Sunday, December 29, 2013

Spring Clamps...Literally

Hand Surgery

I must have an unlimited source of clamping choices.  When you spend over 40 years repairing antiques you get creative with unique problem solving.

Most of the repairs I see come into the shop which have failed are the result of poor clamping efforts.  Face it, when the wood surfaces do not meet under precise pressure, even the best glues do not solve the problem.  A good example was the last post, where it was obvious that the person who wanted to reattach the table leg simply injected lots of plastic glue and pushed the leg back in place.  The result was a large surface of dried plastic glue which held nothing and prevented the wood joint from closing.

In that case, a simple pipe clamp would have worked, but I suspect that repair person did not have one available.
Clamps Where You Want Them

Not all cases of clamping are that obvious.  Today I needed to reattach several fingers on a carved chair.  This chair was made in Italy and had two "servants" carved at the front to hold up the arms of the chair.  I'm in no position to judge the political correctness of this subject; my job was to repair the broken hands, which had lost several elements.

As with all carving, there was no flat surfaces to clamp and the elements I needed to reattach were tiny. Fortunately, I have spent years upholstering and had a good supply of springs in the shop.  Taking these springs and cutting away loops gave me a good supply of clamps.  This is a neat trick, and I think all shops should have them available.

Available In All Sizes
I know this idea is not new.  There are spring clamps sold, with a special tool to hold them in place.  But the last time I looked, those kits were expensive and I hate to buy stuff, unless I simply have no choice.

Old springs are free, and by cutting the loops I have several sizes to choose from.  I take a file and make points on each end, so the clamp bites into the wood with the smallest mark visible after the job.  I can bend and shape these clamps to suit the job.  The important thing is that the points of the ends line up, creating a direct clamping force.  See my post again on Vector Clamping.

Add Points With File
I made some rough fingers and cleaned up the broken ends so I had a good fit.  Then I just applied a small bit of Old Brown Glue and the spring clamp.  Final result is a good amount of pressure and a repair which will allow me to finish the carving as I wish.

Simple.  Effective.  And Free.

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