Saturday, 5 October 2019

ARMOR TOOL CLAMPS


ARMOR TOOL CLAMPS

Based in Worcestershire, Wood Workers Workshop is owned and managed by master craftsman and furniture designer-maker, Peter Sefton. Specializing in quality woodworking tools from North America his small, dedicated team of woodworkers offers advice based on personal experience. Since the tool shop is located at Peter’s furniture school, there’s even a workshop where you can try before you buy.

ARMOR TOOL CLAMPS

Detail of the auto-adjust mechanism 

 Wood Workers Workshop was keen for me to have a look at some of the different clamps they have in stock; in addition, they added some other surprises, all packaged up in a big lucky dip box. It’s like Christmas all over again… I usually only have to cope with one at a time, but this has been an interesting experience and an opportunity to provide a few mini-tests for you.

Armor Tool Auto-Adjust clamps & 14in dog-fence

I reviewed some self-adjusting toggle clamps in January this year and the Armor Auto-Adjust clamps are very similar in function; as the lever is pushed down and the foot meets the material, resisting forces move the sliding, sprung mechanism behind the lever backward. This locks in place and the clamp then operates in the same way as a ‘normal’ toggle.

How they work

There are two ‘hold down’ clamps and one ‘inline’ clamp in this review. The hold-down clamps are of a familiar layout – a clamp head is fixed to a threaded bar, which can be adjusted up and down as well as closer to or further from the clamp lever. Unlike most toggle clamps which require a spanner, the nut on the Armor clamps is knurled and can be tightened by hand; it also has flats if a spanner is required. The lower nut is a plate with a threaded hole. The clamping pressure can be adjusted by turning a small screw behind the linkages and, once set, the same amount (more or less) is applied regardless of the thickness of the material under the foot. The horizontal, in-line clamp uses a quick-release system that slides in and out to position the clamp head. This locks in place as soon as pressure is applied by the lever.

ARMOR TOOL CLAMPS

The clamp lever is common to all, but the base depends on the model

On the bench

While every clamp is much the same above the surface, what makes them different from each other is the way they are fixed to the bench. Most toggle clamps use a plate requiring screws, but these fit into a T-Track or 3 ⁄ 4 in holes, making them easier and quicker to reposition.

ARMOR TOOL CLAMPS

The knurled nut allows more rapid set up

ARMOR TOOL CLAMPS

In the box

ARMOR TOOL CLAMPS

Detail of the supplied T bolt…

ARMOR TOOL CLAMPS

but it doesn’t fit all tracks

ARMOR TOOL B5-HH AUTO-ADJUST HOLD DOWN T-TRACK CLAMP

The B5-HH works exceptionally well and would be a useful addition to any workshop using benches or machines fitted with standard tracks. Router tables, chop saws, belt sanders – almost all have T slots for slides and fences. It is useful to be able to add a stop or a guide, and sometimes the work needs holding firmly in place. G clamps (or similar) are often used, but toggle clamps are a neater solution.

ARMOR TOOL CLAMPS

In use, firmly clamping a guide

The B5-HH slides into position along with standard 1 ⁄ 4 in or 5 ⁄ 16 in T-track. The red wheel is then turned to lock the clamp firmly to the table – there’s no movement whatsoever. This is essential when attaching anything to a router table or saw, but you still need to check that there is sufficient friction between the table surface and whatever is being clamped.

Most extruded T-track fitted to work tables is a standard size that matches the B5-HH. You can also buy tracks separately for retro-fitting and for new furniture, but there are other sizes available and not all machines have the ‘right’ size, especially if they are older. The B5-HH as supplied didn’t fit onto the bandsaw table in my workshop; it did on the disc sander, just. It is possible to change the bolt or add a washer of a suitable diameter if there is sufficient space, but it’s a shame that more are not provided in the box.

ARMOR TOOL P7-HH AUTO-ADJUST HORIZONTAL DOG CLAMP

For flexibility when clamping a variety of thicknesses to the bench, this clamp is hard to beat. I have used cast steel hold-fast bench clamps many times and always found them an invaluable aid to my work, ensuring that jigs don’t move or that large pieces overhanging the edge of the bench don’t tip. The P7-HH improves the concept by replacing the traditional screw tightening system with the quick-release toggle, speeding up the work no end.

ARMOR TOOL CLAMPS

In the box with a view of the peg

ARMOR TOOL CLAMPS

 Detail of the clamp


ARMOR TOOL CLAMPS

Even large blocks can be firmly secured

The peg, made from aluminum alloy, is a generous length and screws onto the clamp top, so it can be replaced if necessary. Alternatives include a shorter 3in version and a 20mm diameter peg for when the hole is worn (or actually 20mm). The thread on the clamp has a blob of blue Loctite, or similar, on it to secure the peg, which made it impossible to do up fully by hand and of course, this starts to come off when you change pegs.

Set up and release are swift and easy; sometimes the clamp needed a little repositioning to get it to hold tight, partly because of the over-sized hole. The photos show what happens when you test the 3 ⁄ 4 in peg in the 20mm hole, by the way – it still works, but it is a bit floppy!

ARMOR TOOL P7-IL AUTO-ADJUST IN-LINE DOG CLAMP

ARMOR TOOL CLAMPS

The P7-IL all packed up

ARMOR TOOL CLAMPS

 Mounted and ready to go


ARMOR TOOL CLAMPS

 All clamped up

ARMOR TOOL CLAMPS

 Detail of the wedge

ARMOR TOOL CLAMPS

 Being installed


Locking in place

I was particularly impressed with the P7-IL, so much so that I plan to get a few for my drill table and for routing and framing projects. This clamp uses the same wheel tightening system as the B5-HH but pulls on the bottom half of a wedged dog similar to those used on bicycle handlebar stems. A single peg that expands to fit securely in 3 ⁄ 4 into 20mm holes, even if they are worn or over-sized. The horizontal clamp beam is a quick-release system similar to the plunger on a mastic gun. Push it up to the workpiece then press the clamp and all are locked securely; when the lever is released the clamp head pulls back enough to allow easy removal of the material. There is a ‘V’ groove for round stock and corners and although the beam looks a bit flimsy, and does flex a little on full stretch (in which case I would move the clamp into another hole), the holding force is far greater than expected. When the dog is loosened the clamp can be rotated to adapt to changes in shape.

ARMOR TOOL PF-14 14IN DOG FENCE

The P7-IL provides a good-looking, robust alternative to wooden battens, and this was the last piece in the Armor Tool collection sent for testing. It provides a strong, securely attached stop against which one or more P7-IL clamps are used to secure work. The ‘L’ shape provides two edges for thin and thicker sections, allowing clearance when needed; its 14in length is plenty for most applications. The dogs have an elastomer coating, which makes them more comfortable when being turned by hand to tighten them against the fence and provide grip to keep them securely located in 3 ⁄ 4 in holes. 20mm dogs are also available.


 Detail of the fencing track


ARMOR TOOL CLAMPS

 The fence and dogs supplied


ARMOR TOOL CLAMPS

Peg mounted and ready for installing

I can see the appeal of these fences; they certainly work well, complement the selection of clamps available and are more convenient in their method of attachment than my homemade alternatives. However, unless I really needed the extra strength of the aluminum alloy, I would probably put the money towards another clamp.



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