In 1991, when I left the now defunct Irion Company Furnituremakers to start my own business I moved into an 18th -century stone barn on the banks of the Brandywine river – sharing the space with another cabinetmaker. I had my workbench, my tool cabinet filled with my core hand tools, a handful of portable power tools and orders that stretched to 1-1/2 years.
One of the first “corporate” purchases was a pile of clamps. Even though the barn made a fairly large shop, wall space was limited. The easiest clamp storage solution was to attach a couple of 2 X 4s to two vertical posts in the center of the barn and hang the clamps from them. My bench and tool cabinet sat on the other side of the posts, which kept the clamps within arm’s reach.
In 1995 when I moved into a new shop, my old storage solution wasn’t an option. Besides, the business was growing and that meant more journeymen and more clamps. The best solution would be something portable that could easily be moved to each person’s bench.
After kicking around several ideas the decision was made to screw together an A-frame rack made of 2 X 4s. It was a temporary solution. Eighteen years, and several dozen-replacement screws later, the temporary rack was burned for the move to Cincinnati. The plan – build a permanent rack once a new shop was established.
Because the temporary clamp rack worked so well for so long, I decided make something similar. And, even though the 360 WoodWorking shop is about 3000 square feet, I wanted a smaller footprint than the previous rack, which was about 48” x 60” and tall enough to hold my longest clamps at 72”. (Fig. 1)
The new rack needs to be strong as well as compact. One of the lessons learned from the old rack was 2 x 4s make great wall studs but they’re not very good at standing up to the stress of several hundred pounds of clamps in motion. Multiple times in the rack’s life the lumber split where screws were driven and braces had to be added to keep the rack functional. The new rack had to overcome these shortfalls.
Using material that is 1-1/2” thick had worked well before, so it made sense to stick with that dimension. And even under the weight of all the clamps I own the cross-rails didn’t sag or bend at 3-1/2” wide – another element that didn’t need to be changed.
Instead of spruce, hemlock or fir, this time I wanted to go with something a little harder. And the parts could be truly joined together. Poplar is a great choice for my geographic area because it’s readily available and fairly inexpensive, but your choice might vary depending on what you have available to you.
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