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A Flat-Out Simple Solution for True Blue Glue-Ups
by Jon Hutchinson

When my wife announced recently that she wanted a new coffee table, I began thinking about the best way to glue up a really flat panel for the top. This can be a harrowing experience. Positioning clamps under and over the boards simultaneously while trying to tighten them before the glue begins to set... well, it just makes your heart pump! I've read many solutions for this, and even tried a few. It seems, though, that I always end up running a hand plane across the surface of my panels, then a belt sander and finally a random orbit sander, just to get the surface flat. Then, of course, I have to flip the panel and go through the same procedure on the other side. In the end, I get a great workout – and a nice panel that’s always a bit thinner than planned.

So, I went through my collection of woodworking magazines, searching for the one method that might deliver reliable results – a panel that is fl at enough not to require a whole lot of sanding and planing.

I use 3/4" pipe clamps in the shop. They're not exceptionally stable when sitting on a bench, tending to slide around and tip over. And they’re never all the same height, because I've collected them over the years so they represent several manufacturers and models. I decided to build a jig that would cradle the pipe clamps, holding them steady and keeping them all in the same horizontal plane. The jig would allow access under and over the panel, so I can use cauls (more on these later). The final result resembles a ladder and has very few major parts: a couple of 1x6 cradles to hold the pipe clamps and provide equal distance between them, and five 2x4 braces to hold the cradles on edge. Under the braces, I added some 2x4 risers, to separate the jig from my workbench, and some spacers to help line up the clamps. The 3/4" pipes, rather than the clamp heads or tails, are the only things that touch the jig, so now my clamps are always in the same horizontal plane.

This article reprinted by permission of Woodcraft.

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