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Table of Contents

  1. Dry Wood
  2. Dings and Gouges
  3. Damaged Spindles
  4. Damaged Jaws
  5. Missing Parts

This gathers together some tips on easy repairs to clamps.  

Dry Wood

Oil Soak

The choice of oil depends on you. Oils are divided into two categories, drying and non-drying. Raw linseed oil is non-drying (or very slowly drying), boiled linseed oil is drying. (Refined linseed oil dries very fast, and is not commonly used.) As the name implies, non-drying oils stay wet for a long time, and hold dust and grime. Some non-drying oils even support the growth of molds and mildews.

For some collectors, their practice is to relieve dryness by soaking first in a fairly inexpensive non-drying oil, draining and wiping off the excess, letting it stand for a while, a second wiping, then a final soaking in a drying oil, followed by wiping, cleaning, and polishing.

Sometimes soaking a piece in oil will cause small gaps to close up, sometimes not. Certainly, an oil soak will help to restore the wood, and alleviate the decades of drying out. Most of the oil is absorbed through the end grain, not through the radial or tangential grain. Therefore, such a soaking can be done before the surface is cleaned up.

Dings, and Gouges

As a consequence of being next to wood that is being hammered, scraped, sanded, drilled, or cut, it sometimes happened that the jaws of a clamp were damaged. The spindles were damaged less often, usually by falling. "New in the Box" clamps are virtually impossible to find. The search for better and better is long, and part of the fun of collecting.

Dings can often be repaired by letting a little water soak into the ding, and then applying gentle heat.  Don't borrow your spouse's iron, get one of your own!

Gouges can be patched with a little wood putty.  

Damaged Spindles

Because of the grain in a spindle, it often happens that portions of several teeth are missing, split off, one above another in a line. This actually has little effect on the ability of the clamp to perform its function. It may be a satisfactory "user", at least for light pressures. In extreme cases, the split extends into the shaft, usually the result of being dropped. When glued together again, it will be a satisfactory user.

In other cases, it happens that all the teeth are stripped away for an inch or two along the shaft. If a portion of this long section is in the through jaw, then the few teeth that are engaged are stressed heavily, and are prone to becoming stripped as well. When the stripped section of the shaft is equal to the depth of the through jaw, the clamp cannot perform its function at all. It is, at best, a "looker". Sometimes, the stripped section is not too extensive, and can be hidden.

To say that 5% of the teeth are damaged or missing is not too informative. It makes a difference where that 5% is located, whether all in one section, or distributed along the length of the shaft.

You can take molds from good sections of the screws, using rubber, plaster of Paris, or other compounds. You can then use wood putty or other molding compounds to form replacement thread where it is missing. It may be advisable to drill small (toothpick size) holes in the spindle, and insert short wires or pins, in order to provide a better grip for the new material.

Damaged Jaws

Occasionally, the jaw is split. This seems to happen most often to the through jaw, between the end hole and the end. Repairs can usually be made, and it will be a satisfactory user.

Sometimes, previous owners have made repairs to split jaws. A countersunk woodscrew is the usual repair.  (This is most common at the back end of the through jaw.  I have seen split noses, too.) A workmanly repair that respects the tool is often acceptable to a collector.

Damaged or missing noses and chamfered edges can be made right by molding a replacement. Assuming that the other jaw is in good repair, use it as the master.  

Some clamps were converted into jigs and fixtures. For example, I have a clamp with two holes going through the nose, which might have guided a drill, and then served to aim pins into the newly drilled holes. Some collectors like a clamp with a bit of personal history, while others think such a clamp is ruined and worthless. You will have to make up your own mind on this matter.

Missing Parts

If you have the skill and the equipment, you can easily make jaws and spindles to replace lost or missing parts. However, such parts should be marked as replacements, to avoid any possible confusion.

Jaws were made of hard maple, hickory, beech, and other similar species. If you could make a plane body from it, then you can make a jaw. Orient  the workpiece so that the growth rings are parallel (as near as possible) to the inside and outside of the jaw .

Spindles were made of hard maple, fruitwoods, and similar species. If you can carve high relief detail in it, then you might consider it for a spindle. Choose tight grained workpieces for spindles.

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