The Wooden Clamp Journal, or WCJ

Issue Five, 25 May 1998
Dedicated to those
who love, use, collect, or deal in wooden clamps

Issue List

Table of Contents

Editorial Comments

I've re-arranged things a bit, moving to the WCJ index page that stuff that future readers won't care about, and removing some headers that never got filled, keeping the other stuff where it was. Please mail your ideas or suggestions about what you want to read.

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Reports on Past Events

The first of the three Brimfield Fairs was held in May, and I had a chance to go, on Saturday.  There were plenty of clamps offered, and I priced thirty for an analysis of asking price.  

Also, I was able to pick up a 14 inch clamp with a previously unknown mark, L. N. Lela*** of Grafton Massachusetts.  I think it's a maker's mark, not an owner's mark.  I also bought a couple  5 inch clamps made by William Dennett of Westboro Massachusetts, for his own use.  During 1860 to 1870, he was a pattern maker, and instrument maker.  These are delicate items, with exaggerated waists on the handles of the spindles.  

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Advice and Tips for Collectors and Users

Recording Marks

A couple of people have asked for suggestions on how to make marks more prominent, so that they can be photographed better.  (Insurance, research, sales are all reasons offered for photographing these marks.)

Here are some methods I have used. These are listed in order of my preference, first is most preferred.  

  1. Rub the mark with soft chalk, to fill the depression, and lightly brush clear the high points.  Yellow or white chalk for blackboards works well.  Domes of blue or red chalk (used to chalk strings to snap lines) sometimes lack contrast with the wood.  Clean later with a damp cloth.  
  2. Spread a very thin film of non-drying oil (cotton, peanut, corn, or other cooking oil) on a piece of glass, and lightly press the clamp into this film, so that only the high points are wet.  Then dust with powder (chalk, mineral, or metal). Clean later with a dry cloth, or a soapy sponge.  
  3. Make a paste from colored powder (chalk, other inert mineral, or metal) and a non-drying oil.  Spread into the depressed areas, and wipe the high points clear.  Clean later with a cloth.  
  4. Press modelling clay into the mark, remove, and brush the high points with contrasting ink or paint.  Bake and preserve, if the modelling clay allows.  
  5. Smear colored soft wax  or vaseline(tm) into the depression, and wipe the high points clean.  Clean later by placing on warm absorbent paper or cloth.  

Let me know what works for you.  

If you don't want to chance damaging the wood, then the advice is to use a light from the upper right, raking the surface at an angle of 10 to 30 degrees.  This will cast shadows into the depressions, and leave the high points clearly illuminated.  

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Descriptions of Clamps

L. N. Lela***

The L. N. Lela*** clamp is very Bliss like in appearance.  The origin is Grafton Massachusetts, an early textile town between Worcester and Providence, with good transport to both.  It would be  easy to believe a Bliss clamp travelled up the Blackstone River valley, and served as a model.  

The single known specimen has jaws 13.75 inches long (2% shrinkage from 14 inches?), with two terminal spindles.  The jaws have Bliss proportions and chamfer.  One spindle has a cylindrical handle, the other has a very slight swelling from a cylinder.  Both spindles have lathe cut screws.  A picture of the mark is available.

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Histories of Makers, Sellers, and Owners

Nothing this issue.

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Questions, Answers, Speculations

All the things you ever were curious about (concerning clamps), and responses from people who claim they know what they're talking about.

Price Analysis

This analysis of asking prices is based on thirty examples seen at Brimfield in May 1998.  They ranged from 5 inches to 24 inches in length, from unusable to spiffy in condition, from blah to exciting in collector appeal, and from 5$ to 35$ in price.  Most were close to average condition, and many jaw lengths were in the range 10 to 14 inches. Several dealers had multiple examples of the same clamp at a price (I wondered how this happened);  this was taken as a single datum point, and not given multiple weights.  The idea was to analyse "What does a dealer ask for a given clamp?"

The easiest analysis is in terms of jaw length.  It explains about 58% of the variation in price.  The stating price for a clamp is 6.84$.  Add 1.14$ per inch of jaw length.  

The next analysis is in terms of jaw length, and condition.  It explains about 60% (yes, that is not much improvement) of the variation in price.  The starting price for a clamp is 1.91$.  Add 1.14$ per inch of jaw length.  Add 0.89$ per condition point, where absolutely useless is 1, average is 5, and spiffy is 9.  (You can round all these to the nearest dollar, and not lose much. ) 

Collector appeal (based on single sources or non-married items, spindle lengths matched to jaw lengths, rarity of maker) added no explanatory power.  

The predicted value should then be rounded to the nearest 5$ value.  The result will under-estimate expensive clamps, and over-estimate cheap ones.  

Compared to last September's analysis, several things are worthy of note.

  1. The base price is a bit higher.
  2. The value of an added inch is much less, closer to 1$ than 2$.
  3. The round off is to the nearest 5$, not to the higher 5$.  
  4. There seems to be more unexplained variation.  

Notices: For Sale, Trade, or Wanted

For Sale:
For Trade:

  1. The editor wants clamps made outside New England. Send mail with description.

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Letters to the Editor

Editorial Policy will be to print all letters, edited for length, relevance, or offense.

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