How And When to Use Corner Clamps

How many times have we said to ourselves how nice it would be to have a third hand?  If only, we say, and how much easier it would be on some of the tasks we perform in our woodworking shop.  Just that extra digit, even, to hold something in place while we reach for this or that.

Clamps, generally, can do some of that extra hand stuff, whether our favorite bar clamps or the super convenient spring clamps.  We like our spring clamps and even wrote a piece about them recently.  They’re handy, easy, and quick to use, their padded grips protect the workpiece, and they don’t get in the way of anything.

Bar clamps, though, are used most often for edge joints – joining planks together edge to edge to form a table top, for instance.  A little glue, maybe some biscuits or dowels, and bar clamps do the job.  Spring clamps will hold a piece of wood tightly while you’re cutting, they’ll hold boards together face to face to create a thicker workpiece, and they’ll hold cords and wires out of the way while you work.  

These are all useful tasks common in our workshop.  You can never have too many clamps, actually, and we always recommend stocking up on a variety of them for beginner woodworkers.  One often overlooked type of clamp, though, is the corner clamp.  Of those we’ve mentioned, corner clamps come closer to being that third hand or that extra digit when it comes to assembly.

Should Your Woodworking Shop Have Corner Clamps?

ATOLS 90 Degree Positioning Squares,4Pcs 5.5inch Right Angle Clamp with 8 Clamps, Aluminum Alloy L-Type Corner Clamp, Woodworking Carpenter Clamping Tool for Picture Frames, Boxes, Cabinets or Drawers

Yes, to that question, yes, you should.  It’s difficult and frustrating to attempt to hold two pieces of wood together at right angles when joining them.  That extra hand would come in handy, for sure.

It’s not only the 90-degree angle, though, as sometimes we’re trying to join pieces of wood together at 45-degree angles, also.  Some woodworking projects call for a butt joint, and screws are usually involved.  Pilot holes are helpful to prevent the ends from splitting, too, so a drill is involved as well as a screwdriver bit.

A corner clamp is also referred to as a right-angle clamp or simply an angle clamp. is the clamp for the job.  It will align the pieces of wood and hold them in place for you so that both of your hands are available for drilling and screwing.  

A spring miter clamp is another alternative, but it serves a different purpose.  The spring miter clamp is usually used to hold two pieces of wood together while the glue dries.  Yes, there might also be a brad nailer involved, for instance, but that won’t come until the glue has dried.  The same is true for bar clamps – holding pieces of wood together for the glue to dry.

A corner clamp holds the pieces of wood together for you to take further action to join the pieces – nailing, screwing, etc.  They serve the purpose of the third hand to align and hold the pieces together at a corner angle (90 degrees or 45 degrees as in miter joints) while you continue to work on the joint.

The desk, shelves, box, cabinet, or drawer project is going to be made much easier with corner clamps.

How Do Corner Clamps Work?

Corner clamps come in a variety of styles and sizes, but one of the things they have in common is they grip the pieces of wood on either side of the joint.  Pressure is applied against the joint from all “compass” points, inside and out, side to side, and hold the 2 pieces of wood together tightly.

The strength of the grip is adjustable from both sides of the joint, and the sides of the clamp are pressed on each piece of wood.  That tight grip aligns and holds the pieces together while you drill pilot holes and embed the screws or use your nail gun to join them.  

How Many Corner Clamps Should My Workshop Have?

Corner Clamps

If corner clamps are your choice for joining wood pieces at a right angle, you should have two.  If the wood pieces are not large (2” dimensional, for instance), you might need only one for the task.  But, if the pieces were larger (6’ dimensional, as an example), you’d be happy to have 2 for the task, top, and bottom for each joint.

Remember, too, that boxes, drawers, desks, cabinets, and all, do have four corners.  You might actually want to be thinking about having 4 corner clamps, if not 8, in your clamp inventory.  

Are There Alternatives to Corner Clamps?

There are many types of clamps, and we’ve mentioned a few in this piece.  In woodworking, there are always alternatives to most anything other than unique and nearly perfect power tools (like the Festool Domino).

We mentioned spring miter clamps, and these might very well be an alternative worth considering.  In that same article, we wrote about spring clamps and spring miter clamps, we also discussed the use of clamp blocks.

Clamp blocks are simply what the name implies – blocks of wood that are used to create something for clamps to grip to hold a joint together while the glue dries.  In a pinch and in the absence of corner clamps, this technique could be used.  It’s not optimal, but if you’ve made your own clamp blocks for repeated use, they could serve the same purpose.

However, corner clamps are made for that specific task, and they do work well. If you have visited YouTube to watch your favorite woodworking channel’s new project, you’ve no doubt seen ads for corner clamps.  There are a variety of styles and sizes and brands of corner clamps to choose from, and there’s one ad, in particular, we see pretty much whenever we are on Youtube visiting our saved channel. 

Are Corner Clamps Expensive?

There’s a wide range of prices for corner clamps, just as there is a wide range of styles and sizes.  

For instance, Kreg (a brand we like and have a Kreg track saw we love) has a clamp that is well suited for both 90-degree corners and T-joints.  It’s a bit pricey at nearly $40, but it works well.  

You can also find hard plastic corner clamp sets of 4 in the $15 range; and metal corner clamp sets of 4 for around $60.  Those corner clamps we see often in YouTube advertisements are in the lower range for a set of 4.

Highly rated corner clamps of different materials and styles are available in the $17 – $25 range per clamp, too.  

As we said, there are workarounds to corner clamps, and with a little ingenuity and imagination, you may even be able to make your own.  There’s always a hack some clever woodworker will come up with, and when they do, you can count on them showing off on Youtube, and rightly so.

We found one you might find helpful if you want to make your own corner clamp.  It’s pretty darn easy, and you can use scrap wood you have lying around, even.  

Corner clamps are that third hand and make joining wood at right angles easy.  You can spend the money for a set of 4 corner clamps, or you can take a piece of scrap wood already in your shop, drill a few holes, make a few cuts, and use clamps you already have to hold those wood pieces together while you work on the joint.

Either way, corner clamps or DIY solutions make the task much easier for you.  Choose one or the other, but have your choice handy when needed.