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23 July 2016

The Magic of the Jorgensen Adjustable Clamp

I don't seem to be able to make the time to do any of my numerous woodworking projects at the moment. That doesn't mean that I'm not thinking about them or stockpiling. Last weekend I added two vital clamps to my arsenal. These clamps are special. I'd even go as far as to say that they're magic!

I first became aware of the magic of Jorgensen woodworking clamps perhaps a year or so ago. I knew of them, but I had never paid much attention to how they worked.

The picture above is from the patent that Hans Jorgensen filed for the design back in 1901..

I love elegant things and this is certainly elegant. The design is ingenious in its simplicity. What you have here are two wooden clamp arms joined by two threaded screws. The magic is that the screws are threaded in opposite directions at either end. They work very much like a car jack: turning the screw one way draws the clamp together; and turning the screw the other way, pushes the clamp arms apart.

The magic doesn't stop there: It's possible to adjust each of the screws independently as in the picture to pretty much grab a hold of any angle of wood.


I'd love to tell you a little about Hans Jorgensen, but about all I've managed to uncover is that he might have been a resident of Chicago. He has a number of patents to his name, but this one is my favourite.

Jorgensen clamps are still made and available to buy, though they seem to be more freely available in America (not surprising really, being American). I've even seen them being sold in kit form so that you can put them together yourself. I've wanted one for about a year, but I just haven't been able to justify the cost. As a cheaper alternative, I've been collecting parts for a secret project to make my own Jorgensen-style clamp! This may still yet happen.

On Sunday I stumbled across some spare time and headed down to my local car boot for a poke about. Would you believe me if I told you that I spotted two 14 inch Jorgensen clamps?

"How much do you want for the clamps?" I asked the seller nervously, not wanting to touch them, just in case he was going to blow me away.

"18 quid," came the reply.

Oh dear, I was thinking. There was no way I was going to be paying 18 quid each.

"...for the pair"

O-k-a-y... I set to work checking them over. They were filthy, but I could just about get them open. Everything was looking good; I couldn't see anything wrong with them that couldn't be fixed.

"I paid 20 quid for them," said the man. "They're a lovely colour aren't they. They're Victorian."

I doubt very much that he paid 20 quid for them and they certainly weren't Victorian, but I was happy to pay a fair price. I reckon I got a bit of a bargain here.

"Thank you very much!"

Deal done.

Oh wow!

Mrs Uke was chuffed to bits when I showed her them! Ha ha.

When I got them home I oiled them up to get the parts loose. No rust... Just years and years of crap.

See the remains of a stamp I found on one of the arms. I can't make out fully what it says, but I think the word at the top is "BRITISH" and the word at the bottom is "MADE", so these are most likely British knock-offs... copies of the Jorgensen clamp.

They're solid and have obviously seen a lot of use over the years. I've cleaned them up and they work like a charm. I think they might actually be indestructible! ;-)

Here's one of them after I'd got it cleaned up last weekend; I wire-brushed it with soapy water and waxed it. The wood has come up a charm. I did the other one today. The only thing I had to fix was one of the handles which was a little loose. I fixed it by jamming in a few tiny wood shims.

I can't wait for the excuse to use them.

That's your lot for today. I was going to show you the plans I'd uncovered for making some Jorgensen-style clamps, but I can't find them for the life of me. Perhaps, when I have a go at making my own... ;-)

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