Sizing Up Clamp Racks

Clamp carrier systems are useful, but your mileage may vary. January 12, 2012

I need a better clamping system and am thinking about a clamp rack, like the JLT 8 footer. I have never used or seen one so I am wondering how good they work. Can you chuck some boards in it and quickly align them and tighten, or are they harder to use like pipe clamps where you have to adjust and make sure the joint doesn’t bow, etc? Quite a bit of cash for a few clamps, I am guessing they must work awesome.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor G:
There are two types, a clamp rack doesn’t rotate like a carrier. Whichever one you get make sure it has a flattener. The flattener makes it awesome.

From contributor J:
We have had a JLT clamp rack for several years. It is a workhorse and usually full of glue ups in our shop. It is better than using hand clamps but has a lot to be desired ergonomically. The clamps are heavy and cumbersome to move. The angle of the clamps is a little steep, that makes it tough to space boards out while gluing. Overall for the price it works ok. A clamp wheel with flatteners would be better if you have the space and money. JLT modified their flattener for us so it would do 4/4 up to 10/4. It works ok but is heavy and also awkward to place.

From contributor L:
We have a 12' Taylor rack, made before they started calling it their JLT line. We bought it new with 36 clamps to hold 36" wide glue-ups (I think the standard clamp at the time was 32"). The clamps are great but heavy. Our rack developed a sag in the middle. The frame isn't quite strong enough. We corrected it with some shimming of the legs and bolting it to the floor - so far so good.

The vertical space between rows of clamps is pretty tight so work from the bottom up or for shorter parts work in the center and slide them sideways. We lube the back rails with anti seize to make sliding easier. Put cardboard on the floor under the rack. With this size clamp you can pretty much keep going and not have to wait for the glue to totally set. We glue right from the SL rip saw. For flattening 8/4 you may be asking too much for an accessory clamp. We have two flattening clamps that are much like a vice grip with a long bar on the top that forces the panel sort of flat and a cross wise bar that goes across the clamps on the bottom. Works fine on 4/4. 8/4 is just too stiff to affect much.

All told it beats the heck out of pipe or bar clamps. We don't do constant panel gluing and don't want to spend that much shop space. If you are serious production gluing there are lots of used glue wheels out there. Get one with the power tightening and the flattening bar. There are the electronic (MW) gluers too that take a lot less space.