Build a clamp rack
All shops have their organizational challenges, and there are as many solutions to these challenges as there are woodworkers. Here’s a simple and effective way to store parallel clamps.
I work in a very small shop, so for good workflow I need to be highly organized. This clamp rack is a great place to start organizing a shop of any size. It can be made with less than 5 BF of your favourite hardwood and holds a respectable 20 parallel jaw clamps. You can adjust the lengths of the horizontal parts, depending on the size of your clamp collection. In addition, this rack includes a built-in shelf that is perfect for holding clamping accessories like glue bottles and bench cookies.
Nicholson uses a router plane to ensure the face of the dado joints he made are even. This ensures the ends of the mating pieces will fit tightly against the sides.
Fill the Gap
Rather than make a stopped dado, which is harder to do, Nicholson marks where the mating part stops and fills in the rest of the dado with a contrasting filler piece.
Mark the Grooves
Some careful measuring will provide you with a clear view of where the clamp notches will be cut.
Bring It Together
Once the rack has been glued and clamped, you can countersink for plugs, drive in screws and plug the holes.
Pocket hole screws will fix the ends of the support to the sides. This long piece also gets glued to the underside of the inner rack.
After milling your lumber to 3/4″ (or slightly thicker if possible), begin to break down your parts. Set your rip fence to 6-1/2″ and rip the sides and top shelf to width. Reset the fence and rip the clamp rack to 4″ (this is the piece that will be notched). Finally, rip the bottom support to 2-3/4″.
At the mitre saw, square one end of each piece, and then set up a stop block to cut the shelf and rack to 52″. It’s important to use a stop block for repeatability. The bottom support will be measured directly from the project later, so leave it long for now. Reposition the stop at 13″, and cut the two side supports to their final length.
Let’s start with the side supports. Mark a line 1″ down from the top of each side panel. Set a dado stack for a cut depth of 3/8″ (and the width of your stock thickness). If you don’t have a dado stack, multiple passes with a single blade will work, but some clean up with a chisel or router plane will be needed. Either way, always test in scrap first. Use a miter gauge and stop block to make your cut in both side pieces to ensure they match.
Add a second mark 8-3/4″ down from the top of each side piece. Then reset your stop block and cut the remaining dado in each side piece. The lower dados will be longer than needed, but we will add an inlay later.
Time for a test fit. The shelf and rack should fit into their dados with hand pressure and not be loose. If you need to whack it with a mallet to get it to sit, then go back to the table saw and take a very light pass to extend the dado width slightly. Again, test in scrap first.
After everything fits well, mark the end of the rack (in the dado) with a sharp pencil. This will provide a dimension for the inlay. Cut the inlay strips slightly wider than required (with a back saw), and then sand them to fit using a sanding block clamped in a vise.
Glue and clamp your inlay pieces in the side supports so they match your layout lines. The inlay pieces can be trimmed flush and flat after the glue dries.
Preparing the inner rack
Make a mark 2″ from one end of the inner rack board blank, and a second mark at 2-1/2″, leaving 1/2″ between the marks. Square off your marks, and then repeat the process starting from your previous mark. Eventually you should end up with 21 fingers (2″ wide), and 20 gaps (1/2″ wide). Measure carefully, and mark the waste for each slot on all sides.
Back at the table saw, install a 1/2″ dado stack at a height of 2″. Place a new sacrificial fence on your mitre gauge and align your first cut. Clamp your work to the sacrificial fence to keep your fingers clear of the blade. Attach a stop block, and make your first cut. Then flip the work piece, butt it against the stop, clamp it and repeat the cut. Move the board to align the next cut, and reposition the stop. Then re-clamp the work piece, cut, flip and clamp/cut again. Repeat this process until you have all 20 slots completed.
Assembly and finish
Sand everything up to 220, add glue to the dados and shelf edges, and clamp it up. Ensure all the edges are flush before moving on.
While in the clamps, add some screws to the dado joints. I drove #7 x 1-1/2″ pan head screws into the joint by hand, but different sizes of screws would also work. This pulls the joint tight and allows you to remove the clamps. I added some cherry plugs to match the inlay strips from earlier.
The last step in assembly is to cut and install the support under the clamp shelf. Cut one end of the support square, and then place it under the clamp rack. Make a mark, and then cut it to final length at the miter saw. Drill out a pair of pocket holes in each end, glue/clamp it to the clamp rack, and drive the screws into the side supports. Let the assembly dry before removing the clamps.
Do a final sanding, break all the edges, and apply a finish of your choice. I used water-based polyurethane.
To install the rack, drive 3″-long screws through a long cleat into three different wall studs. Then place the underside of the top shelf on your cleat and attach it from above using 1-1/2″ counter sunk screws. Add three more 3″ screws through the lower rack support and into the three studs. Finally, load up your clamps and enjoy the extra floor space in your shop.