Behold the Humble Pipe Clamp

The recent convergence of editing the section of Roubo attendant to Plate 18 combined with assembling additional doors for the book cabinets of the library made me reflect on the nature of the humble pipe clamp, particularly in the ability to make pipe clamps any length necessary for the particular task at hand.

As part o the descriptive text for Plate 18 Roubo waxes enthusiastically about both bar clamps and the devices he calls “clamp extenders” to allow any particular clamp to have its capacity increased.


Here is the device Roubo illustrated for this purpose.



Such a concept is not unknown to modern woodworkers especially in the use or even the fabrication of bar clamps with wooden bars, which could be made to nearly any length.


This brings me to the pipe clamp.  Like almost every woodworker and handyman in the Western world I have pipe clamps, even several of them.  Since my strategy for clamp acquisition revolves around the number “4” (the number of clamps needed for a pair in both x and y axes) I have in my collection of clamps 16 of the pipe variety.  For interchangeability all of my clamps are for ½” n.p.t pipes, common enough from the local hardware store.

The down side is that for longer applications, ever longer pipes are needed.  And, have you priced threaded pipe lately?  Holy cow.

Being a cheapskate who really enjoys finding solutions to problems, while visiting my favorite hardware store and balking at the prospect of spending $50 for four 5-foot sections of threaded black pipe, I instead spent some time browsing the aisles of the hardware store, one of my all-time favorite activities.  (every year I spend literally dozens of seconds shopping for clothes, but I can spend practically an entire day examining products at a good hardware store).


There in the shelf in the plumbing section was the 79-cent solution to the problem – a double female-thread pipe coupling.  I grabbed a handful and headed home.  Sure enough, they filled the bill.  Perfectly.  For less than a buck I could take two pieces of pipe, one 24″ and the other 36″, with a 5-foot clamp as the result.


As an additional enhancement for the new, longer vise configuration, I grabbed a scrap of pipe insulation and cut rings to place on the pipe and provide protection to the wood surface from the abrasions of the coupling fitting.



I’d like to think that had they been widely available at the time, we would see elegant engravings of pipe clamps in L’Art du Menuisier.