frequently Asked Questions for Cabinet Clamps

What is the best clamp to glue wood panels?

Pipe clamps are the most economical and easiest clamp to glue wood panels.

How do you clamp cabinets together?

A cabinet claw can be used for connecting face frame cabinets during installation. And for frameless cabinets a trigger clamp with large clamping force is my preference.

How do you clamp a 90-degree corner?

The best approach is with a cabinet clamp like the Can-Do Right Angle jig mentioned in this article.

What is a cabinet clamp?​

Cabinet clamps are specialty clamps used in the assembly and installation of cabinets. While some clamps are used to assemble rough wood panels and doors others are used for tasks like installation. Most cabinet clamps are designed to have extreme gripping power to firmly hold two pieces of wood together.

Is a pipe clamp or long bar clamp better for gluing wood panels?​

The simple answer is how large your panels are and how many you’ll need to glue. For example, if you are gluing 18″x18″ exotic wood panels once a day/week/month then a bar clamp is a great choice. However, for larger cabinet projects a pipe clamp gives you the freedom to clamp dozens of panels at a time.

Back to my inventory, you can see I have 24 pipe clamps sitting on black pipe of 48″ up to 96″. Because of that I can glue many face frames and dozens of panels at a time.

Is a cabinet claw really worth it for face frame cabinet installation?​

To start, the quality of a cabinet installation resting on a) the cabinets being level, b) box face frames being flush and c) hiding nail holes and any gaps. So looking at the challenge during installation of screwing a cabinet box in two dimensions (to the wall, to another cabinet) then yes, a cabinet claw is worth it.

Because the cabinet claw clamps side to side and front to back, when installed first it does a job you can’t do with any other clamp.

Summary - Best Cabinet Clamps

Hopefully this article helped you explore cabinet clamps you may not have used before.  For more information be sure to check out our other articles on building and installing cabinets below.

Resources

Manufacturer sites:

Recommended Reading

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