Top of Site > Clamps as Things > Care and Handling of Clamps > Collecting


Table of Contents

  1. Mounting
  2. Identifying
  3. Detecting Marriages
  4. Photographing
  5. Shipping


My preference, as a collector, is to support a shelf of 2 x whatever, in a convenient length, and tighten the clamps to it, terminal spindle down.  They stick out a bit, but they are easy to get to, to read the maker marks, and to move around, in case you decide to change the groupings (lessee, all the 8xx together? or all the Blisses together?)

Exhibitors tend to fasten them flat to a wall.  Pegboard and 10 lb fishline works fine for some folks.  I think it takes up a lot of space for a largish collection.

Some users tend to make a framework of some convenient length, and to put the jaws down upon it.  This way the jaws are already close to their working position.  


I identify the specimens in my collection by a long alphanumeric code string. This allows me to keep a database, and search for items fairly easily for comparisons.  

The main problem I have is coding for the presence of spindles which may or may not belong with the jaws.  A secondary problem occurs when I want to break up a married clamp, but keep track of the original configuration.

Identification of Specimens
two letters (upper case) code maker of wooden clamps

NN = no name
XX = unknown

three letters (upper case) code maker of composite clamps

NNN = no name
XXX or UNK = unknown

8, or N, or I model code

8xx, or Number, or Incher

2 digits rest of 8xx model, or
number, or
length in inches
(upto 3 characters optional) identification of mark
when several distinctive marks are known
1 hexadecimal digit code for components present:
8 = through jaw
4 = stopped jaw
2 = medial spindle
1 = terminal spindle
alternate letter part code used to identify pictures, sketches, of single parts
2 digits specimen number,
if needed
to distinguish duplicates
optional condition code to summarize overall condition of specimen

An example would be "BM815(2LUS)F01", which would indicate my first (complete) example of an model 815 made by Bliss Mfg Co, with the two line mark "Bliss Mfg Co" over "Made in USA".

Detecting Marriages

Often, what you find at flea markets and the like are married clamps, formed of pieces that originally belonged to other clamps. For example, an Aldrich central spindle and through jaw, with a Bliss terminal spindle and stopped jaw. Perfectly usable, and perhaps it has an interesting history. But the collector usually prefers to have all four parts belong together.

Jaws are usually distinctive enough that a marriage can be easily detected. Look for perfect symmetry, including the chamfering.  Check the dimensions carefully, as some models differ by as little as 1/8 inch in depth or width.  Wood does shrink over the decades, but 1/8 inch on a 2 inch deep jaw is 1 part in 16 or 6%, excessive for clamps made in a factory from seasoned wood.

Spindles, however, are harder to deal with, as the two spindles usually have different shapes to the handles. I suggest that you trace or sketch the handles that you encounter, and note the jaws with which you find them; eventually, you will be able to see the regularities, and say, for example, all my other clamps with Bliss jaws have the same kind of central spindle, except this one. Until you have a few examples, however, you may want to refer to the Field Guide. Check the dimensions carefully, as some models differ by as little as 1/8 inch in diameter.

Be especially alert to the substitution of one spindle for another. A terminal spindle will function adequately as a central spindle, with some extra wear on the handle. A central spindle can be forced to serve as a terminal spindle, with some damage to the tip. Again, the collector prefers to have all the parts, and in the right places.

Even when all the parts were made from the same manufacturer, check for consistency of size. The two spindles should have the same length, and should be as long as, or upto two inches longer than, the jaws. For details on models made by a particular maker, see the appropriate material in Makers.

For the other sense of "identifying", that is to figure out the identity of a particular clamp, see the information found in the Field Guide, and the Makers of wooden clamps, and the Models, where I list the various makers and models in greater detail. The frequencies are based on my experience, which is pretty much restricted to East of the Mississippi, and North of Washington DC. As they say in other contexts, "your mileage may vary."

For now, I can summarize that about half of the clamps you see will have no identifiable maker. Of the rest, Bliss (in all its varieties) makes up about half, Aldrich perhaps a sixth, and all other makers make up the remainder.

Again, about half the clamps you see will have no identifiable model (they can be identified only as having jaws that are so long, between 4 to 28 inches), about a quarter will have a number between 800 and 816, about an eighth will have a "No." followed by a number between 1 and 16, and the rest will be identified by some proprietary numbering scheme. These fractions are rough, but accurate enough.


There are several aspects of a clamp I always try to capture on film. These include

In addition, there are some optional aspects:

I have found that the maker's mark can be made more visible by several techniques.

details on a photographic setup.


There are a couple things to prevent: damage (breakage) to the clamp, and loss of the clamp.


Clamps can be damaged most easily by bending, and thereby breaking, the spindles. This can be prevented by several steps.

first, wrap the two spindles tightly together, handles apart, in newsprint or thick plastic. Do the same for the two jaws. Then bind the jaws and spindles together with tape into a single solid stiff object. Lastly, apply a protective wrap of bubbles, or other wadding.

You can also practice the art of the box within a box. Cut down a corrugated carton into convenient sized sheets, then fold and tape them into a little box, just big enough to enclose the wrapped clamp. Then place the little box within the shipping carton, and separate the two walls with wadded newsprint, bubbles, peanuts, or what have you. This will cushion the clamp from the blows and crushes involved in shipping.

Clamps can also be damaged by banging together the spindles and jaws, and thereby chipping the threads. The first steps above will prevent motion.


Clamps can get lost when they pierce their container and escape. To frustrate them, do these things: first, make their container sturdy; second, make them blunt; third, prevent motion.

Ordinary paper envelopes are not sturdy enough; use the kind with the tear-resistant lining. Double layered corrugated boxes have been successful.

The wrapping techniques above, especially the use of bubbles, helps to blunt all points.

The box-in-box technique prevents motion. So does lots of wadding.

last revised and validated

Copyright © 1996- Wooden Clamp Journal