Cam Clamps-Part 2-Complete

After spending about an hour every evening in the shop and a big chunk of Saturday, my Paul Sellers inspired cam clamps are done.  This project was a lot of fun.  From digging in the attic for material (see part 1) to the myriad of operations involved, what is not to like?

Just to recap…the heads are made from mahogany left in the attic from the previous owner of the house, the bars are from steel stock that I purchased from the local Lowes, the pins are made from 16d finish nails, the cams are from a maple board that I salvaged from a pallet at work and finally, the contact points received cork that I had lying around.  Can’t get much more frugal than that.


The dang things are almost too pretty to use.  Almost.  Trust me, I’ll work them like rented mules when the time comes.  I had a few missteps along the way.  an errant hole or two and I wondered off the gauge line a little when sawing.  Nothing that warranted a remake though and I now have six additional clamps to add to the arsenal.

The Paul Sellers’ Masterclasses video series on these cam clamps is a good one and covers the making of the smallest set in the photo above.  Each step is covered in detail and Mr. Sellers’ teaching style is such that you enter the shop with confidence of success.  I did stray from the materials list slightly by using finish nails for pins in place of the recommended roll pins.  Hey, I’m frugal (read cheap).  The roll pins are a much more polished way of assembling these clamps though, I’m not sure what, if any, long-term effects the substitution will bring.  I’ll find out in time.  I also scaled the project so that my additional clamps increase in both reach and clamping depth.

There is a deep feeling of satisfaction in making your own tools.

Part 1 Greg Merritt


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22 Responses to Cam Clamps-Part 2-Complete

  1. Kinderhook88 says:

    They look great, Greg. Nice job!

  2. Brian says:

    Do you have any way to measure the clamping pressure your able to get out of them?

  3. Jeff Brann says:

    Really nice job on the clamps Greg!

  4. alfred kraemer says:

    How did you install the finish nails? I wonder if I could use the method of predrilling I have used on door and window trim: using a nail with a cutoff head as a ‘drill bit’?


    • Greg Merritt says:

      I was lucky enough to have a drill bit that was slightly undersized of the finish nail. This gave me a friction fit in the wood. For the steel I used a bit that was exactly the same size as the finished nail. If you go this route, be careful and do a few test pieces to get a feel for how your wood reacts. Some wood compresses better than others and some wood will split if you look at it funny. Your finish carpenters trick of using a nail as a drill bit may be the best option for the wood boring though. If I had remembered that trick, I would have tried it when building these.

  5. mate they turned out really good

  6. momist says:

    I have a whole load of left over 1/8″ cork floor tiles which I use for all my clamps. The material works great for that, just soft enough without too much compression to relieve the pressure. I’m soon going to re-cover the kitchen floor in cork again (it’s lasted nearly 30 years!) so I will never run out of cork.

  7. I’ve ran into complications with mine, I decided to make mine out of structural pine and pine being soft the bar’s edge due to the wedging action of the clamps head has dug itself into the edge of the mortise widening it too much. I think the fault lies within where I placed the temporary nails, I know they are too far from the bar itself which is why it damaged the mortise walls. I’m wondering now since all I could buy was a brass rod of the diameter which I realise now the diameter can be whatever you like it just may be too soft and bend when clamping.

    • Greg Merritt says:

      You know I’m a big fan of using structural pine. If I went this route, I think I would have went with a hardwood bar (instead of steel) and increased its thickness to at least 3/8″, maybe even 1/2″. I’ve worked with pine long enough to anticipate the compression and compensate for it.
      Hopefully you can make a few adjustments and have your clamps up and running. Looking forward to seeing a few pics.

      • I was thinking along the same lines definitely a thicker material for a wooden replacement bar would be the answer but, and there’s always a but Sapele isn’t a hard wood at all and I don’t mean it doesn’t belong to the hardwood species I meant in terms of hardness so I’m wondering if Paul or anyone else is having the same issues. I’ve never worked with Sapele so I can’t make a comparison. But I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with the wooden bar idea.

        Right now I’m making another one out of the same pine but this time I’ve snugged things up and I’ll try and distance the holes to be a 32nd further from the end of the bar so the roll pins can provide a good support. I think I have about 36″ of steel bar that needs to be used up before I go for the wooden ones.

  8. billlattpa says:

    I really enjoyed Seller’s videos for this project. Yours turned out great! (better than Seller’s??) I just hope that I get around to making a few.
    Great job, once again.

    • Greg Merritt says:

      This was a fun project and I think they will be perfect for box and drawer making. I got lucky with the found wood. Better than Sellers’? I doubt that. Mine are just a reflection of his great video instruction.
      Hope can find the time to make a few. It is a very satisfying project.

  9. Rob Morrison says:

    Is there a pattern for the cam? Can’t find one on Paul Sellers’ site.

If you don't comment this is just a fancy way for me to talk to myself.

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