Rack it up…I’ll take it

Even before the Black Friday annual Jet clamp sale, I had already exceeded the capacity of my Rockler-bought rack. It holds twelve, and I had two 12″ clamps and two 24″ Irwin clamps that didn’t have a home and were up against a wall or a cabinet elsewhere in the shop. Having ordered two more 12″ and 24″ each, I simply didn’t have a spot for them, and they remained in their shipping boxes for over a month.

With a decision coming up about potentially buying a new tool (in substitution of the last one I bought and am returning), I decided that I wasn’t allowed to even go look at it until I got some things done in my shop. I couldn’t use it for the project I want to do until the shop is in order anyway, so for once I am listening to myself. I decided the first thing that needed to be done was to get those clamps up on the wall, and the decision was buy another one from Rockler or build my own. With a potential big purchase coming up, the choice was easy.

I did take a picture or two, and will sprinkle them in where appropriate. Again, though, I was so concentrated on getting the project done that it wasn’t a priority. Perhaps I should pick up a P&S camera to replace this Nikon, whose batteries don’t really work anymore. If I could get one that automatically uploaded to my computer for processing, that would be awesome. But I digress. I started out with a plan in my head and transferred it to a pad. I had previously designed a really nice one, but this was a get-it-done project and style wasn’t my priority.

I designed it with two shelves that sit above the clamp heads, but realized after digging through my scrap pile that what I had would fit better by eliminating the intermediate shelf. I decided that it would just have one shelf above the clamp heads, as much to keep the dust off as anything else. I made sure of all the necessary measurements off the clamps, and started ripping pieces on the table saw and crosscutting on the MFT.

One of the key measurements was that the slots for the bars needed to be half an inch, and half an inch from the rear. I used a forstner bit in the drill press to make my initial holes. I tried using clamps to keep both pieces together (I planned to make two racks at once), however it just made more sense to screw them together given the clearances associated with the drill press table and handle. I then was going to cut out the slots with my jigsaw, but I wasn’t happy with how it was cutting, so I used the miter gauge on the table saw and cut them vertically. I must say at one point I had my head over the spinning blade and that was something I don’t think I’ll ever do again, having to line up the lines. There was a better way to do it, surely. I really need a sled.

I’ll skip ahead a bit and get to where I had my first one done and up on the wall. It looked awful. Things didn’t line up just right, so I decided to step back a bit and see if I could build the second one better with some adjustments. The biggest one I made was that I removed most of the back panel, because the clamp was sitting too far away from the wall, and it was more apparent on the one clamp I have that is missing a foot. I didn’t feel it was completely stable, so that spurred the redesign. This time, I got everything to line up just right and it looked a lot better. The rough specs are that it is 30″ between the uprights, allowing for 15 clamps on each rack. There are quite a bit of screws involved, opting for them over Dominos due mostly for convenience: it would have added probably another hour trying to do the mental gymnastics to get it right.

All said and done, I got the second one right, which meant that the first one got unloaded and came down to get fixed as well. The end result is something I can live with, at least for awhile. It does the job, at least until it all falls down on my head, which I really hope doesn’t happen. I have a hard hat, but don’t feel the need to wear it woodworking. I have ten spots free to allow for expansion, which should take awhile based on how often I buy new clamps.

With the old metal rack free, I decided to temporarily use it for my new Bessey F-style clamps. Home Depot has their six packs on sale for $15, and I picked up two packs. At $2.50 a piece, they are cheaper than even Harbor Freight. I would think 12 would be enough, but I guess you never know. If they get a lower price before they disappear, perhaps I’ll try my luck with a price adjustment and one more pack.

With the spare room on the racks, I placed all my squeeze clamps and Festool clamps on one end. My two HF clamps I put with the Besseys. I do need to come up with something for the F-clamps and Festool clamps long term, particularly the clamping elements. Perhaps a drawer underneath the MFT, especially if I end up turning it into an MFT sysport.

It was an extremely fulfilling day, but also one that took quite a bit out of me. I started coming down ill on New Year’s Eve, and it’s been a struggle even writing this with a ton of spelling errors. Thank you, visual cues, for telling me I can’t spell right now. I appreciate it. I’m glad I’m not red colorblind. I was going to talk about the next few things I need to do before I get started on the bookcase project, but I think I’ll save that for next time. I can barely keep my eyes open, and I still have to upload the pictures. Which hopefully you can now see.

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