Door Clamping Options

Nice discussions on setups for clamping cabinet doors in a small shop. February 12, 2009

I am thinking about making a door clamp "table/station" for a 1-2 man shop and
I was hoping to get some ideas on clamp setups that were made rather than purchased. The inexpensive ones that I see online for sale don't seem to hold more than a door or two at one time which seems to be a waste. It doesn't have to be pneumatic as I personally don’t see an advantage. I could be wrong but any ideas would be helpful.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor R:
The Bessey or Jorgensen cabinet clamps work the best. They hold the doors square during glue-up. As far as a table - make a top out of melamine that you can scrub clean of glue squeeze out as you go and make a 90 degree corner that you can set the doors against to assemble them. If you make these about 1/4" thick you can get the clamps on the doors just fine. Also the station can be small enough that you don’t need to dedicate a section of the shop to it and the clamps can be used for drawer boxes, face frames, and etc. as opposed to just having a single purpose.

From contributor A:
I would buy a minimum of eight of the Jorgenson case clamps. People usually buy the four Bessy clamp kit.They think that if you pin the joints you can immediately take the door out the clamps and move on to the next one. Often you end up with gaps in your joints which require more attention later. If you leave the door in the clamps for 5-10 minutes after pinning the glue will grab and not let go.

From contributor S:
I have seen a stacker type system somewhere that holds about five doors at a time. This could be built as with anything. Personally though, I don't see any big advantages to that over having a bunch of pipe clamps and a gluing/squaring table.

A cabinetmaker I once worked for had a steel 3'x'5' table with 1" diameter holes in the top spaced evenly. On one corner was a perfectly square lip that you butt the doors to when pinning and gluing. The holes in the table were for some pneumatic foot operated clamps to rest in. You glue the parts, assemble, clamp it with your foot control, pin it, and then throw some pipe clamps on for about 15 minutes. It worked very well, fast and easy.

From contributor K:
It sounds like you're not pinning the joints of your doors after clamping. If so, start! This allows you to take the door out of the clamps and re-use them immediately! Once I got past the idea of putting pins (23 ga. headless) in my doors and taking them off the table, my productivity literally doubled. And why buy all those clamps, assemble a door, fight with squaring it and keeping it flat, etc. I have been building all my own doors for 22 years. Finally about 15 years ago I purchased a new Ritter clamp table big enough to build face frames, doors and frame and panel paneling on. The speed at which I can clamp on this is great for a one man shop, and it helps keep me a one man shop by being so efficient and accurate. I never question the squareness of any door or face frame and never have to adjust the squareness of a door to a face frame, ever. Sometimes I do have to adjust the width on doors when I have a double door opening to get the center margin just right .

I do think you’re wrong about using pneumatic clamps. They will be quicker and more accurate. If you’re serious about building your own doors, don't screw around building your own tables and using pipe clamps. I did that for 8-10 years before realizing there is a better and more accurate way.

From the original questioner:
I build my own doors and use pipe clamps and I am pretty efficient. I think what I was asking for is getting lost in translation so I will draw up what I was thinking about and then we can tear it apart.

I build everything on my table, but was trying to think of different ways to free up the table because sometimes things get in the way. As you can see in the rough image I figure 4'x8' for the work surface and melamine for both surfaces. The lines are clamp tracks and on the opposite side there are pipe clamps with feet/holders. This is cheaper than any table and would still do the job.

From contributor R:
Basically you have a face frame table but with cutouts for the clamps am I correct? Instead of using cutouts for the clamps why not route tracks into the table lengthwise and set up some horizontal pneumatic clamps to hold the door against the 90 degree fence at the other end. That way you are only limited by the size of the table. You could also use it as a face frame table by adding some vertical pneumatic clamps on another slide giving you a dual use table and not sacrificing floor space which always seems at a premium when you get a job for a bunch of cabinets.

From contributor G:
We use the Quick Machinery eight foot clamp rack with 24, 40 inch clamps. It’s fast, easy to square and keeps it flat. JTL also has systems for doors. Toss the pipe clamps and get a dedicated clamping rack, and you will wonder why you ever used pipes.

From contributor Q:
I bought a used, almost brand new JLT single door clamp about two years ago for $1,100. I only do this part time and it's still the best thing I ever bought.